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Good Questions, Good Products: 31+ Questions for Product Makers and Managers

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Good Questions, Good Products: 31+ Questions for Product Makers and Managers

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Slides from my talk to other product managers / designers.

"Most people say great products start with great ideas. But Eli sees it differently. Instead, great products start with asking the right questions. This talk looks at the early stages of the product lifecycle through the lens of those important and often overlooked questions."

These early stages include:

• Strategy & Introspection, where we ask "Who are we? What's our purpose?" to better understand a product team's culture and the types of products that will resonate internally

• User Research, where we ask "Who's our audience? What do they really want in a product?" to develop user empathy and discover potential product directions

• Product Direction, where we ask: "What problem should we solve? Why is it worth solving?" to define and justify scope based on the value they create, rather than the features they include

The talk covers the high-level questions, why they're important, and breaks them down into relevant component questions. Plus a few hacks / exercises to help you ask them most effectively.

Slides from my talk to other product managers / designers.

"Most people say great products start with great ideas. But Eli sees it differently. Instead, great products start with asking the right questions. This talk looks at the early stages of the product lifecycle through the lens of those important and often overlooked questions."

These early stages include:

• Strategy & Introspection, where we ask "Who are we? What's our purpose?" to better understand a product team's culture and the types of products that will resonate internally

• User Research, where we ask "Who's our audience? What do they really want in a product?" to develop user empathy and discover potential product directions

• Product Direction, where we ask: "What problem should we solve? Why is it worth solving?" to define and justify scope based on the value they create, rather than the features they include

The talk covers the high-level questions, why they're important, and breaks them down into relevant component questions. Plus a few hacks / exercises to help you ask them most effectively.

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Good Questions, Good Products: 31+ Questions for Product Makers and Managers

