Product managers and leaders come to the world of product from many different backgrounds. This gives each individual product person a unique perspective on the products they build. But what does it mean to truly be a product visionary? In this talk, fmr IBM VP & Partner and current Structured Mischief Founder and CEO, David Jensen, joins us to discuss visionary product thinking.

Subscribe to the Product Talk podcast and make sure you never miss a single product conversation with leading product executives. New episodes live every Wednesday. 


On How to Begin With Visionary Product Thinking

What is the groundwork for a product manager? David points out that being a critical thinker and looking at the product market fit both set the groundwork for gaining a successful career in this sector.

“How do you delight your end user? It could be a customer, a guest, or a peer. Ultimately, part of the formula in any good product design is thinking about that product-market fit and how you want to delight somebody with what it is you’re creating. 

I had the opportunity to learn from the masters: industrial designers, industrial product folks, filmmakers, production designers, but, candidly, I learned the most from one of my former colleagues and business partners in one of my first startups, Zetools. Richard Cardran is this amazing product guy. He came from the broadcast design world, he had a vision about how we could take what he had learned in broadcast production workflow and apply it to the early days of broadband video.

What I learned from Richard was not trying to think about a technical solution, but more importantly, what it is that you’re trying to achieve through that product in terms of delighting your end users, and then the end process for us? It was how do you monetize this video, so I learned a lot from the best.”

On How to Work With New and Emerging Tools

Product leaders are constantly working within the balance of technology and the tools available. The market has been leaning toward a new wave of ownership, led by decentralization, collaboration, and transparency. David explains his thought process when utilizing new tech for visionary product thinking.

“It’s never about technology. The technology becomes the enabler of the vision about what you can offer somebody. Now, one might say, you have to understand blockchain. If I don’t understand blockchain, how can I then design a product or create something that is additive or important? That’s a fair point. But I guess I caution folks to not get tied up in what the technology is, in the case of blockchain, all the extended letters and polychains that now exist, and how different blockchains are communicating with one another. It starts very simply with what it is that you’re trying to offer.

I’ll give an example: talking to somebody who’s in the ink business that I think we all probably have used at some point in our lives. They’re very much looking at, how do they make their products maybe into services? How do they make it easier for people to get ink refilled in their home printers or their office printers? We’re down in the incremental innovation category of thinking about product innovation. What if we looked at it from a disruptive innovation perspective? Simply say, what does it mean to be Instant Ink for the blockchain? How can ink be an enabler in the blockchain? 

We’re not talking about literal ink that’s coming out of a printer, we’re talking about the equivalent to just making, creating that innovation challenge, that product challenge. Articulating it that way opens many doors and new kinds of thinking to what it could be.

I think any good product designer, any good product team starts with a key question. That key question is, what good is this product going to do for folks? Articulating the product innovation challenge associated with what you are already doing assuming that you already have some kind of product or service and how you want to innovate that.”

On The Age of Product and How That Affects Visionary Product Thinking

In this Age of Product, this type of knowledge has an opportunity to be applied in the digital space to create some really innovative products. Product leaders are always thinking ahead, utilizing their visionary product thinking processes to see past all the current inceptions toward the future. So how do we have a good product in this tech-foward world? 

“I won’t go into a debate about whether something’s a good or bad product, but I think it’s about, does it have purpose? What is the purpose of the product? And the angle that you’re asking about around the democratization of product, is the work that I’ve been doing and Structured Mischief has been doing specifically in the crypto and blockchain space. Working very passionately about climate change and reversing climate change.

I’m an advisor-investor and co-founder in a carbon exchange, called SDG Exchange.io. Our very simple purpose in the world is to reverse climate change one transaction at a time. We are one of the first, if not the first to do something like this. There’s certainly not anybody out there and in a significant way in the carbon offsetting world that is doing this, but SDG Exchange is doing it, which is creating a global marketplace that’s blockchain-enabled in order to at least initially do carbon offsetting, connecting a carbon supplier with somebody who’s a carbon buyer.

Currently, that market space is very interesting. Not to sound cynical, but it’s controlled by a very small group of elites that know a brokerage function. They know a Welsh farmer who needs to sell the surplus in the sequestration to a polluter, in France or Belgium. They then cut a deal and broker that deal. They’re providing a service so they need to get paid. They take a pretty large chunk of that transaction. Our goal is to reverse climate change one transaction at a time, but to make it really affordable, make it simple, make it easy.”