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Critical Thinking is Product Management

Teresa Torres, Product Discovery Coach, shares how product teams can overcome cognitive biases, make better decisions, and drive meaningful outcomes.

At most companies, there’s no shortage of good ideas. However, product teams often lack effective processes for learning about their customers and rapidly testing their ideas. This is in part due to cognitive biases that prevent product teams from accurately recognizing their underlying assumptions. In this episode, Teresa Torres explains how critical thinking can allow product teams to overcome these biases and make better decisions.

Teresa is a Product Discovery Coach who helps teams gain critical insights from customer interviews, run effective product experiments, and drive product outcomes that create value for their customers and their businesses. She teaches teams how to connect the dots between their research activities and their product decisions. Teresa has worked with clients including Allstate, CareerBuilder, The Guardian, and CapitalOne.

According to Teresa, successful product teams need to question their thinking, conduct interviews on a regular cadence, and focus on opportunities that can deliver business outcomes and improve customers’ lives.

It’s easy to have an idea and fall in love with it, but in an age in which nearly everything can be measured, Teresa says that it’s far more important to focus on the desired outcomes:

“It’s not about ‘have the idea,’ it’s about ‘ok, we have an idea. Are we verifying that it meets a customer need? Are we verifying it drives an outcome? Are we verifying that it's ethical, desirable, viable, feasible?’”

Teresa recommends mapping ideas to goals in a visual format to ensure that every idea is driven by desired outcomes and addresses an actual customer opportunity.

Teresa emphasizes the need to focus on learning what people actually do, not just what they speculate that they will do. This is challenging because customers often answer questions based on their view of their ideal self. To overcome this bias, Teresa recommends throwing away the discussion guide and asking customers to tell a story about a recent experience.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about cognitive biases, critical thinking, and customer development.

Here are the highlights:

  • Teresa explains how she helps teams learn about their customers and test ideas (3:44)
  • Teresa provides advice on prioritizing opportunities (6:51)
  • Teresa shares the techniques she uses to gain meaningful insights from customer interviews (12:21)
  • Teresa explains how product teams can integrate her recommendations into their everyday workflows (16:46)

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