  1. 1. Good Qs, Good Ps.31 Good Questions Product Makers can ask to build Great Products. by Eli Holder hi@eliholder.com
  2. 2. “That’s a great question.”
  3. 3. Work Work Work.Eli’s Background
  4. 4. unblab. “Spent about 10 minutes training it to recognize my important emails and it's already saved me hours and hours of sorting through messages.”acquired by
  5. 5. “Until I saw your graphics and your ‘result stories’, I really wasn’t that dissatisfied. Now, I want to view all of my data this way.”
  6. 6. Nodd helps team leaders get honest, constructive feedback from their teams at work. "I loved the emojis and the survey format was awesome. I was engaged the whole time. Excellent platform.” “It’s like the slack of 1:1s” Nodd.co
  7. 7. RESEARCH! Product
  8. 8. Dumb. 2009
  9. 9. Dumb. Slightly less dumb. 2009 2016 The power of questions.
  10. 10. Goal of this talk: Hooray Questions!
  11. 11. Why Questions? “The Unknown Unknowns” i.e. the epistemology of Donald Rumsfeld
  12. 12. Unknown Unknowns Known Unknowns When you learn a new question:
  13. 13. Goals of the talk: 1. The power of Questions 2. Asking the right Questions 3. Tons ‘o’ Product Questions
  14. 14. 1. Who are we? Why are we here? 
 (strategy & existential crises) 2. Who’s our audience? What do they want? (user research) 3. What are we trying to do? Why should we?(opportunity assessment) 4. How should we solve the problem? (design sprinting) 5. Are we approaching Product / Market Fit? (build, measure, learn loop) Big Product Q’s(for each Product Lifecycle Stage)
  15. 15. Related Product Q’s. Who are we? What’s our mission? What’s our aligning metric? What are our organizational objectives for the quarter/year (OKRs)? Who are the stakeholders? What are their goals? Why invest more in the product (e.g. instead of sales?) Who’s going to be building it? What are their personal goals and interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How much of their time do we have (e.g. are they cross functional? do they have other projects? are there churn risks?) What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses? What are people’s expected communication styles? What’s the organization’s culture (e.g. Risk tolerance)? What’s the organization’s perceived brand? What are the expectations for a product manager? What’s the (target) business model? What stage is the company at? What’s the prevailing role within the company? Who are the other companies in the space? How is your company different? Tech advantages / debt? Design advantages / debt? Data advantages? What are the religious issues that everyone’s tired of discussing? External requirements? Whats your support team like? How do you (think) you make money? Who’s our audience? What do our users think about on the subway? Who are our primary (and secondary) users? What does a typical day look like for them? What problems are they currently experiencing? (What are the 5 whys for the problems? What are they doing now to solve them? What do they like about the current solution? What do they dislike about the current solution? What are they feeling?) What are the most important dimensions to describe them? (e.g. demographics? behavior? company role? values? physical attributes? ) Who are the extreme users? What do our users value? What are their goals? What are their obligations? What are their frustrations? What are their stresses? What gets them excited? Who are the people in their lives? How do they typically interact with them? What’s the users value to us? What language do they use to describe their experiences? What other products / tools are they using? What are they reading? Who are they following? How do they find / buy related products? How do they fit into purchasing decisions? What can they spend? When do they spend? What’s their organization’s culture like? How do they fit in? What’s their organization’s business model? How do competitors perceive them? What does academia think about them? What problem are we solving? (value prop) What problems are incidental (non-goals)? For whom do we solve this problem? (target market) How big is the opportunity? (market size) How will we measure success? (metrics) What alternatives are out there now? (competitors) Why us? What’s our differentiator? Why now? (market window) Why might this a bad idea? How will we market this? Other considerations for success? How should we solve this? What are all the different ways we could possibly solve this? How are our competitors solving this? How have academics solved this? How have people solved similar problems in different industries? Which solution is the best for us to pursue? Which solution is most interesting to the team? Which solution has the most learning potential? Is it technically feasible? (What’s the relative complexity?) Is it consistent with the behavior / data we’ve collected so far? What are the main things we expect users to do (Jobs to Be Done / stories)? What would it look like for the user to do that? What user
  16. 16. Who are we? Why are we here? Product Lifecycle Stage #1: Q: Strategy & Existential Crises
  17. 17. What’s the mission?Q: Who are the stakeholders? What do they want? Q: What are our strengths & weaknesses? Q: Strategy & Existential Crises
  18. 18. Why it’s importantFollow your dreams, idiot.
  19. 19. Team Plan: Follow my dreams.
  20. 20. “What’s our one metric that matters”? “What are our near-term OKRs”? “What are our product principles”? Ask: What’s the mission?Q:
  21. 21. Who are the stakeholders?
 What do they want? Q:
  22. 22. This is not you.This is not you.
  23. 23. This is you.
  24. 24. 1. Conformity bias 2. Positivity bias 3. They don’t know 4. Don’t want to look dumb challenges: Who are the stakeholders?
 What do they want? Q:
  25. 25. Who are the stakeholders?
