You have to be interested in the problem and your user’s existence associated with the problem to build a great product.
One of the primary reasons bad and unsuccessful products get built is because the people building the product are not interested in the problem and how it affects users. If you’re apathetic about a problem you’re going to build a product that users feel apathetic about. Users can tell when a product conveys a lack of interest and knowledge about a problem and their existence around the problem.
It’s easy for product teams to get caught up in the mechanics of creating a product. There is a lot to be figured out, defined, designed, and developed. When product teams become too focused on the mechanics, it distracts them from the problem and users for which they are creating the product in the first place. The mechanics take over and the interest in the why fades to the background.
Many product teams don’t even start out that interested in the problem or the impact on users. This is a significant challenge inside of large companies that hampers innovation. There are many bad corporate products that get created because the product is just another project for them. If it wasn’t this product, they would be working on another, so it becomes difficult for the team to get interested or invested in the product, let alone the problem or the users. Apathy runs rampant on many new corporate product initiatives. If a product team or even key members of a product team are apathetic about the product and the underlying why, the product has a very low chance of being great and providing a return on the investment of time and money. At least the product team at a startup has specifically and knowingly signed up to work on a particular product to solve a particular problem.
Startup product teams are not immune to product apathy either though. Whereas corporate product teams mostly get assigned to product teams as their next project and this is conducive to an apathetic approach to a product, the constraints, grind and intensity of a startup product team can erode a team’s interest in a product and the problem. The constant and seemingly never-ending redirections with a product can cause a team to become fatigued and disinterested.
Products and product teams go through dark periods that can allow apathy and disinterest to overcome excitement around a product and the problem being addressed. Things taking longer than expected or being harder than anticipated can become frustrating and cause some members of a product team to question the path they are on with the product and if it is all worth it. Creating anything is ridiculously hard and it gets immensely harder when it isn’t going to plan.
Overcoming apathy and keeping a product team interested is a key aspect of a product leaders’ role. The best product leaders sense when apathy and disinterest are setting in and they find ways to reenergize and refocus the team on the why, the problem, and the users. These product leaders can be startup founders, a product owner at a large company, or an actual product manager. The title matters less than whether the person is as acting a product leader on behalf of the problem and users. The best product leaders are always working in the best interest of the problem, users, and the product. The better and longer a product leader can get their product team thinking and operating in the same way the better.
Great products don’t just happen from the mechanics of building products. Great products layer great interest in the problem and users on top of the mechanics of building. Great products are built with great interest and intention by the craftspeople that build them. Stay interested and grounded on the why to build great products.