Egoless product building
It takes enormous effort to build a product. When I say product, it is not only the software. The product goes through a long process of ideating, researching, customer development, proof of concept, validating, structuring, cleanup, and then getting the product.
People spend months, sometimes years, researching what to build, how to build, who will use it, etc. For most of the product building process, very few people (two-three 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 toward ones' perspective.
From your mentors to investors, friends to neighbors, basically everyone you talk to will have suggestions, ideas, and opinions. It varies from UX to features, market to hiring, and PR to pricing.
The first two or three people risk their valuable time building the product and turning their idea into reality. Which is why they are often opinionated. Otherwise, the idea will change with every suggestion, and the product will never see the light.
What happens when there are two opinions on one particular thing? Which one to consider? Who will decide which one is better? Without realizing it, debates will turn into chaos. They are questioning every detail, every move, direction, and whatnot! No one wants to spoil the product; it is just that each individual is seeking a different approach to 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 can also be extended to product building.
Here are some tips for egoless product building that I have learned over the years
Listen and Learn to see other perspectives:
Listen to what others are saying, and then try to see 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.
Do not answer in questions:
That moment when we start the answer by re-framing their question to fit our perspective.
Q: "Why do you think the user will like the three-column layout? better than two columns?"
A: "Why do you think two columns are better?"
Rhetorical questions are better left outside the conversation.
Do not think on the fly:
Organize your thoughts before jumping to beat them in their argument. It is OK 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 that you are trying to validate the best solution for that problem rather than just proving them wrong.
When you are wrong, say, "I screwed up":
When our view hits a roadblock, we panic and struggle to determine why it failed, who failed it, etc. It is better to say, "Look, I was wrong!". Things will fall eventually, and people who work together will find a better solution. So be honest in admitting it.
Things go wrong, say, "It's OK":
The above logic will also apply when others fail. Do not blame people that they failed.
Instead of saying, "See, I told you so," get back to the whiteboard and think about how to fix it. That will allow people to think harder next time without feeling guilty.
Fight for your view, but don't be an ass:
In debates, people get convinced that it is OK to change their views. Accept the fact; It is not a defeat. Remember, you have learned something new.
Come prepared with data:
Data speaks for itself. If you think the direction of thinking is wrong, give examples and back it up with data. Make them believe you but do not throw random numbers.
Random numbers piss people off!
"I know like 20 apps which do the same thing!"
"There are apps like X, Y, and Z that I know of, which do similar stuff."
See the difference?!
Give preference to others in case of deadlock:
In decision making, when you cannot convince others, give preference to others and try their idea. "OK, that may not work, but let's do a small experiment and see where it goes."
I hope these help you and your team build a world-class product.
Tell me what has helped you in defining your product. Tag me @madospace