The One Mistake All Product Teams Make

David Cancel
Dec 22, 2015 · 3 min read

No one ever told me.

I hope I would have listened if someone had tried.

Probably not…

Sometimes you need to learn the hard way.

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I’m coming up on 20 years in the game.

The software product game.

Creating something from nothing each time.

Working alongside amazing engineers, product managers, marketers, designers and others.

We were all trying to do the right thing.

Looking back now, we were all making the one mistake all Product Teams make.

Not once. Not twice. Month after month. Year after year.

I hope you’ll be smarter than I was. Smarter than we all were. Learn from our mistakes.

The mistake we made, that I think all Product Teams make, that you probably make each day if you’re reading this post, was — we assumed what we were building was right.

I was reminded of this lesson last week when I was doing an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on and someone asked me how many ideas I had invalidated at Driftt and HubSpot and what my process for doing so was.

The short answer is there are too many ideas for me to list.

More important than the list of ideas I went through was my framework for invalidating product ideas.

The “Customer-Driven” Framework

The simple framework I use to validate all new company, product, and feature ideas:

Your assumption should be that every idea, every release, every attempt is WRONG.

The default state is that you are wrong. Always.

Your job is to validate how wrong your attempt was and figure out to how to fix it.

Were you 10% wrong? 100% wrong?

It’s usually somewhere in between those two numbers.

Try hard to get as many “at bats” as possible, test and calibrate.

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Every creative process follows this model, but we get it wrong so often when it comes to building a Product, writing Software or starting a Company.

When you write do you expect your first draft to be the one you publish?

If you were a woodworker and you built a table for the first time would you expect the first version to be your award winner?

Would a painter expect their first attempt to be a masterpiece?

Of course not. For some reason we think building a company/product/feature to be exempt from this fundamental law.

I believe that making this one change to how you frame your assumptions can lead you to build more successful products . Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you.

If you want others to see this, please hit the ❤. I really appreciate it!

David Cancel is the CEO of Drift and the co-host of Seeking Wisdom. His company’s mission and his personal mission is to help every company on earth know, grow and amaze their customers.

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