In today’s competitive and meta-cognitive world, designing a product means designing for the future. If we view it merely as a project, it would mean sticking to schedules and working towards specific outcomes. However, products, as we know, operate beyond timelines. The challenge before product development today is to design with a vision.
Why product thinking matters
According to Paul Townsend, the ultimate use of a product is to solve some problem or serve a need. Product thinking puts the focus right back onto this need to solve a problem and doesn’t look at it in silos, the way a project manager would.
Says Townsend, “It lets you see the product in context and not as a combination of features and design efforts. It makes sure that you’re tackling meaningful problems.”
Product thinking helps in understanding the micro and macro aspects of the product and its service to the world. Most companies make a fundamental mistake of paying more attention to the UI design of the product. However, designing a product is more like a service design, where back-end processes need to be defined to provide the ideal front-end experience.
A product thinking development team takes care of both the design and the product thinking. They work on the problem that the product intends to solve and then think of the product as something to make an impact or a change in the world. In other words, they identify and shape the core user experience.
Can product thinking be outsourced?
It doesn’t matter whether you hire an in-house or an outsourced team to think your products into existence. If you select an offshore team, it would be better to select a team that takes ownership of the product in a complete sense. For instance, a good idea would be to have an initiation process, or a ‘proof of concept’ to break into the relationship with the outsourced team, before getting into the thick of the product development process. In the end, it is all about transferring a ‘product thinking mindset’ to the entire development process, whether it is in-house or outsourced.
Is product thinking for everyone?
Can every team think in products? The problem with most development teams is that they are too much in love with their design and are bogged down by processes.When companies approach product development with a rigid approach, the process falls apart. Also, product thinking is used more as a buzzword and less understood for what it really is.
The biggest problem levelled against product thinking is that the customers don’t necessarily know what they want, as is evidenced by the famous Clayton Christenson experiment.
In the end, product thinking isn’t just about understanding problems and how to solve them. While it is about delivering that significant result, it is also about having the vision to see where the customers would want to go next with the product. The ability to think beyond is what marks a good product thinking development team. If a company is not willing to look at a product’s adaptability in the world, then it isn’t suited to adopt product thinking into its culture.
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