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The dangers of listening to the customer

What if you spent all of your time and effort listening to the customer, and all you ended up creating was a car like 'The Homer'?

The homer

It's not good to be laughed out of the room, lose all of your money and waste your one precious life on this earth.

But listening to customer's is pretty useful. So what's the secret to getting it right?

The great news is that there is a very simple trick when listening to the customer, and it will stop you from building the Homer, and ensure you are on the right path to success.

Here it is:

Listen to the customer's problems. Don't listen to the customer's solutions.

Well, that's the sound-bite anyway. The long-winded version is more informative, though a lot less snappy. If the customer comes to with you a solution, you absolutely should listen to it, and take some notes and think it over. But don't run out and implement it immediately. Hold back! Hold back, my friend! Unpack what they're saying, ask why and why and why and why and why (that's 5 whys if you've lost count) and see what the underlying problem is. In business analyst parlance "What are you really trying to achieve?" Dig! Take out your thought-spoon and scoop right in! Plow into the problem-domain like Mr. Plow plowing through a snowy road.


Someone who's really good at ignoring a feature request (and creating great products along the way) is David Heinemeier Hansson. He has this to say:

...which neatly shows why every new feature needs to only be admitted into your system after a lot of careful weighing up. The complexity tax is a big one.

The better your product is, the more attention it gets, the more feature requests you receive, the better you get at saying no, thinking no, and meaning no. In the early days, you get less attention and fewer feature requests. So it's tempting to say "Why, yes! Certainly!" to all of them. Practice this instead: "Hmm, interesting, tell me a little more?"

Launching May 2018

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