Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

When I talk to product leaders, startup founders, and enterprise executives, goals and measurement eventually becomes a hot topic. Some want to have a sure fire way to know the their digital product or new app will be successful. Others want to measure everything all the time. And some are afraid to look for fear of what data tells them.

This is my meditation to bring a little peace to the angst in today’s world of digital product stewardship.

Serenity: Accepting the things I cannot change

Ultimately, market acceptance, fit, and a series of confounding factors come together to either make a product successful or not.

Sometimes we can figure out exactly what the killer decisions was that made a product work… and sometimes it’s not so clear. In the same way that some videos go viral (a la Salt Bae), sometimes it’s hard to predict what things resonate at the exact moment in history that they do.

Sometimes timing and luck matter more than anything else.

Courage: Changing the things that I can

If it’s truly the digital Wild West out there, how do we put controls, metrics and confidently invest in projects and products if there are so many uncontrollable factors? Systematically, pragmatically, and with a heaping dose of curiosity and a bias towards action. The flexibility and desire to role with the circumstances will go a long way.

One way that I coach teams and executives to approach all products as a series of experiments. We call this hypothesis driven development, which is a set of practices discussed in Lean Startup and taught at Lean Startup Machine, adapted for mature or incumbent company environments.

Here’s a simple way to map and track your experiments:

  1. Start with your ultimate outcome in mind. This is usually something to the tune of increasing revenue, decreasing costs, or similar.
  2. Identify the many opportunities you could possibly present achieve this. Rank these in order of accessibility, direct impact on your desired outcome, and any other relevant considerations for your business.
  3. From here, take the highest priority opportunities, and identify your beliefs around what barriers exist today that support the need for your opportunity.
  4. Identify ways to test this problem space to determine whether or not this in fact an actual problem, and if it is significant enough to solve. Put KPIs in place ahead of testing to agree on what sort of responses indicate confidence in validation to you.
  5. Once a problem is sufficiently vetted, employ design thinking techniques and other ideation approaches to identify a series of solution hypotheses.
  6. Test these various solution approaches with simple concepts directly with users. Simple, low fidelity testing is sufficient early on. Just as you did with problems, define KPIs around solutions/concepts so that you and your team are aligned with what signals a high enough degree of validation to move forward with confidence
  7. Take validated solutions, and adapt a the most minimal version of this them into your product.
  8. Repeat. Forever.

Wisdom: Knowing the difference

When it comes to product development, there is rarely a right or wrong answer. Product viability is not usually so binary, and what you decide to build and how you validate is more around building confidence, dedication to solving a problem, serving a user, and harvesting data to support your belief in a direction.

If you know somebody who is struggling with how to decide what to build next in a new or existing product, send this post along. It may bring a little peace to their day.