Don’t become fixated on your own product idea

Edited excerpt from 3 Startup Lessons I Learned the Hard Way by David Cancel:

Like almost all startup founders I spend way too much time obsessing about my ideas. Guess what? Nobody cares about my idea, and they don’t care about your idea, either. Nobody.

People are selfishly motivated first and foremost — they want to know how you are going to help them, not what you think would be cool to build. Focus all your energy on solving a critical problem. Forget your idea.

(1) Perhaps this is too extreme. Instead, consider: “The best product managers are those who can define and articulate clear and consistent product vision while constantly evaluating it. This duality is one of the hardest things in getting product management right.” — from Feedback versus vision in product management. See also Balancing product vision and listening to customers.
(2) Having said that, it’s important to recognize the balance of risk: there’s a greater risk that you’ll neglect what users want in favor of your own ideas than that you’ll neglect your own ideas in favor of what users want.
(3) “Focus all your energy on solving a critical problem” — see Build your product to explicitly address a “Job To Be Done” and How to identify your customers’ “Job To Be Done”.

2 thoughts on “Don’t become fixated on your own product idea

  1. “Perhaps this is too extreme…” Maybe. But I find his expression simpler than Eran’s. In theory, I know how to act on David’s call-to-action; not so much on Eran’s.

    • I think David’s point is that entrepreneurs often have ideas about what would be great without clarity about what critical problem it’s solving, ie. what the “job to get done” is. By not listening to customers, they don’t get focused on the customers’ “job to get done”.

      Eran’s point is slightly different. I don’t think he disagrees that the product must solve for a critical need or a “job to get done”. His question might be: once you’ve identified the “job to get done”, how do you design your product fulfill that need? You can listen to customers’ suggestions, or you can have your own vision. As Steve Jobs said, if he’d listened to customers he would have designed a thinner StarTac, not an iPhone. Eran is saying you need a balance of listening to customers and having your own vision.

      Many entrepreneurs build startups because they have personally experienced a need, a “job to get done”. But the risk is that your need to get that job done, to solve that “critical problem”, isn’t shared by enough other people. That’s why I think you need a balance of the two. You have to continually check that the job you think needs to get done is shared by enough other people, and that the solution you come up with solves their problem.

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