Product thinking is a mindset that focuses on the user, and it's not just about making products. It's about understanding what makes people tick, what they want, and how you can help them get it.
Product thinking is not just limited to product managers and designers. I believe that all the stakeholders involved in driving the product should learn to think from a user’s perspective. This mindset can help engineering and business teams to drive impact by solving pains that matter the most to the users.
For example, while building an MVP an engineer can think by stepping into the user's shoes. They can think if they themselves would use this product. Moreover they can lay the foundation for the next iteration of the MVP by thinking a bit into the future. Similarly, business can gain a better understanding of what decisions could affect user sentiments.
Now, let’s deep dive a bit into the product thinking mindset.
Product thinking 101
First, let’s define a process. A process is a series of steps that the user does. Now, a product is something that helps the user to solve a problem by employing a process. So where does product thinking fit in here? Product thinking helps to understand the core problem and map the problem to different solutions.
Product thinking, is the approach of mapping from the user’s problem space to the solution space to help the user solve it.
Product thinking helps to uncover various solutions, but not all these solutions would be able to achieve product market fit. Different stakeholders such as product, engineering, business etc. have align themselves. They place their bets on a solution which that has the best probability to become successful based on market research and data.
Developing your product thinking
Product thinking is a mindset that is attainable through experience. Here are some ways that you can improve your product thinking.
Pick a product and break it down - This has been one of the easiest approaches to think through why a product was built and what problem it solves. Pick a product and write down it’s features [solutions]. Now, pick each of those solutions and think about the following questions:
- What problem is it solving
- Who is it solving for?
- Why is it important to solve this problem?
Ask a few more “Whys” to understand the core reason of the problem (5 Whys) . This way you can reverse map from the solution space the problem space.
Think in terms of Jobs to be Done - Jobs to be done is an approach to build products based on understanding the user’s goals and motivations. This approach revolves around a task that the user needs to do using some tool X.
For example a user says “I need a taxi”. Now, why do they need a taxi? Here the job to do is that they need to travel to a destination. The problem at hand is now narrowed down to how do we help our user to get a taxi.
Developing product thinking can help you in the long run. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an engineer or a business executive. Understanding your user’s (customer’s) wants and needs and resonating with it can help you take better informed decisions. Moreover you will be able to identify different solutions that can help the user to solve their problems.