A Product-Person Continuum

Since we ceased work on Aprizi in April, I have taken on some interesting UX-centric consulting projects and started to interview for “head of product” roles here in New York. I’m still on the hunt for the right fit.  One silver lining to interviewing is you get asked interesting questions that can increase self-awareness.

For example, the head of one consumer-facing company asked me where I came down on a continuum between being a product “visionary” and a product “organizer/producer”. “Exactly in the middle” was not a valid answer in her book.

I didn’t really like the choice between the two.

My answer was the following: instead of having a line merely between vision and production, extend a third line that is designates customer focus/obsession.

If I had to draw an honest circle for myself, it would bleed into production, but the bulk would land in that zone between vision and customer.

Until this exec asked me this question, I had not realized how complicated my feelings were towards the word “visionary”.  I love vision, creativity, and great design, but I had this negative connotation of “visionary” which stood for a charismatic person with a big dream but not necessarily grounded in reality or real customer needs.

The reason I have embraced the lean startup message is it firmly anchors itself between vision and customer, and demands fast iteration to keep the two in balance.  You lead with vision, and you keep it in check with customers.  I’ve been part of companies that were amazingly strong on the vision and production axes, but not so much the customer line, and all I’ve got to show from those endeavors are scars and lessons.

3 Comments A Product-Person Continuum

  1. Dave Churchville July 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Interesting way to look at vision and production. Curious why someone would ask that in an interview? To pigeonhole you as an ‘evangelist’ versus a ‘product manager’ type of role I suppose?nnProduction seems to be more about execution, while vision is about breakthrough ideas, and customer focus is about making sure you’re solving the right problems.nnDebatably, everyone should draw a circle around all three branches equally as a goal, but of course, we all have our areas of specialty and interest.

  2. giffc July 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    The explanation afterwards was that they had met some good execution people who could manage process but what they really needed was to innovate and get ahead of the crowd. So I can see why they wanted to measure self-perception on this front. The self-illuminating thing to me was the mental baggage I had over the word “visionary” without even really being aware of it.

  3. Steve July 26, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Yes, Visionary is a bad word…too bad you cannot simply say that you are a well informed, intelligent critical thinker and people mistakenly assume that you are a visionary.nn

Comments are closed.