Agile · Book reviews · Communication · Customer conversations · Features · Innovation · Problems · Product management · Reading

The Mom Test

This morning I had the chance to facilitate a discussion with some product leaders in my firm about the first half of Rob Fitzpatrick’s book The Mom Test. This is a wonderful book (and a quick read) about the right and wrong ways to talk with clients and prospects about issues they face. We’ve been trying to apply the ideas from this book in our recent conversations with customers and I found several key points resonated well in the discussion I led this morning.

  1. Useful conversations are ones that provide concrete details about what people currently do to solve the problems they are facing. Useless conversations on the other hand provide compliments about our ideas, vague hypotheticals about what users might want to do in the future, and product suggestions about features users would “definitely want” if only we build them.
  2. Learning to listen more than we talk is a key skill for those of us in product development – and a tough one to master when both clients and other team members often expect us to speak like experts whenever we are in front of prospective customers.
  3. Waiting to deeply understand the problems a potential client is facing and the ways they are currently trying to solve that problem before zooming in with detailed solution ideas is crucial so that we can avoid being trapped by our own biases about what “the real issue” is.

There were other insights raised by the folks with whom I talked about the book today – including acknowledgements that we’ve often had bad client demonstrations and discussions – and all of us felt like there was a lot of rich material in this simple book. I look forward to continuing to discuss it at our firm and expect to revisit the key concepts and suggestions regularly in my client conversations over the months to come. If you haven’t read this book yet and you work with product development then I would highly recommend checking it out. The concepts are intuitive (mostly) and the insights are not complex but applying them will be both beneficial and challenging because in truth it’s not that simple.


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