There’s this phenomenon amongst humans where we tend to have the same ideas around the same time, especially in the startup space. This happened even before the internet, where Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both dreamed up the wizardry of calculus, separately. Technically, Leibniz formally published his results first, even though Newton’s papers had already been circulating for some time. The invention of calculus is now credited to both of them. Pretty cool I’d say, and much less of a trainwreck than the unpleasant battle for the telephone patent.
The concept of simultaneous ideas shouldn’t really surprise us since we’re trying to solve big problems that we all deal with, but somehow we can’t help but feel quite offended if someone encroaches on what is clearly our IP. The reality of having a billion dollar idea is that someone else out there has probably just had the same thought. It’s usually not a unique idea because the problem you’re trying to solve on a global scale tends to be quite a global problem.
Since someone else has inevitably already had the same idea, you have to recognise that, accept it and then quickly decide how you’re going to play it:
You can go for speed.
Start running from day one. Hack together the bare minimum of what you need and go. Built what you can when you can. Scrap everything that you don’t need. You’ll spend a lot of time trying to fix things. You’ll spend a lot of your time trying to plug the never-ending holes in the bucket that hold your quickly depleting funding. It will be messy, it will be fast and your idea will change a hell of a lot while you go. You’ll probably be first on the scene, but when you get there you might realise that first to market is not necessarily first to money.
You can go for perfection.
Absolute pixel-perfection. A beautiful product. An aesthetic masterpiece, meticulously considered in every step of the process. A perfect prototype balanced in every visual element before you even touch development. You’ll create a completely bug-free app before you think about launching which will lead to your graceful and seamless entrance into the market, only to find out that you’re way too late and nobody is actually interested in your product anyway.
You can go for validation.
Test every single element before you go any further. It will take time. It will take resource. It will take most of your willpower to keep going. You’ll put a lot of effort into creating something that your user really wants and likes, but you’ll face an infinite amount of rejection. You’ll spend a lot of time re-doing things. You’ll waste a lot of work. You’ll probably end up with something profoundly useful, but you’re more likely to run out of resource before you get there.
Of course, it’s not as simple as just choosing one of these – your stakeholders want all three, simultaneously.
That’s what the Product Manager is there for. Sometimes you need the speed of a bootstrapped go-kart, sometimes you need the utility of an old-faithful Corolla and sometimes you need the sleek and sexy elegance of a Lamborghini. It’s the Product Manager’s job to know what the product needs to be and when it needs to be it.
A lot of the product process is about thinking several steps ahead to manage the resources now and make sure the team is building what they need to, in the way they need to as one step closer to reaching their peak product that takes off.