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Product Guy – eat a lot of dogfood

DogfoodProduct Guy needs to be in deep love with the product and be its fiercest cheerleader, and yet, at the same time, rationally objective and ready to cancel the project any time, if it isn’t good enough.

It’s a yet another paradox to be managed.

It is human to become too attached. The world is full of ugly people but yet we think all babies are beautiful. Of course, not equally so, because our own baby is definitively the most beautiful, the most athletic, the most skilled and, the most definitively, the most creative.

In the other extreme, no engineer or designer will follow a Product Guy who threatens to kill the project and take all the toys away, if things don’t go his/her way. Nor will they be inspired to do their best work.

The solution for staying balanced – and sane – is eating a lot of dogfood and being disciplined telling how it really tastes.

With dogfood, I mean using not only one’s own product, but also a lot of competitor products. Obvious, duh? Who would disagree? But here comes the hard part. You need to do it at times when your time is the scarcest and the products may not be that “out-of-box”-ready. Your own product may be at the prototype stage, meaning it takes a lot of effort to get anything working. And it never is enough to use the competitor product for five minutes – you need to go deep and perhaps even install their lousy PC software, which certainly conflicts somehow with your work PC settings.

But this Product Guy must do. Only this way, and with the right attitude, his/her brain is calibrated to assess how competitive the product in the making really is. The trick for time management is to prepare in advance. Set up your testing environments, processes and support already before you need them, not when every hour is precious.

The next trick is to keep some of your findings to yourself. Or at least be very deliberate with how, when and with whom they are shared. A seasoned Product Guy always has in the backpocket a set of mitigation actions, Plan B:s and a bar of kryptonite. But talking about them at the wrong time and with the wrong people – such as the dev team in a fragile mindset after finding some fundamental bug or the senior executive with the confidence of a deer in the headlights – can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy of things going really wrong.

Last, there’s a reason why using the stuff consumers also use is called “eating dogfood”, instead of, say, eating truffles, steak or ratatouille . Sometimes you need a lot of discipline to empty the cup. And come to think of it, really loving dogs helps too.


Happened in the previous episodes of Product Guy series:

Next Product Guy episode will wrap up the writings so far.

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