Here’s my point: Products are not babies - you shouldn’t feel bad about abandoning them if they’re ugly. Read more...
The Problem with Problem Interviews
Customer Development teaches us to validate our assumptions before we build our products so we don’t waste time and money building something that nobody wants to buy.
The problem is that many people have already spent a lot of time and money building products based on assumptions that haven’t been validated before deciding to incorporate customer development. The more blood, sweat and tears we pour into a product, the more likely we are to throw on the rose coloured glasses, and pretend our ugly baby is the cutest kid on the block.
Now, because we think our ugly baby is actually beautiful, we pay lip service to critical Customer Development initiatives like the problem interview. Instead of taking advantage of an incredibly powerful tool to uncover insight from customers, we throw up a survey and congratulate ourselves for finding “problem/solution fit.”
Too Bad It’s a Lie
We play tricks on ourselves because we desperately want to believe we’ve done enough due diligence. Here’s how:
- We turn a problem interview into a solution interview.
- We rely on surveys and questionnaires which assume we know the right questions to ask.
- We ask leading questions.
- We talk to the wrong people.
None of these activities actually help us. Problem discovery is about uncovering what is unknown, not what we think is correct. What’s even worse is that many customer development advocates and evangelists promote an approach to problem discovery that I would not describe as vigorous. They basically endorse having potential customers go through a “problem checklist.”
A Better Way
At Big Bang Technology, we care about discovering the right problems, not just validating the ones we already know about. So we dive deeper into problem discovery by adhering to some design practices. We like to lead open-ended interviews where we stick to a problem domain, and freely explore all aspects of that domain with our potential customers. Because we don’t box ourselves in to defining the problems up front, we discover unexpected problems that could never have been found with a checklist.
Doing this means we spend a lot more time in the problem discovery and validation stages than a lot of other people. We also might burn through five or six (or ten) problems that aren’t worth solving before we find one that is. And we're ok with that. But what’s even more difficult is finding the humility it takes to acknowledge - or even suspect - that we won’t get it right the first time.