The great power of small changes
Here’s a question for you, what would you rather be? A big freight ship or a speed boat? While you may have your preferences, the best answer to this question would be replying with another question- Where am I going? What is the sea like on my way there?
Being a big freight ship is an advantage if you’re sailing the seas of mostly known, but when you’re sailing the seas of unknowns, when you need to act quickly and respond to new information coming in, it is better to be a speed boat.
Because you’re building a product, you’re always sailing the unknown seas. So be a speed boat.
Coming back to the basic steps you need to take when you start to product think, setting business goals, understanding business capabilities, and discovering the users’ needs — every one of these things that you do inside your head (or heads in a team) are just assumptions. You’ll learn more about assumptions in later posts. For now, the thing you need to understand is that you never know anything other than the things you tested and measured. This is why anything you think of and didn’t validate is still an assumption, and it’s on you to test it vigorously. You assume your business goals will get you to where you want to take the business, you assume that your business capabilities let you do some things and makes it harder to do others, and you most certainly assume who are your users and what are their needs.
Now you’re starting to understand the vast areas of the unknown you’re sailing your product ship in, and you ask yourself, how can I create a successful product with so many unknowns?
Product thinking has the answer to that, by doing small changes fast.
After having worked on the 3 first steps you have a product hypothesis you want to test, knowing so many product thinkers in their beginning, your product hypothesis is a full-blown product, all shiny and new, that does all sort of things for the users.
What’s the first step you need to take now? Other people that don’t use product thinking invest a lot of resources to build that product. But you’re a product thinker, you take your big idea and minimize it to the smallest thing you can test with your basic assumption about the users and the business. In another post, you’ll learn what this smallest version of the product should include. But the most important thing you need to remember here is that it should be small and easy to built and test, that you can take as quickly as you can to the users. Now that the first iteration of the product is serving the users, it’s time to decide on the next step.
The next step of the product development is to make a new assumption and make the smallest change to the product to test the new assumptions you have. Each time you make a small change and test it you’re improving your product by learning something new or by bringing more value to the users.
So you understand what are the small changes product thinking is based on. But what is the great power of such small changes? Let’s say your product’s revenue is $100 a day. If each day you’re making a change that brings a 10% increase in revenue, after a week the product’s revenue is $195, almost doubling the revenue in a week. That’s not the only great power of small changes, the other superpower of small changes is the ability to hit this change each iteration since you’re taking small bets that are based on what you learned from the other changes you made and tested. What happens if you fail? If your assumption is wrong, if you make a wrong assumption and your change doesn’t move the middle by 10% (in the above example) than at the end of the 7 days you end up with an increase of “only” 77%.
But that’s not all, learning that an assumption is wrong is a wonderful gift, now you know what road not to take. You’re gaining a very important insight- what assumptions are wrong, at no extra cost for you.
So, for your next step, don’t forget your dream product but make the smallest step you can do, that is the way you get to a great product.