Thursday, June 30, 2005

Product Management is like Therapy

"Uncovering psychotherapy emphasizes facilitating clients' insight into the roots of their difficulties."

Imagine you're a psychotherapist. Patients comes to you complaining that they are unhappy. You don't just ask them what's wrong. You probe into their backgrounds, their situations, and why what they describe makes them unhappy.

In product management, we do much the same thing. We interview prospective customers to understand their backgrounds, situations, and problems they face. We listen, but we are not passive. To get to the root problems that our product can help solve, we have to ask the right questions and not stop at what a prospect initially says is the problem. By the end of an interview, the prospect should have greater insight into her own situation.

2 comments :

Sean Murphy said...

I worry that this framing puts you in a "one up" mind set instead of peer to peer. If you are not getting questions from the prospect it's not a conversation it's an interrogation.

Roger Cauvin said...

Thanks for the comment, Sean.

Engaging a prospect by playing a role akin to a therapist is an acknowledgment that the prospect is the expert on their situation and challenges, not you. Central to prospect interviews is that you are not the expert.

Just as good psychotherapy is not an interrogation, neither is a prospect interview. Questions are facilitative, not interrogative. The best session is one in which the therapist or the product manager effectively empowers the "subject" to share her wealth of knowledge that only she has.