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What Others Tell You Is The Wrong Solution

As a product manager, it’s kind of beaten into us from the early days that you should never listen to your customers for solutions. I even wrote about this a few years back. As it turns out, and to the surprise of nobody reading this blog post, this pattern is common in other domains as well. Including writing, as astutely put in this clip by Bill Hader:

If you don’t want to watch the whole video, the line that caught my attention is this:

When people give you notes on something, when they tell you what’s wrong, they’re usually right. When they tell you how to fix it, they’re usually wrong.

If there is one piece of advice that PMs need a regular reminder of, it’s this, if only because I see the situation in the real world all too often. It’s so easy to jump in a customer interview, listen to all they have to say about your product (or a non-existent product) and think that if only you could add that one feature they requested, then you’ll get to that resounding success you’re so eager to achieve. It’s even harder when you’re talking to, say, an enterprise customer that is likely to bring the big bucks. Who are you to decline an opportunity to make line go up and to the right?

It’s a fallacy. Don’t do that. Never do that. You’re either going to get lucky, or (more often) be wrong. The enterprise customer you thought wanted a feature actually wanted a different feature, you just didn’t listen to the full story. The next enterprise customer will come along with a completely new set of feature requests and before you know it you built a product barely used by a few and widely adopted by no-one.

Your superpower as a product manager (emphasis on both product and manager) is your ability to take in all different thoughts, opinions, anecdotes, and data points and work out a good solution with your team. Don’t delegate that to someone who has not seen, and likely will not see, the full picture, all while having no skin in the game. They don’t necessarily care about the success of your product - they want to solve their problem in a way that makes sense to them, but that is not really applicable to the broader audience. You have a unique vantage point that they don’t. Use that to your advantage to build things that scale.