Treat your product like a flower. Don’t build it, nurture it.
Given the right attention, from the seed of an idea something sprouts.
If the environment is right, if there are enough nutrients in the soil, if there is enough water and sunlight, there is growth.
Almost every summer when we were growing up, my brothers and I would each plant a sunflower seed. The flower bed was at the bottom of a 6-foot wall in the garden. Sun baked and sheltered from the wind. A perfect environment for sunflowers to thrive.
We’d prime the soil before planting, water regularly and almost every day come out to check their growth.
For those summer months we were passionate horticulturalists. Nurturing our flowers from seed to bloom. Caring for them every step of the way.
The product lifecycle mirrors that of a flower.
Given the right attention, from the seed of an idea something sprouts. If the environment is right, if there are enough nutrients in the soil, if there is enough water and sunlight, there is growth.
From germination to sprout then seedling to maturation and blooming, flowers are always responding and adapting to their environment to give themselves the best chance of success.
Not to say that every flower is guaranteed success. Despite our best efforts, sometimes inexplicably, countless promising seeds, sprouts and seedlings never reach maturity. Some pause in other phases of the lifecycle. And of those that do bloom, there is always variance.
From flowering comes reproduction in the form of new seeds. Completing the cycle by producing the next generation. Then their inevitable demise nourishes the next generation. Enabling long term success of the species.
Too often however products that should be sowing the seeds for the next generation then dying gracefully, cling on to life, ultimately damaging the chances of long term success.
Products too need the right attention and environment to maximise chances of success.
There are distinct phases of the lifecycle, each requiring different things to grow into the next phase. But, at all phases, adapting to environmental conditions. A product that doesn’t respond to its environment is certain to suffer potentially devastating consequences.
As the product team it’s our duty to nurture the product. From seed to flower, we provide nourishment. We protect it from weeds and pests, frost and scorching sun. We monitor and measure its growth. Carefully managing the ecosystem. Always doing our best to give it the environment it needs to thrive. Responding to its needs. Just as my brothers and I did in our childhood.
With the best intentions, many of us have dabbled in horticulture. Be it flowers, vegetables, herbs or something else.
What happens when you neglect your plants? Forgetting to water them, to weed, to protect or care for them. Usually they die. And if they don’t, they certainly don’t thrive or reach their full potential.
Products at different stages of the lifecycle have different needs. Different products at the same stage of the lifecycle also have different needs. Understanding them takes a lot of practice; and, even then, we don’t always get it right.
Horticulturalists monitor and measure the environment too, not just the growth of the flowers. Only by taking care of the environment do we have any hope of growth.
As horticulturalists we employ many ways to enable product growth. But, above all, we need to roll our sleeves up and get our hands dirty. Learning and adapting as we go.
So the product is a flower.
Each has a lifecycle. Each exists alongside other flowers. As horticulturalists it’s our responsibility to nurture and care for them throughout their life.
The product itself is made up of two key areas:
- The roots below
- The flower above
In order to thrive, the ground needs to be rich with nutrients. In the product sense these nutrients are: discovery, delivery, rapid iteration, measurement, alignment, autonomy, continuous improvement.
For me, the flower itself is formed by six petals. Each representing a different product risk. All of which need to be managed by the team. When successfully managed, the petals form a coherent whole. Attracting bees, butterflies and other ‘customers’, and serving the ecosystem that supports it.
In no particular order they are:
- Value – will the customer choose to use it?
- Viability – does the solution work for our business?
- Feasibility – can we build it?
- Complementary – does it work with or against our current products?
- Discoverability – can the customer find it?
- Usability – can the customer figure out how to use it?
The additional risk, although not a petal is opportunity – if the team focuses on nurturing one product, they can’t focus on a different one.
Only by creating an environment for the product to grow, will it be able to. And only by focusing on the risks that threaten the product can a coherent whole form; in service of the customer.
A product is too often viewed through a mechanical lens. The team seeking to exploit the product and the ecosystem in which it lives (including its customer) instead of nurturing both.
Growing a product, like growing a flower, is organic not mechanical. Requiring the right environment, and hands-on care and attention not just to grow, but to flourish.
Product teams and horticulturists are artists and scientists in equal measure. Their talent, underpinned by a passion for both their craft and what they grow.
When we get it right our product moves through the lifecycle. At each phase giving back to the ecosystem that enables its growth by enabling the system itself to sustain and grow.
Next time you think about your product, consider what stage of the lifecycle it is in. Then, based on the stage of the lifecycle; create an environment that enables it to thrive. Give it all the nutrients it needs, and pay close attention to the petals that need specific attention.
But above all, regardless of lifecycle stage, nurture it.
Thanks to my wife, Ash, for generously donating her time for both the line drawings.