Product Love Podcast: Teresa Torres, Product Discovery Coach and Writer of Product Talk

This week on Product Love, I sat down with Teresa Torres, a product discovery coach. Teresa helps teams gain valuable insights from customer interviews, run effective product experiments, and drive outcomes that create value for their customers and their business. When she’s not coaching teams, or teaching a class at Northwestern University, she authors Product Talk, where she writes about best practices for product people. Teresa’s previous clients have included Allstate, Capital One, The Guardian, and Snagajob.

Before she was a coach, Teresa led several product and design teams. She was the VP of Product at aftercollege and the CEO of Affinity Circles.

Trends in Product Management

Teresa believes that product discovery will be a rising trend among product managers. Although some have already started integrating more discovery concepts into their product process, many are still stuck in a project mindset. That perspective can constrain PMs into thinking about their product as project-by-project. In reality, a product is never really finished.

Teresa says we don’t build an app once and then walk away from it. Nowadays, there are so many tools available to measure a product’s impact. Product managers have an entire stack of tools that can help with analytics, roadmapping, and getting feedback. She encourages a continuous discovery mindset where teams are responsible for making a product as good as it can be for as long as it takes.

The continuous discovery mindset pushes product teams to constantly engage with customers so they can make decisions infused with customer input. But then this raises the question: how do you grow your product? Avoid biases, that’s for sure.

Be Aware of Your Own Biases

In the product world, it’s easy to fall in love with our ideas. We have it, play around with it, and then start to identify with it. After that, it becomes much harder to consider anything else as worthy as our own ideas. Our love for it skews our judgment when we put our product through experimentation. Do we experiment to support our cases? Shouldn’t we experiment to refute our cases so we can foresee all the potential pitfalls? Instead of putting our product on a pedestal, Teresa urges teams to be passionate about solving a problem, rather than about their own product.

When we build an entire feature, we typically conduct an A/B test, but Teresa believes this unit of analysis is wrong. When an experiment fails as we’re testing it at the idea level, all we learn is that it’s either a win or lose decision. We don’t dissect its’ failures, so we don’t understand what steps made it fail.

It’s best to break an idea down to its’ core assumptions and challenge them individually. Not only does it expedite the testing process, we learn which assumption causes problems in our ideas. This leads us to be able to design around that assumption.

Listen and subscribe to the podcast to hear more about Teresa’s thoughts on the startup founder mentality, and the evolution of product management as a craft.