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Product strategy as a set of experiments

Product strategy is a key topic in product management. It's the vital activity of product leadership. A good product strategy can galvanize people around to deliver a top product. A bad product strategy, or absence of one, can ruin a potentially brilliant business.

Millions of words have been said about product strategies and it's hard to add anything meaningful to the debate. However, the fact product strategy was one of the topics at the biggest product conferences in the world indicates the demand is still unfulfilled. Product people still struggle with creating and communicating good product strategies.

This is not another "how to create a product strategy" post. There are plenty of those. And I've read a lot of such posts, been to many talks and listened to many experts in this field. There is a lot to learn from strategy experts.
- A good strategy, - they say, - is big enough, is a story based on extensive market research, is simply expressed so people would remember, is unifying for an entire business... and many more advantageous characteristics.

However, many product strategies and "how to's" over-rely on human's ability to predict the future. Which is not the skill we possess. We're really bad at it. Perhaps this is the reason a lot of product strategies are bad.

Instead, we might just accept we don't know what's going to happen. We might take unpredictability as a constant and build our strategy around it like a set of hypothesises to prove. Then our strategy becomes a set of experiments that either prove or disprove our hypothesises, and in every case, we learn. Which is the ultimate value that allows us to form better hypothesises going forward.

Now, this might be a good idea, but it' definitely a hard sell. Business loves certainty. It's calming, it's safe. It's an illusion but without it, we worry too much. So we create hundreds of documents, presentations, graphs and reports to calm ourselves. To pretend we have control over the future. And then when the actual future punches us in the nose we look even harder for ways to explain it in an attempt to preserve the illusionary control.

Instead, we need to accept that uncertainty is unavoidable, however scary this thought might be. Only keeping that in mind, we can come up with a product strategy that will actualize along the way. Some parts will be removed, other added, most - changed. Just like your product, your business and your market are constantly changing - your product strategy should do too.

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