Are you a product visionary? Now you can learn to be one

Do you consider yourself a product visionary? And could you learn to be one?

I encourage Product Managers to scrap the idea that being a visionary is a personality trait.

What it means to be a product visionary

When you believe you are either born a visionary or you’ll never be one, you’re stuck in a fixed mindset. When we operate from a growth mindset, we believe we can overcome any challenge by working hard.

Product visionaries need to be intimately involved with the problems they aim to solve.

Here are the three ingredients that make a visionary:

• Taking time to understand customer needs, the problem space, and product constraints

• Being comfortable with a little risk

• Communicating effectively and empathetically

This approach is about getting to know your customers, observing data, and taking appropriate risks to solve problems effectively.

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Creating a compelling product vision

By now, you may have learned that isolating yourself in a room with a whiteboard is not the best way to come up with a product vision.

If you are toe-to-toe with a product problem, usually one of three answers will explain your situation:

• You don’t deeply understand your customer needs and wants. Start with your customers; observe and conduct research to understand their motivations, goals and pains.

• You don’t understand the dynamic of your problem space. If you don’t know how rockets work, you won’t be able to come up with a great design for launching them.

• You don’t understand your product constraints. If someone told you that next week, we’d be living on the moon, you’d think their idea was unrealistic, and you’d be right. Find out which constraints prevent you from solving customers’ problems, and go from there.

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“Product vision is worth nothing if it’s only in your head.”

Communicating your product vision and strategy

Communicating your product vision is a challenging yet crucial step. Here are a few ideas for effectively getting others on board:

• PRFAQ (Press release and frequently asked questions): Craft a very concise and articulate description of your finished product and work backwards from there.

• Nemawashi: This is a low-conflict Japanese strategy of meeting people privately before a big presentation, so everyone is on the same page.

• Bring stakeholders along for the journey. It is tempting to push people away or say they are wrong. Instead, turn them into allies.

• Use data and anecdotes. People believe you more.

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Bringing your vision to life

Vision isn’t everything. You need to be able to execute.

Here’s how:

• Quantize: Break the vision down into milestones or small chunks so it feels more achievable.

• Set goals to measure success.

• Prototype, experiment, validate, learn, and incorporate new information. Very few product visions and goals start and finish the same way. New information doesn’t prove you wrong; it improves your vision.

• Prototype, experiment, validate, learn, and incorporate new information. Very few product visions and goals start and finish the same way. New information doesn’t prove you wrong; it improves your vision.