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Why do smart product people & teams often build products with mediocre or no impact?

A cautionary thread of biases and fallacies we encounter when building products👇🏾

1/ The Execution Orientation Fallacy

We craft flawed product strategies & make suboptimal product decisions because we base these decisions on what we know we can easily execute today.

Shortsightedness & Low Agency typically cause this fallacy.

I see this one all the time.
2/ The Bias-for-Building Fallacy

We don’t take the time to thoroughly understand the problem, domain, competitors & other determinants of product success because we feel compelled to be in constant motion. We tell ourselves we must begin building & just iterate based on feedback
3/ The IKEA Effect for products

Usually applicable to an 𝘦𝘹𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 product that’s struggling, we base our 𝘤𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 product decisions on 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘵 product execution because we’re too attached to the work we’ve already put in & don’t want it to "have been for nothing".
4/ The Focusing Illusion for products

When we talk to customers about the problem that our product solves, we overestimate its severity & get surprised when the customer doesn’t end up buying or using our product. Any problem will feel more critical while you’re talking about it
5/ Maslow’s Hammer

We use a framework, a skill, or a proxy that we are most comfortable with (or one that our company endorses) even when its utility is limited or counterproductive in a specific product context.

Example: FB uses metrics as a hammer for most product problems.
6/ The Authority Approval Bias

We devise product strategies, conceive product features & propose product plans based largely on what we think is going to either confirm the beliefs held by those in a position of authority at the company or more easily get us approval to proceed.
7/ Russian Roulette for products

We don’t account enough for scenarios that could, under certain conditions, lead to a catastrophic outcome for our product or a PR nightmare for our company.

Usually found in companies where “following orders” or “just get it done” is rewarded.
What to do?

The ultimate onus for avoiding these traps is on PM/Eng/Design leaders in middle mgmt. They need to recognize & call out whenever they see these issues crop up: upwards (pushing back on sr. mgmt) AND downwards (educating their product teams).

No other easy answer💪🏾
Related further reading.

Present bias:…

Status quo bias:…

IKEA effect:…

Plan continuation bias:…

Bandwagon effect:…

Maslow’s hammer:…

Availability cascade:…

Focusing illusion:…

Russian roulette:…
Want even more on these topics?

Here's a B2B Product Management story that depicts the perils of the Focusing Illusion for products:

Here's a tweet-sized story that I often seen repeated on product teams, related to the Bias-for-Building Fallacy:

Here's a tweet that depicts the common proxies used within companies, related to Maslow's Hammer:

Incompetent executives can unwittingly cause the Authority Approval Bias:

A thread on preventing catastrophic mistakes, related to Russian Roulette for products:

A sensible null hypothesis when building B2B products (among other things, helps combat these biases & fallacies)

A sensible null hypothesis when building Consumer products

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