 What do they want? Q: “What are your 3 biggest hopes for this project? “What are your 3 biggest fears for this project? “Any other considerations? Ask: The Hopes / Fears Exercise:
  26. 26. Hopes / Fears Exercise Results: Who are the stakeholders?
 What do they want? Q: Answers: Hopes: • That project X opens up a new market for us • I’m optimistic about the chance at a new market • That project X opens up a substantial new revenue stream for us • That X has interesting technical challenges Fears: • That project X is much more technically difficult than we expected • That we get distracted and don’t give project X a fair shot • That we’re just excited about the revenue opportunity and not solving a real problem.
  27. 27. Hopes / Fears Exercise Results: Who are the stakeholders?
 What do they want? Q: Answers: Hopes: • That project X opens up a new market for us • I’m optimistic about the chance at a new market • That project X opens up a substantial new revenue stream for us • That X has interesting technical challenges Fears: • That project X is much more technically difficult than we expected • That we get distracted and don’t give project X a fair shot • That we’re just excited about the revenue opportunity and not solving a real problem.
  28. 28. Hopes, Fears, and Psychological Safety.
  29. 29. What’s our mission? What’s our aligning metric? What are our organizational objectives for the quarter/year (OKRs)? Who are the stakeholders? What are their goals? Why invest more in the product (e.g. instead of sales?) Who’s going to be building it? What are their personal goals and interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How much of their time do we have (e.g. are they cross functional? do they have other projects? are there churn risks?) What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses? What are people’s expected communication styles? What’s the organization’s culture (e.g. Risk tolerance)? What’s the organization’s perceived brand? What are the expectations for a product manager? What’s the (target) business model? What stage is the company at? What’s the prevailing role within the company? Who are the other companies in the space? How is your company different? Tech advantages / debt? Design advantages / debt? Data advantages? What are the religious issues that everyone’s tired of discussing? External Strategy: Relevant Q’s.
  30. 30. Audience Q: Any questions so far?
  31. 31. Who’s our audience? What do they want? Product Lifecycle Stage #2: Q: User Research
  32. 32. “Set up at least 30 meetings, or you won’t have a good product. Michael Sippey Former VP Product Twitter User Research: Why?
  33. 33. Allison Smith* 27, Cleveland New Mom Yahoo Mail User *Not really Allison But thank you to this person for CC Flickr photo. How does Allison use email?
  34. 34. What does a typical day look like? What’s important to them? What’s holding them back? What do they think about on the subway or on the highway? Qs: Who’s our Audience?Q:
  35. 35. What do users want?Q:
  36. 36. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: Faster Horses.” Henry Ford* Model-T Inventor *Not really
  37. 37. What do users want?Q: 1. They can’t say what they want 2. They won’t know what’s possible 3. It’s not their job to know challenges:
  38. 38. What do users want?Q: “How do you currently do [area you want to explore]?” “What are the top 3 things you love about how you’re doing it now?” “What are the 3 biggest frustrations with how you’re doing it now?” Ask:
  39. 39. Happy Event Frustrating Event Emotion Timeline Exercise. What do users want?Q: "If you were to draw a chart of your emotions throughout your experience [doing X], with peaks when you're most happy and valleys when you're most unhappy, what would that look like?" Ask:
  40. 40. A designer describes the 360 performance review experience. Choose my reviewers. Find out it’s perf review time. Find out I have to write 4 reviews I write the reviews, feel relieved A long time goes by and I forget about it. Boss emails to say it’s time to have the talk. Talk day. Promotion! Emotion Timeline Exercise Results: What do users want?Q: Answer:
  41. 41. Who are your competitors’ customers? What do they value? Q:
  42. 42. “[your industry]” (testimonials|our clients|our customers) site:[competitor_site] filetype:pdf site:twitter.com "apple maps" ("is a”|"sucks"|"can't"|"fuck"|"shit") https://twitter.com/search?q=to %3A[COMPETITORS_TWITTER]%20%3A) : Who are your competitors’ customers? What do they value? Q:
  43. 43. User Research: Relevant Q’s. What do our users think about on the subway? Who are our primary (and secondary) users? What does a typical day look like for them? What problems are they currently experiencing? (What are the 5 whys for the problems? What are they doing now to solve them? What do they like about the current solution? What do they dislike about the current solution? What are they feeling?) What are the most important dimensions to describe them? (e.g. demographics? behavior? company role? values? physical attributes? ) Who are the extreme users? What do our users value? What are their goals? What are their obligations? What are their frustrations? What are their stresses? What gets them excited? Who are the people in their lives? How do they typically interact with them? What’s the users value to us? What language do they use to describe their experiences? What other products / tools are they using? What are they reading? Who are they following? How do they find / buy related products? How do they fit into purchasing decisions? What can they spend? When do they spend? What’s their organization’s culture like? How do they fit
  44. 44. Product Lifecycle Stage #3: Q: Opportunity Assessment What are we trying to do? Why should we?
