Whatever we think we know about our users doesn’t always hold true when we release our products into the wild. Faced with compressed cycle times and pressure to release something, product managers sometimes fall in love with a product only later to discover we were among the few who did. Our mistake isn’t being passionate about the feature or solution; our mistake is failing to first measure our users’ response to it.
In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Ash Maurya, founder and CEO of LEANSTACK and creator of Lean Canvas, a popular business modeling tool. “It’s about bringing in the customer voice,” Ash says, “and gathering the right qualitative and quantitative metrics – starting with qualitative.”
It’s the easier place to start, Ash continues. “With qualitative, we get to see patterns and learn the big themes – what I call ‘the signals and the noise.’ Validate qualitatively, but then verify quantitatively because otherwise you can get a lot of false positives.”
Throughout the pod, Ash shares insights about how product teams can close the gap between pre-launch conjecture and post-launch reality. By bringing the customer into a Discovery phase conversation where probing and listening are front and center, we’re able to sharpen our focus, test theories through experimentation, and create new experiences based on what we’ve learned.
Product leaders come to understand their customers in a deeper context. When we engage them beyond the functional nature of their challenge, we’re more likely to understand the problem they’re trying to solve at a truly emotional level. With that depth of appreciation, we can create impactful product design.
Be sure to catch the entire podcast conversation to hear Ash share the following:
[01:44] A big movement putting product at the center. In some ways, it’s always been there, there’s just a new awareness of it.
[03:40] The first order of business. Are we building something that gets used? Are customers engaging with this? That’s where I like to start; everything else layers on top.
[04:04] Qualitative metrics. Qualitative can give you a very strong signal one way or the other that you may be onto something. It’s very effective in finding problems.
[05:39] Validation and verification. An interesting distinction in light of the role qualitative and quantitative research plays.
[07:44] Jobs to be Done (and other frameworks). At first, I’m fascinated. But the thing that always troubles me is that it feels a bit like a magic trick. I see the result, but I don’t know how they got to it.
[08:19] Hiring and firing products. Even as I look across disruptive products, for every product that you build, there’s already a product, an existing alternative, that you are replacing.
[09:00] The bigger context. With every product, there’s the functional job, and there’s the emotional job.
[09:00] The drill bit example. Why are you drilling the hole in the first place?
[11:39] Understanding irrationality. How behavioral economics helps the marketer, innovator, and entrepreneur.
[12:59] Quantitative metrics. The quantitative is where the data proves the thing working at scale.
[12:59] Insight generation. That’s where all the interviewing and the qualitative learning comes into play.
[14:15] New products are fundamentally about some kind of behavior change.
[16:32] Habit loops and reward loops. As product folks, we sometimes have to add some kind of feedback loop that this product is working.
[17:35] “Using a lean canvas does not a lean startup make.” The difference between a team following process because they were forced to – not using the tool for its intended purpose.
[23:27] MVP and MVA. Build something smaller and then iterate and refine. The challenge is that today customers have no patience. Rightly so, because they have so many choices.
[25:50] The strategy of preeminence. If you can articulate user problems better than they can, they transfer expertise to you and that starts a conversation.
[27:40] The innovator’s bias. I want to build something cool and different and I don’t want to solve the obvious problems.
[27:40] The secret about new problems. They come from old solutions.
[29:38] The speed of learning. The only true, unfair advantage that you have.
[32:42] Innovation. I contrast innovation and invention. I look at invention as a new way of doing things, and I look at innovation as taking that new way, technology, method to market.
Ash’s Recommended Reading
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.
The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, 2nd ed., by Jeffrey K. Liker.
To learn more about the tools and content discussed on the podcast, check out LEANSTACK.
Ash is praised for offering some of the best and most practical advice for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs all over the world. Driven by the search for better and faster ways of building successful products, Ash has developed a systematic methodology for raising the odds of success built upon Lean Startup, Customer Development, and Bootstrapping techniques.
Ash is also a leading business blogger; his posts and advice have been featured in Inc. magazine, Forbes, and Fortune. He regularly hosts sold-out workshops around the world and serves as a mentor to several accelerators, including TechStars, MaRS, and Capital Factory. He guest lectures at several universities, including MIT, Harvard, and the University of Texas at Austin.l