Product Development is an important aspect for a startup. How do a team of designers, engineers, product thinkers, and data scientists most efficiently make things that people absolutely adore? Here are the 10 Core Principles Of Product Development:
1. Processes are the circulatory system of a company
Great processes bring rich blood to every aspect of product-making and company-making; they enrich everyone’s creativity, strategic thinking, productivity, and motivation. Great processes help to ensure smart, wasteless action; they not only support every single person in your company to excel, but also create a radical collaborative effect that exponentially multiplies the power of your team.
Conversely, bad processes yield bad blood: deoxygenated, nonimmune, sluggish. So you must—and this imperative is the central thrust of this series—become f%@$ing amazing at process. Your product and company’s life depends on it.
2. Curiosity is what gets things done
The staple of most product teams is: GET THINGS DONE! HIT DEADLINES! SHIP ON SCHEDULE! Don’t get me wrong; I believe very strongly in getting things done on time and in working your ass off. But I also believe that the most effective source of effective productivity is actually curiosity—the insatiable drive to learn. If you build your product development process around this core human drive you’ll discover that curiosity unleashed is a lion, not a sheep. Curiosity is the exponential rocket fuel that makes great product teams hum.
3. You are a scientist running experiments
Stop thinking about yourself as a businessman or product guy/gal or designer or whatever you think of yourself as. You are a scientist. Your essential methodology is the scientific method: Hypothesize. Build. Learn. Iterate. Repeat. This is curiosity, manifest.
Every single person in your company should feel that they are traversing an upward spiral of effectiveness in which everything they build—whether the immediate outcome is positive or negative—is a success because it will yield the smartest possible next move.
You are all scientists and your creed is: If we don’t learn, we die. If we learn, we thrive and others benefit.
4. Processes are also products
Start thinking of your processes as the most important product you are building. Approach their creation accordingly: develop them collaboratively; assess them relentlessly; iterate tirelessly; repeat.
Building great products is difficult. Likewise for great processes. Good process thinking is not a skill with which most people are naturally endowed. You should cultivate in yourself an allergic reaction to bad processes; try to experience them as the weird form of modern industrial abuse that they are. (I’m not joking.) And then fix them. Inertia says no one else will.
5. Great processes constantly evolve
There is no such thing as a universally perfect process. Anyone who says so is a narcissist or a fool.
You need to transparently evolve your processes along with (or one step ahead of) your context. This is particularly critical in a shifting context (e.g., when your company is doubling in size every six months).
The most painless and effective way to evolve your processes over time is to build into them structures that ensure perpetual improvement. A process that doesn’t evolve will become rigid and sallow. A process that grows of its own accord will inspire trust and generate ever-increasing velocity.
6. Pick smart tools
A lance is good for some things and a dagger is good for others; you shouldn’t have just one weapon. Find the best tools for your tasks and master those. Build the tools you need that don’t exist and master those, too.
7. Make your processes invisible
Given the choice between more or less process, I clearly sit on the “more is better” side, but this doesn’t mean wasting time or being anal or getting trapped in bureaucratic tomfoolery. Smart processes should be nearly invisible. They should be built into people’s natural workflows. They should be as asynchronous as possible; you should walk around with an implicit fear of bad meetings. Great processes shouldn’t yield maniacal attention to detail when detail isn’t what’s needed. Great processes should result in rapid, effective decision-making. They should generate consensus but not waste time doing so.
“More process” means more attention to what matters and less to what doesn’t.
8. Don’t forget the human part
Processes are most obviously comprised of the concrete systems that give structure to our workflows. But they are equally about more subtle behaviors like how you approach listening, the attitude with which you hold the helm, the way you empower individuals to become their best, the trust you inspire in people that anything broken will get fixed, etc.
In this series I’ll be focused almost entirely on concrete systems. But I urge you not to forget this second, more human aspect of great product development processes. Great things get made when people are inspired, and inspiration needs tending, like a bonsai.
9. It’s worth the effort
The stupendous energy it takes to make your processes whirr is completely worth it. Great processes will improve every aspect of your work, from low-debt code and breakthrough design to palpably high morale and tactical agility. Your team will become happier, smarter, and more productive. And, most importantly, your product will more effectively serve the people using it.
So take it upon yourself to make sure everyone knows what they need to do, has what they need to do this, and understands why doing it will help the company achieve deep, inspiring goals.
10. Stop fearing failure
Fear of failure is the enemy of growth and ingenuity. Growth requires doing things whose outcome cannot be predicted, and learning requires failing. Show me a successful man or woman who isn’t riding into the sunset on the horse of failure.
But the prospect of failure is very scary for most people. There are a hundred psychological and socio-cultural reasons for this. So, my point here isn’t about your emotional state, though I urge you to convince yourself that the future will always be better than the present! Instead, my point is that your actions as a product leader should never be guided by fear of failure.
Build process that let failure be an acceptable—even celebrated—source of fuel for your next victory. Fail fast and fail effectively and the future will feel full of hope—hope which will be validated as time passes.