Anthony Atlas is an Awards Advisory Board member tasked with selecting the finalist for the Product Awards in the category Conceive.

The Awards Advisory Board is comprised of five individuals. Each head one of the five Product Awards categories: Conceive, Design, Operate, Build, and Collaborate.

“I feel like [the conceive stage] is one of the most critical phases in helping a company or product go from zero to one and then leading ultimately to the success that you want to have,” Atlas said, who is the Product Head at ClimateAI. “The conception of a product or solution is a really difficult phase. And I think that’s one of the things that attracts me to it for the Product Awards because you have to learn about your audience.”

His comments came during a recent Product Talk podcast where a fellow AAB member and podcast host Christina Lucey interviewed him about the awards and his category. 

Understanding the Conceive Product Awards Category

Within the Conceive category, winners will receive awards for solving market problems, exploring solutions, communicating internally, building a roadmap.

Related: The Product Award categories 

  • Solve Market Problems: This award is about how does one understand the problem and market that they are addressing.
  • Explore Solutions: This award is based on how does someone investigates solutions, perhaps as prototypes, to determine what’s good enough. 
  • Communicate Internally: This recognition examines how someone makes the most desirable business case to their team, collects feedback, and polishes the product design.
  • Build a Roadmap: This honor is how one sequences the product, the market segments, and then takes into account the impact, effort, and also the competitive dynamics.

The conceive process “is one of the stages that take some of the biggest risks off the table for a company,” Atlas said. “I think it’s a special stage in the product development life cycle.”

The Conceive Stage Can Have Pain

The conceive stage is so important, which is why it is one of the categories for the 2020 Product Awards. Though the conceive stage can reduce risks during product development, Atlas also noted it doesn’t come without problems.

“It’s really easy to lack a clear enough understanding of who the customer segment is,” Atlas said.

Related to the 2020 Product Awards: We want to know what makes a great product… submit your video

The ClimateAI product head said that people think about customer segments in terms of who is the user and where can they be found. But, danger can arise if a team has too many different customer segments in mind.

“I think [you have to get] disciplined about really honing in on that,” Atlas said. “That’s one of the things that can go wrong. It’s not having enough focus.”

Along the lines of customers, Atlas said a mistake is “fooling yourself,” such as making certain assumptions.

“When I am doing this work, I want to have conversations until I reach a point where I feel like I’m not learning many new things,” Atlas said. “It can happen relatively quickly, but you’ve got to have enough of these [talks] and with a very focused customer segment to feel [you] understand the person.”

Perhaps, though, the most impactful mistake is missing the mark.

“This is where I’ve certainly had some personal pain, [which] is just not solving something important enough,” Atlas said. “I think it’s kind of one of the tragic ones because there’s nothing sort sadder than a room full of smart, motivated people working to build something that they think somebody wants and they don’t.”

How Do Tools Help Avoid Problems?

“I think running a process and using tools can help keep you honest, make sure you’re asking the right questions, and make sure that you’re revisiting items that you’ve might been inclined to pass over,” Atlas said.

Related to the 2020 Product Awards: What makes a great manager? Submit your video

He provided a personal example from his work at ClimateAI. He was working on a project segmenting the market “and looking at different applications of some of the core technologies.”

The process helped to discover new tools and also revisit older ones that were written off.

“You dig a lot farther and learn some things that maybe validate some of your initial thinking and others that you didn’t have quite right,” Atlas said, adding that as a result, “We felt like we could move faster, [we] saw the solve the problem in a way that’s meaningful for the customer, [and] get to market quickly.”

He added: “I think having that process and those tools in place really helps … and then ultimately do a really good job of advocating internally, which is a critical part of this phase.”  

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