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PRODUCT.|PHILOSOPHY.|LIFE.

How are we going to kill our project today?



I was recently speaking to a senior product person at Booking and was suggesting ideas for how the experience on the hotel and apartment booking site could be improved. After I had suggested a few ideas and we had talked through their merits, he asked me an interesting question that stumped me at first.

"Why do you think we haven't implemented these ideas already?"

Over the years, I've spoken to product managers, designers and founders from a variety of companies and have brainstormed about ideas for improving their existing products. But until this, I've never had a conversation about why these seemingly brilliant ideas haven't been implemented already.

I'm sure there are smarter people than me working at each of these places who have come up with the same and other different and better ideas before. So, I couldn't immediately think of reasons why they haven't already been implemented.

One thing that came to my mind was that there hasn't been enough time. Each of these product owners have focused their efforts and energies on building what they have built so far and that these seemingly new ideas have simply taken a backseat during prioritization exercises and that they would be picked up sooner or later as soon as the teams had the bandwidth to pick them up.

While that's partially the reason, that isn't the whole story.

There is the other aspect of what ideas are going to see the light of day after passing through an approval process. The approval process could be like it is at Reliance where ideas that are pursued are only the ones that are likely to receive the blessing of the CEO, which means there is little room for failure, and hence, little room for innovation and only room for proven, scalable ideas. The approval process could be like it is at Google Search or Airbnb, where ideas that are pursued are only the ones that are likely to receive the blessing of the users, which means only those that make it past rigorous A/B tests are the ones that see the light of day. The approval process could be like it is at Google X where the ideas that are pursued are only the ones that are at the intersection of impacting a billion people, the presence of a radical solution and the possibility of a breakthrough innovation.

But despite which of these ways an idea is evaluated in, the template is the same for all three. The question that is asked is "How can this project be killed?" The only difference being the definition of what would kill the idea.

As Product Managers, it is easy to dream up new features and new products that we would like to build. But what's equally important is to keep asking ourselves, "How are we going to kill our project today?" and apply the right criteria for what would kill it.

Because, we will fail and we will kill many an idea. But the ones that do make it through will be the equivalent of the successful products that have come out of these companies.  

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