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Design thinking and the product manager

Watch Alex Cowan show you an operational view of design thinking and how to use it to be successful as a product manager.
You probably heard of design thinking, you probably heard, it’s really important, you should do it. In this video, I’m going to show you an operational view of design thinking and how to use it to, how to use it in general to be successful as a product manager. And in particular, how to use it for interdisciplinary collaboration to drive to that happy center of desirability, feasibility, and viability. This idea of finding the right problem and then iterating through to find the right solution, this is very much a tool of design thinking. And it kind of parallels the pillars of design thinking which are empathy and creativity.
Someone back when, went out and really understood what’s on the A list of the seamstress and iterated to the sewing scissor. Because they saw that cutting things was hard, and it fatigued their hands, and it was hard to make the right cuts with regular scissors. This is another view of design thinking from a design thinking from a design thinking course that is available online from our own faculty here at Darden, Jean Lipscomb. And this is a sort of a general take on how to approach really any kind of problem with design thinking. So this is another take on sort of the general practice of design thinking.
For you the product manager, I think that some of the most important tools within design thinking are this use of personas in problem scenarios. And then making sure that you’re translating those to thoughtful propositions and really well researched user stories and prototypes that take account of what you’ve learned about the user.
When you create personas, there’s this idea of punching through what do they think, see, feel, and do in your particular area of interest. We won’t go into detail about it. There’s some resources that you can find to get introduced to this in the resources section of the course. One of the things that you will struggle with probably as a product manager is getting people bought into this idea that it’s important to go out and talk to the customers. It is important to encapsulate it in those personas and that people should review those. We’ll talk about day in the life as a tool to introduce personas.
Another thing that is super duper useful, is as you do personas, create Google AdWords ads for against the different areas. So we’ve gone through and hypothesized what this persona thinks. Well, let’s go make four Google AdWords on that basis and see if they create click throughs for our landing pages or our site. That is a great way to kind of A, test your persona and B drive to this idea that this isn’t just something we’re doing because design is cool. It’s something we’re doing to make money for the company.
The problem scenario is something we have discussed and we have talked about how it is an underlying job or desire or habit. And it’s really important to just pull yourself away from always thinking about things in terms of either your current solution or current solutions you see on the market. Innovation comes from fundamentally understanding what’s important on the user and the testing solutions against that. It is important to know what alternatives are cause this is really a competition, not some other company that looks and acts like you. What is the user doing now about this problem and why are they doing that? And is it compelling and is your proposition better enough than the alternative?
An alternative, an example of an alternative is my last company we built enterprise software. And a lot of the time the alternative was a bunch of spreadsheets. And sometimes in certain areas those worked okay for the customer. Regardless we went in and we always got those spreadsheets. And we looked at them and we looked at the kind of language the customer was using and what data they were actually keeping track of and how are they related to each other. Because we weren’t going to go copy the spreadsheets we made our software but they told us a lot about the user really relates to this problem, this job that we’re trying to help them do better.
Then finally you have your value propositions, and this is your kind of input into that use of clean start up. What do we really think is going to be better enough than this alternative that the customer is actually going to buy it and use it? And I like that approach to design thinking because it immediately takes us to a testable view of what we’ve learned and it’s a really easy next step into that use of lean startup to test those value propositions. Personas and problem scenarios are such an important tool to drive the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration.
For instance how do you get the people that are making stuff and the people that are selling stuff to communicate with each other in a meaningful way. Because the selling stuff people were in the CRM or doing a trade show and the people that are making stuff or writing code, well. And those are their primary things that they spend most of their time on. Well, Personas, Problem Scenarios, these are a great way to help everybody talk about things in a way that they can mutually understand. And it’s a great way to drive towards this happy intersection of desirability, feasibility, and viability. Those are some ideas on how to specifically apply design thinking in your area and where to focus.
If you’re at a very high level of abstraction and you’re out learning about the customers, spend a lot of time on these. And if you’re at a low level of abstraction that somebody else is primarily focused on that. Maybe you could sketch a persona and suggest to them or problem scenario suggest to them that this might be a good way to better understand our customer. And this doesn’t need to be a big huge exercise, there are templates you’ll find in the resources section but you can do this in a hallway conversation. So somebody comes to you and say hey why don’t we just build x you might say that sounds interesting tell me about who is this user?
And what job would we be doing for them? So you can do design thinking in as little as 120 seconds. And I think it’ll help you do the job of product management much, much better.

In this video, Alex shows you an operational view of design thinking and how to use it to be successful as a product manager.

He talks about how some of the most important tools within design thinking are this use of personas and problem scenarios, and then making sure that you’re translating those to thoughtful propositions and really well-researched user stories and prototypes that take account of what you’ve learned about the user. Alex recommends creating Google Adwords ads for different areas. Take a moment to think about your current project or product and how you could use Google Adwords.

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