The Product Chasm — Learning vs. Knowing

Why do so many top executives don’t seem to get “product”? This is the 9th and last post of the The Product Chasm series that introduces 9 different mental models that separate “modern product management” from “the business”. I found these models when reading through the responses to my question on product twitter.

Learning vs. Knowing

This relates to most of the mental model counterparts in this blog post series, and also to John’s point that we as product people can sometimes be a little condescending which is not helpful at all. The key here, though, is that it’s impossible to learn about someone else's perspective when you think you already know everything about their context.

Also, most execs that I’ve worked with didn’t like to be regarded as learners. They wanted to be regarded as people who knew what they were doing. And this is very different to our self-conception as product managers or leaders. Well, at least we claim to be open minded and eager to learn, we acknowledge that as a key characteristic of our role.

Alright, what now?

There’s obviously no easy way to just overcome fundamental differences in how to think about product and business, and the relationship between these domains.

In our experience, it all comes down to establishing a shared frame of reference, a common vocabulary, a grammar even, a shared language that allows for better communication and understanding of each other's perspectives and motivations.

And because human beings are very good at processing information and sharing thoughts in a visual way, it certainly helps to use a visual form to make that shared frame of reference accessible and usable for everyone.

Once we start using such a visual framework to make different perspectives explicit, and to explore the connections between everything business-related with everything product-related, we’ll see new shared mental models evolve. Such ones that will lead to new insights, and to new shared narratives, and to new shared stories, to memes even. Because that is how mental models spread and connect.

That is why we have created The Product Field many years ago, and why we are building Field today — providing a shared frame of reference for everyone who contributes to product outcomes (including executives!), and helping product leaders facilitate the process of connecting the mental models at play. Not just to cross the chasm, but to make it a little smaller every day.

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