Bazaarvoice Product VP on Problem Solving
Problem Solving Through Design Thinking
As product managers, we are all in the problem-solving business. In other words, our goal is to come up with unique solutions that meet the needs of our customers. Given the ever-changing world in which we live, you might think that every new idea requires some brand-new approach to solving problems. However, what I’ve found is that the best solutions for problem-solving come from pattern recognition.
In other words, you’ll face a number of scenarios in which specific approaches will yield the appropriate response for a given issue. Throughout my career, I’ve found that combining these learnings and insights will ensure that you are able to effectively determine the right course of action. Most importantly, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you’re faced with a new assignment.
When looking at how product managers can solve problems, I recommend looking at the design-thinking model from Stanford University. This phased approach to problem-solving ensures that your customer’s needs come first. Most importantly, it allows for opportunities to take advantage of pattern recognition.
Before you can build anything, product managers must understand what their customers want. In recent years, product teams now rely on input from UX teams to create an optimal experience. As a result, product teams are able to make more informed decisions through this collaboration. Most importantly, this is where product managers get to the heart of what their customers need through user science. Specifically, you’re able to understand three critical attributes – intent, action & behavior. Ultimately, effective problem-solving must start with an intimate understanding of what your customers truly want.
Prototype & Test.
When it comes to problem-solving, I like to think of this step as the “systematic” approach to product management. In the PM world, this is also called the “build / measure / learn” loop. Said differently, this is the most tried-and-true function for product managers to take on. For example, this is where product managers will rigorously experiment to determine the best course of action for developing a product. While this is the most tried-and-true function for product teams, it can often miss the mark with poor data input. As a result, the next step becomes especially critical to ensure that you can create an optimal solution.
Define & Ideate.
In my experience, product teams stumble during the prototype/test phase when they don’t spend enough time refining their inputs. Specifically, your ability to define problems worth solving from UX insights will ensure that your prototypes reflect the most pressing issues. In addition, it’s critical to ideate with your team in coming up with a number of ways to attack these problems. Most importantly, you will find that pattern recognition comes into play when you’re in the middle of defining and ideating. In the end, it’s the best opportunity to apply previous learnings to lay the foundation for a whole new approach to problem-solving for your customers.