Recap: How To Make Better Product Decisions with Teresa Torres

by Melissa Gena

On August 14 at the Startup Product Talks SFBay meetup Teresa Torres, VP Product, AfterCollege gave a great presentation that was quite provoking and inspired much animated conversation, to the point that no one wanted to leave. Thanks Chelsea Ciardelli from Atlassian, for staying late with us!

Who joined the discussion?
By show of hands;
Founder – 10
Product Manager – 10
Product Owner – 2
Agile – 11
Product Marketing – 5
Quality – 2
Project Management – 10
UX – 8
Developers – 2
Sales/bus Dev – 5
Looking for new positions – 6

Here are Teresa’s slides:

Here are my notes:
3 Product Development Models:

1) The Product Genius
Example: Steve Jobs
Characteristics: You’re the CEO of your Product, you come up with the ideas, you make the decisions, you’re the expert.
Challenges: You’re too busy fighting fires to analyze and you make decisions based on expert intuition. But expert intuition only works in predictable environments and you have practiced a specific activity with reliable feedback (Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule only applies to things that give you immediate feedback that allows you to adjust, such as shooting free throws)

2) Customer Development
Steve Blank championed approach in The Four Steps to the Epiphany
Characteristics: Get out of the building, product growth phases (Customer validation -> Customer creation -> Company building), iterate
Challenges: Customer development is hard, and as product people, we fall victim to confirmation bias – selectively looking for data that validates our opinions

3) Lean Startup
Eric Ries sparked movement with The Lean Startup, others have contributed significantly, such as Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz with Lean Analytics
Characteristics: Hypothesis-driven development, draw lines in the sand, MVP
Challenges: We fall victim to fundamental attribution error – attributing causes for outcomes that aren’t accurate, narrow framing – not taking full context into consideration when making decisions, and overconfidence

These three models illustrate an evolution, though elements of each are in play to various degrees in different companies.

What does the future hold?
That depends on us, as product people. We need to dedicate ourselves to getting better at our craft. We need to be aware of and try to overcome cognitive behavior challenges that are deeply ingrained in the way our brains work. We need to think about how we make product decisions.

Tweets and pics:


More reading:

How To Make Better Product Decisions by Teresa Torres

Pricing Experiments You Might Not Know But Can Learn From suggested by Colin Whooten


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