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Product management as an evolutionary process

 

There is a proven way to create successful tech products. Have a deep understanding of your customers and their problems. Find innovative solutions that you can quickly validate. Continue to iterate on the solution until you find the best product-market fit. Grow your business and delight your customers. However, that's not the only way to be successful, you can try something different. You can learn from Evolution.

 
We all are products of evolution. And despite some people's beliefs - evolution has no product manager. Neither does product discovery or market research. No, in product terms, evolution is like a feature factory - it keeps creating and if the results are good enough they stick, if not - they vanish. You can follow the same logic in product development.

Yes, you can avoid all that difficult discovery part and go straight into building things. It's fun to just build stuff and if your product is good enough it will survive, right? You can build something else if it doesn't. Isn't that how the products in the early days of the Internet used to be created? Even today it feels like some companies create their products through an evolutionary process.

Take Google for example. Their graveyard is world-famous. It has more than 270 killed products. And those are only the ones that have ever seen the light of day. There must be thousands by now created and killed behind closed doors. And that's Google, one of the most successful product companies on the planet. Surely then the "just build it" method could work for other companies as well?

Sure it can if you have as much money as Google and you don't afraid to burn some of it. Evolution is a very expensive process. It made countless mistakes and arguably got more things wrong rather than right. However, some could say evolution still succeeded because we are here but it spent billions of years until it go here.

Do you have billions of years? Or maybe billions of dollars? If you do - great, you can build whatever you want, throw as many options out there and see what sticks, what survives. If you don't have the resources evolution has - you'll need to do what we all do. Yes, product discovery, prototyping, market validation, growth strategy...

 

- But what if I am lucky? - some people might ask.
Evolution gets lucky sometimes, a particularly fortunate mutation, a favourable environment and we have a glorious product such as the pangolin. Maybe you can get lucky as well. You can just build something and it will become successful. This is great, good for you. However, even if that will happen, you will never learn how to repeat this success. And if the environment changes drastically - you might have the same survival challenges as poor pangolins.

We are products of evolution. We have brains capable of conscious design and complex thinking. Let's employ those qualities to increase our chances of creating something valuable without all the expensive insufficiencies of random selection. Evolution has no product manager, but it created us so let's now do our job.

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