Demystifying "Product Sense": A Guide for Startup Founders and Product Managers.

Building a successful product requires a deep commitment to learning and adapting. Many believe it is an innate talent, but in reality, product sense is developed through experience and learning over time. This guide explores why product sense is important and practical steps to develop it.

Steps to Develop Product Sense

The ability to gauge multiple markets, identify critical product gaps that are otherwise left unfulfilled, and anticipate demands for a product or a service is what sets innovators apart from traditional product professionals. This ability is akin to a 6th sense, or as the industry calls it “Product Sense.” Although many may perceive Product Sense to be an innate talent, in reality, it is a skill nurtured over a definitely period of time. And, as proven time and again by thought leaders in the industry, Product Sense has grown to be a discipline that many follow as gospels for a successful business.

As a founder of Codemonk, I had the privilege of working on diverse products and engaging with successful founders across numerous industries. Interacting with them on different problem statements, plausible resolutions, and eventual proofs of concept, collectively provide me a unique vantage point over multiple industries such as HR Tech and Drone Tech, wherein, we built solutions tailored to millions of users. This vantage point ultimately provides me the broadest perspective into the technological space as a whole, thereby uncovering gaps that contemporaries may skip past. Such a knowledge is solidified into an intuition, or in popular terms, a Product Sense.

How Does One Methodically Nurture Product Sense?

Evident from the above examples of work, Product Sense can become an invaluable skill for product managers and founders. And, developing such a sense begins with a ground-level understanding of customer pain points, competitive products and comparable solutions, and the interaction between key market movers, among several other parameters.

At onset of a product management journey, individuals aspiring to develop such a Product Sense can consider the following practices as the first step in a longer, more progressive and compounding product management journey

Know your users like the back of your hand

Regularly interact with users through surveys, interviews, and usability tests. This might seem straight forward, is also one of the many crucial but often overlooked area of the business. It's very crucial for startup founders or product leaders to stay very close to customer and spend quality time with them to understand them better.

Turn to Data for Hidden Insights

Dive deep into product analytics, user metrics to understand usage patterns, buying behaviours, and retention rates. Granular the data, better the results; ensure to tackle every problem with a data-driven mindset when making informed decisions.

Develop a holistic business understanding

Maximise the knowledge of your team possess. Actively engage with customer success team, customer service team, sales team, product marketing team to gather on-ground realities and diverse perspectives.  Learn about different aspects of your company, from sales to legal compliances to customer support, to get a holistic view of your product/service ecosystems.

Research, and research some more

Continuously analyse competitors and industry trends to stay informed about market dynamics. staying in tune with the growth of the industry, allows one to empathise with the demands of the market and successively develop solutions that fit those use cases.

Key Traits that Set Innovators Apart from Traditional Product Managers

As a product leader, developing product sense requires cultivating  traits that make you more receptive to deepening your product knowledge. Here are some essential traits and how they could help you:

Curiosity:

Always question and stay curious about your product space. Adopt a continuous learning mindset, explore new ideas, and challenge assumptions. The day you stop quenching your curiosity is the day you will stop learning.

Humility:

Experience complimented with humility opens the doors to endless possibilities. Combine the years of experience that you have gathered over the years with the humbleness to explore uncharted territories. Avoid complacency, and more importantly, the dire mistake of assuming to have the answers to everything. An open feedback loop whereby each party in an interaction is encouraged to provide their insights goes a long way in sustaining successful product pipelines.

Empathy:

Imagining one’s self as the consumer of a product or service and relating to the customer experiences is crucial. Empathy helps build trust, and obtain information that would otherwise be beyond reach.

Strong Sense of Agency:

'Agency' is your internal compass guiding your actions and decisions. It involves trusting in your abilities, setting clear goals, thinking strategically, and being resilient through setbacks. Additionally, it requires taking initiatives and creating opportunities rather than waiting for them. By developing a strong sense of agency, you empower yourself to drive your product and team forward, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation.

Fresh Perspective:

Try to leave your past "baggage" and biases behind to approach problems with an open mind and innovate effectively.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Product sense is crucial but not the sole capability needed to lead a successful product team. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

Testing Assumptions:

Good product sense accelerates discovery but isn’t a substitute for testing. Always validate your ideas with real-world testing to avoid costly mistakes.

Domain Expertise Overreach:

Having deep knowledge in one domain doesn't automatically translate to other areas. Be cautious of over-relying on past successes in different contexts. Stay humble and open to new learning.

Conclusion

Developing strong product sense is a journey that involves continuous learning, openness to fresh ideas, and a deep understanding of your customers and industry. By staying curious, empathetic, and data-driven, one can create products that not only meet customer needs but also drive sustainable growth for businesses.

Subscribe