There are two types of successful companies: Technology companies and companies that are becoming technology companies.
No matter what an organization offers, it must think and behave like a technology leader.
This is because the most innovative and dynamic companies do not focus on what their customers want today — they’re creating the experiences customers will want five years from now. Moreover, they’re not gambling on delivering a single, game-changing product. They’re laying the foundation to innovate, iterate and expand.
If an organization spends a lot of time asking, “What do our customers want?” it will inevitably build for the now. And its products — no matter how well conceived or well executed — will immediately become obsolete. On the other hand, building for the future — thinking in years, not months — positions organizations to lead.
As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
No one cares about the technology an organization builds; they care about the experiences it creates. The visionaries in any field are the ones who are willing to reimagine how customers interact with the products they deliver. So challenge every preconception, question every limited belief, cast a bold vision for how a product will enhance people’s lives and commit to seeing it through.
If an organization’s goal is simply to produce technology, it will only be able to measure its ability to produce technology. But companies have to deliver value. Observing everything through the lens of value is critical to ensuring a product/market fit. Will customers be better off with this product than without it? If the answer’s anything less than a resounding yes, move on to a better idea.
As every ballplayer knows, the key to driving in more runs is getting more swings at the plate. The same is true in business. We get better feedback — and a more granular perspective — the more frequently we evaluate success. Behaving incrementally and keeping a operations lean creates superior institutional muscle memory. Moreover, wins and losses are measured in smaller doses. When an organization missteps, it can fail forward, because it’s easier to correct and improve.
Great product strategy opens the doors to deeper customer insights, which fuel even better product strategy.
Think about Amazon’s dash buttons. Consumers used to have to realize they’re running low on laundry detergent, then add it to the shopping list and then go to the store. Now, they tap a button and Prime delivers it in an hour. The next evolution will be laundry machines that know you’re running low on detergent before you do.
A great product strategy enables companies to start seeing markers earlier. The signals may be the same, but leaders can perceive and act on them earlier — creating a competitive edge in delivering additional value to customers.
Great product strategy cannot thrive in an interval state — the strongest companies dive right in. And the less time they spend being buffeted by waves, the less likely they are to capsize or retreat to shore.
The most innovative and effective organizations commit to operating like technology leaders. They have the courage to seek leadership experiences they don’t already have. And they have the conviction to think for the long-term, test in the short-term and learn more about what their customers will want every day.
Jonathan Berkowitz has nearly two decades of experience leading consumer and enterprise product strategy initiatives for businesses ranging from startups to Fortune 50 companies. Trained at Carnegie Mellon, he has served in senior leadership positions with companies including Trilogy Inc., Thinktiv, Aurea and Keller Williams. He and his family live in Austin.
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