  45. 45. From The PM Handbook (mostly). Opportunity Assessment: Huh?
  46. 46. 1. What problem are we solving? 2. What problems are we not solving? 3. For whom do we solve this problem? 4. How big is the opportunity? 5. How are people solving it now? 6. What’s the competitive landscape? 7. Why us? What’s our differentiator? 8. Why now? Why hasn’t this been solved yet? 9. How will we get this product to market? 10.How will we measure success? 11.What factors are critical to success? 12.Given the above, go or no-go? The Opportunity Assessment:
  47. 47. 1. What problem are we solving? 2. What problems are we not solving? 3. For whom do we solve this problem? 4. How big is the opportunity? 5. How are people solving it now? 6. What’s the competitive landscape? 7. Why us? What’s our differentiator? 8. Why now? Why hasn’t this been solved yet? 9. How will we get this product to market? 10.How will we measure success? 11.What factors are critical to success? 12.Given the above, go or no-go? The Opportunity Assessment: Reason #1 for
  48. 48. 1. What problem are we solving? 2. What problems are we not solving? 3. For whom do we solve this problem? 4. How big is the opportunity? 5. How are people solving it now? 6. What’s the competitive landscape? 7. Why us? What’s our differentiator? 8. Why now? 9. How will we market this? 10.How will we measure success? 11.What factors are critical to success?
  49. 49. Q: What is the #1 Most Important Question about a Product?
  50. 50. The Most Important Question: What problem are we solving?*Q: *Independently of how we might solve it.
  51. 51. *Independently of how we might solve it. Advil. Features are for suckers.. What problem are we solving?Q: 310M Americans experience mild headaches and body pain due to inflammation at least once per year. We’ll make that pain go away. This: We’re manufacturing doses of ibuprofen. They’ll come in blue or brown pills. The bottle is child proof. We’re advertising the hell out of them. Not This:
  52. 52. “Shiny feature X.” CEO: It needs to be social. Add share buttons everywhere! PM: Sir, it’s a porn site. How many people share porn on Facebook? CEO: The investors say we’re not growing fast enough. And some site called “Buzzfeed" is really taking off because of the sharing. PM: It sounds like you’re saying the real problem is growth? Are there other ways we could solve that? *Independently of how we might solve it. What problem are we solving?Q: Get to the root of the problem. 
 Avoid building things that don’t add value.
  53. 53. 80M Americans have have a hard time finding things on the internet. Finding information on the internet. Problem Idea #1 Portals and directories (yahoo) Idea #2 Search by phrase matching (altavista) Idea #3 search by phrase matching and back links signal (google) Problem framing leaves room for multiple solutions. *Independently of how we might solve it. What problem are we solving?Q:
  54. 54. PM: Designer: *Quits. Goes to Facebook.* Problem framing helps PMs avoid irritating 
 designers and engineers. The signup button must be big and red so more people will see it and click on it. *Independently of how we might solve it. What problem are we solving?Q:
  55. 55. Q: How big is the opportunity?
  56. 56. Expected Ransom:
 $1 Million Cost of Space Laser:
 $16 Septillion ??????
  57. 57. Q: How big of an opportunity is it to hold the world hostage? Cost of Space Laser: Opportunity Size: +$6,300,000,000,000 (available cash, top 5 countries) -$15,600,000,000,000,000,00 (estimated cost of death star)
  58. 58. Q: How big of an opportunity is holding the world hostage? Opportunity Size: $6,300,000,000,000 (available cash, top 5 countries) (market size) (ransom) x $1.26T = $6.3T (opportunity) top 5 countries
  59. 59. Q: Ask: How big is the opportunity? q1: How big is the market? q2: What’s the unit impact? Then: What’s q1 × q2? solve: (market size) × (impact) = (opportunity size)
  60. 60. (market size) (revenue) x 7B people × 10% w/o internet = $3.73 = $2.6B/yr (opportunity) 700M people
  61. 61. Q: How big of an opportunity is typography for Medium? (Medium Readers /mo) (credibility acts) x +1.5% = 510k ♥’s (opportunity) 34,000,000
  62. 62. 5,000,000 x 10 x 365 5,069,444 ~8 users seconds days hrs/yr lives/yr
  63. 63. 1. What problem are we solving? 2. What problems are we not solving? 3. For whom do we solve this problem? 4. How big is the opportunity? 5. How are people solving it now? 6. What’s the competitive landscape? 7. Why us? What’s our differentiator? 8. Why now? Why hasn’t this been solved yet? 9. How will we get this product to market? 10.How will we measure success? 11.What factors are critical to success? 12. Given the above, go or no-go? The Opportunity Assessment: value > features worth it? worth it.
  64. 64. Big Product Q’s(for each Product Lifecycle Stage) 1. Who are we? Why are we here? 
 (strategy & existential crises) 2. Who’s our audience? What do they want? (user research) 3. What problem should we solve? How big is it?(opportunity assessment) 4. How should we solve the problem? (design sprinting) 5. Are we approaching Product / Market Fit? (build, measure, learn loop)
  65. 65. Big Product Q’s(for each Product Lifecycle Stage) 1. Who are we? Why are we here? 
 (strategy & existential crises) 2. Who’s our audience? What do they want? (user research) 3. What problem should we solve? How big is it?(opportunity assessment) 4. How should we solve the problem? (design sprinting) 5. Are we approaching Product / Market Fit? (build, measure, learn loop) }Let’s talk! hi@eliholder.com
  66. 66. Summary: 1. The power of Questions 2. Asking the right Questions 3. Product Questions 4. Let’s talk! hi@eliholder.com.
  67. 67. Thanks! hi@eliholder.com bit.ly/good-product-questions

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