Egoless product building

It takes enormous effort to build a product. When I say product, it is not only the software.

It requires more than an engineer to build a product

It goes through long process of ideating, researching, customer development, proof of concept(MDP), validating, structuring (MVP), cleanup, and then you get the product.

People spend months, sometimes years doing research, on what to build, how to build, who will use it, and much more. For the most part of the product building process, very few people ( 2 – 3 people in most cases ) put their thoughts into the idea, that will go into the DNA of the product. When there are fewer minds, the views are highly biased towards ones’ own perspective.

From your mentors to investors, friends to neighbours, basically everyone you talk to will have suggestions, ideas, and opinions. It varies from UX to features, market to hiring, PR to pricing.

The 2-3 people, are risking their valuable time in building the product and turning their idea to reality. But more often than not, people will have strong biases and opinions. That is why the people who are part of this process are often opinionated. Otherwise idea will change with every suggestion, and the product will never see the light.

What happens when there are 2 opinions for one particular thing? Which one to consider? Who will decide which one is better? without realising it, debates will tun into a chaos. Questioning every detail, every move, directions and what not! No one wants to spoil the product, it is just that each individual is seeking a different direction for the product.

You are probably aware of the term Egoless Programming in computer programming, in which personal factors are minimized, so that quality may be improved.
This ‘Egoless philosophy’ is something that can be extended in product building also.

Tips for egoless product building

1. Listen and Learn to see other perspectives:

Listen what others are saying, and then try to see what is the reason behind it. Let them complete their point, do not cut them off in the middle.

Remember the point is not to defeat them, it is to understand them.

2. Do not answer in questions:

That moment when we start the answer by re-framing his/her own question to fit to his prospective.

Classic example,

Q: “Why do you think user will like 3 column layout? better than 2 column?”

A: “Why do you think 2 column is better?”

Rhetorical questions are better left outside the conversation.

3. Do not think on the fly:

Organize your thoughts, before jumping to beat them in their argument. It is absolutely fine to say, “Hmm, I have not thought it through! let me get back to you on that point.”  Later go back to them and try to answer that genuinely.

This will drive home the positive gesture of yours, that you are trying to validate the best solution for that problem, rather than just trying to prove them wrong.

4. Things go wrong, say “I screwed up”:

Most of the times when our view hits a roadblock we panic and struggle to come up with a reason why it failed, who failed it etc… It is better to say “Look, I was wrong!”. Things will fail and people who work together will find a better solution. So be honest in admitting it.

5. Things go wrong, say “its OK”:

The above logic will also apply when others fail. Do not blame people that they failed in something.

Instead of saying “See, I told you so” get back to the white board and think how to fix it. That will give them the opportunity to think harder next time, without feeling guilty.

6. Fight for your view, but don’t be an ass:

In debates people get convinced, it is ok to change your views. Accept the fact, It is not really a defeat. Remember you have learned something new.

7. Come prepared with data:

Data speaks for itself. If you think the direction of thinking is wrong then give examples, back it up with data. Make them believe you but do not throw random numbers.

Random numbers pisses people off!

“I know like 20 apps which do exactly the same thing!”

“There are apps like X, Y and Z that I know of, which do similar stuff”.

See the difference?!

8. Give preference to others in case of deadlock:

In case of deadlock, where nobody is able to convince others. Give preference to others and try their idea. “Ok, that may not work, but lets do a small experiment and see where it goes.”

I hope these help you and your team in building a world class product. Tweet me @madospace and tell me what has helped you in defining your product.