What do Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and the production team of Disney’s blockbuster animated film Frozen 2 have in common? They’ve all found success by setting clear product visions and being willing to adapt them to changing circumstances. In these uncertain times, that’s a discipline every product leader needs to develop, and it’s a process that Pendo Chief Product Officer Brian Crofts is putting into practice right now.
Here are his five tips for rewriting your product vision from his Pendomonium Virtual keynote:
1. Adopt an iterative process
Frozen 2 is the most successful animated film of all time, performing even better at the box office than its predecessor. The Disney team that put it together was able to make this happen through a willingness to iterate over different storylines and scripts by showing unfinished concepts to fans and collecting their feedback every three months. They even went so far as to scrap a half-finished movie and go back to the (literal) drawing board.
Clearly, that effort paid off, Crofts said, and it’s a lesson every product leader should take to heart as they formulate or revise their product visions: Iterate early, rapidly, and often. Get a version of your vision out to your customers—no matter how low fidelity it may be—and let their response guide your planning.
2. Solve the big problem
“If you want to build a big business, you need to solve a big problem.” It’s a common mantra in the business world, Crofts said, and one that’s best exemplified by SpaceX, a company that’s identified a problem with a scale that’s out of this world: making space travel more affordable and accessible with the ultimate goal of colonizing Mars.
Google’s big problem was cataloguing all of the world’s information and making it easily accessible to everyone. Amazon’s was finding a way to give consumers better prices, faster delivery, and a wider selection of all the things they want. What’s yours? Figure it out, then solve it in a way that’s durable and generates competitive advantage.
3. Don’t change at the expense of continuity
Patagonia’s Chouinard is CEO of one of the world’s most successful outdoor products companies, but his drive to found his business grew from his deep love for nature. When he realized rock climbers were scarring the face of natural formation with the pitons he was producing, he found himself at a crossroads. So, he took the product that was responsible for nearly three-quarters of his revenue off the market and redesigned it to have a lower impact, in keeping with the company’s values and vision.
“Even though they were changing,” Crofts said, “it was not at the expense of their mission, of their product vision. Even if it meant walking away from some of their revenue, because it didn’t align with their mission.”
4. Pay attention to the trends
The business trends that were in place before COVID-19 upended the state of the world—artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, 5G—are still important and relevant, but the ways they’re being applied have changed with the circumstances, Crofts noted. Now, autonomous vehicles are delivering food in a contactless way, and augmented reality is providing virtual running partners while we’re all forced to keep distance from each other.
And that’s all happened in the course of a few months, highlighting the importance of staying abreast of what’s trending and how you can incorporate it into your product vision.
5. Don’t delegate—co-create
There are plenty of opportunities for product leaders to delegate work in the trenches, but when you’re developing or revising your product vision, you’ll benefit more from bringing stakeholders together to co-create and collaborate. If there are things only you can do, make sure you own them yourself.