Enthusiasm does not mean priority

June 17, 2020

One of the harder parts of product development is knowing what to focus on. With so many things we could do, Shiny Object Syndrome presents countless distractions. If we jumped at every new and exciting idea that comes up, we would never get anything meaningful done.

Imagine you are watching a movie, and halfway through you decide to try another movie instead. Do that a few times, and you end up with a long queue of half-watched movies. If you ever go back to finish them, you will have a hard time following their stories. If we do the same with our products, we end up with a lot of unfinished ideas not even we can fully understand anymore.

I saw someone on Twitter ask into the void what feature they should add to their new product. They had been working on it for a few months and were looking for feedback about where to take it next. They had no users they could ask directly, as they had been working on it in relative silence for months. For them, adding another feature might be exciting, but it won’t help them much. Finding customers first would be a much harder and less exciting, but also more valuable task to focus on.

Do not confuse enthusiasm for an idea with priority. As designers and developers, we often assume that all value comes from features. Going straight to building our latest idea is exciting, because that’s what we always do.

Of all the things we could do, we need to ask ourselves which one will have the greatest benefit. It might not be the one that we are most excited about, but it will get us further than another distraction.

– Dom

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