You’re in the shower, and it hits you! A great idea, the next big thing, you’re sure of it. And you may well be right. However, the most common trap that product managers, inventors, and entrepreneurs fall into is not realizing that this eureka moment is the inception and not the inflection point of a product’s life. Thomas Edison said that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The truth is that sales growth comes from market acceptance, and rarely is version 1.0 spot-on. Assessing and revising a product is where the real work starts, and for many people most of the perspiration is developing the ability to gain an accurate perspective.
Sure one must to have confidence to move forward in any endeavor, but this must be balanced with perspective, and perspective comes from mentally trying out ideas to find the right one. However during this process, there is a dangerous trap that many people fall into. It’s best described by one of my favorite sayings, “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Over the years I’ve become attuned to any sentence that starts with “I think” such that my brain automatically tags the information as an idea, and does not accept it as a belief on first take. I hear the words “I think” quite often during discussions with product teams, product managers, executives and conversations with my friends.
When these words pop up, I’m very careful not to discount the person or their perspective. People’s opinions, thoughts and ideas are valuable data-points that are weighted by the level of trust that we have in their experience and motives, and processing all of this information is a critical step. In fact, this processing is actually two interwoven processes; 1) letting your subconscious create combinations and permutations of data and 2) looking for patterns of repetitions that we can statistically depend on.
The subconscious part of our brain is the most powerful and mysterious thing in the world. During quiet moments new ideas often thrust magically from our subconscious into our conscious minds. The book Your Brain at Work (David Rock) notes that Neurologists have measured this process with an EEG to show that our Medial Frontal Cortex (conscious part of the brain) quiets down while our Right Occipital Lobe (sensory portion – just behind the right ear) has a firestorm of activity with the Hippocampus (long term memory). In essence, your conscious mind steps out of the way so your sensory brain can collaborate with your long-term memory. During this process your brain is “trying-out” combinations and permutations of data until it matches patterns that are in the sensory part of your brain. A process also known as “Creativity.”
There is also a great concept in the book Rework (Fried and Hansson) that suggests never writing anything down, as the important things in life always present themselves over and over, allowing your brain to “Detect” patterns. While this is a valid concept there is another way of finding such patterns – measuring.
The difference between Detecting and Measuring is encapsulated by the difference between the Arts and the Sciences and people tend to choose one over the other. However, combining the two is the most powerful method as the data itself does not tell a story, and perception is easily skewed without the presence of hard facts. Optimizing this overall process is done when we seed the sensory portion of our brain with data so it can connect-the-dots in turn creating a picture that we can trust… and believe.