Note: If you haven’t seen The Good Place, this article contains spoilers.
The Good Place, which aired on NBC, is a philosophical fiction TV show. A core cast of characters die and are led to believe they went to the good place, only to realize they’re actually in the bad place. It’s chock full of enlightening moral philosophy, which we’ll leave you to discover outside of this article.
The orchestrators of the afterlife have an elaborate point system to determine who goes to the good place and who goes to the bad, but it’s not without its flaws. “Life now is so complicated, it’s impossible for anyone to be good enough for the good place,” says Michael’s character played by Ted Danson. A seemingly innocent act of buying a tomato from a grocery store can deduct 12-points from one’s cumulative balance because the tomato is part of a complicated web of toxic pesticides and labor exploitation contributing to global warming.
What does The Good Place have to do with product delivery? Teams chartered with delivering products make decisions all the time. Each decision, often made in isolation, is a part of an intricate, complicated web where one’s choice has a ripple effect. Without a clear understanding of who you’re building for and why, creating great products and experiences is a complicated endeavor.
There are three opportunities for product teams to seek clarity–and demystify a complex web of decision making–to improve the product delivery process, and ultimately drive outcomes.
First, align the entire team on customer insights. Knowledge is power. Anyone in an organization should be able to access, understand, and take action on the knowledge an organization already has, within reason. Respect the boundaries of an organizations’ privacy and data retention policies. Many teams operate with knowledge management solutions for data, content, or report storage and inventory, which serve as a starting point. Yet, extrapolating insights from a page or document level, and showing connections between insights across projects can increase visibility, uncover new ideas, and lead to action. When teams have equal access to knowledge, it’s easier to see the bigger picture and avoid making decisions in isolation.
Second, run experiments to de-risk the product development process. Experimentation helps teams understand the impact of different decisions. We often hear teams proclaim, ‘We want to be hypothesis driven.’ And, that’s a good thing as long as you know when in the process to form a hypothesis and run an experiment. As Debbie Levitt shared in her November 2023 LinkedIn newsletter, before forming a hypothesis, first “…research and observe. This means we have knowledge and have replaced guesses and assumptions with good data.” Once there’s good data to work from, a hypothesis can be crafted to run experiments and capture learnings.
Third, adopt the right tools. Tooling cannot make up for bad processes, but they can assist and add value to a well-defined process. A phenomena we’ve seen in our own discovery research is that product teams tend to adopt tools for researchers by researchers, for product managers by product managers, for designers by designers, for developers by developers. And then wonder, ‘Why won’t my peers leverage insights, understand requirements, find design files, or create tickets?’ It’s because tools built for specific roles don’t map to the mental models of others on the team, cementing silos. Tooling that comprises purpose-built solutions, as opposed to role-based features, can align teams and support new, collaborative ways to get the job done – delivering value to customers and driving businesses’ bottom lines.
We hypothesize that product delivery will always involve complex decision making, but that doesn’t have to mean achieving good outcomes is impossible, leaving one in the bad place. We’re building Rutabaga to help teams seize the opportunity to create a culture of experimentation after first conducting research, and create alignment by providing easy access to customer insights. Teams who adopt Rutabaga will reap the benefits of clarity that drive good outcomes.