Decouple: One Important Trait as a Product Manager

Several weeks ago, Gojek, one of the unicorn in Indonesia redesigned their app. It was a major overhaul that changed the overall UX of the app completely. Not long after that, critics started to surface in social media. The comments were varies, but most of it were harsh critics that said that the new design was a total disaster. It was hard to perform many basic tasks and it is more focus on the marketing side instead of the core feature of the product itself.

Gojek old design
Gojek new design

As a professional in tech industry, discussion emerge in my inner circle. We discussed many aspects about the new design such as why they made this in the first place, should they roll back and use the old design, how big the impact of this redesign for their customer, and so on. Among that topics, one of my friend asked, “I wonder how would the designer feel when reading the harsh comments and seeing her work rolled back.”

When you are working in product position, whether it is Product Manager or Product Designer, you must decouple yourself from the idea that you have and the work that you’ve done. It is a very important trait of a Product Manager and Product Designer to make sure you deliver the most suitable feature for your customer’s problem. Hence, the answer for my friend’s question is, personally, she may be sad, but professionally, it is OK and she will be move on in no time. 🙂

So, why do we need to decouple ourself from our idea or work? Because as a Product Manager, we don’t know what is the best solution for our users. Sometimes, we event don’t know what is the real problem is. We need to do a lot of experiments and fail fast to get the best solution that will solve our customer’s problem. So, our idea might be wrong most of the time, but that’s OK because we need to move on and find a new idea to help our users!

Decoupling is not easy and it surely will take some practices to get used to it. Here is some tips that you could use to decouple yourself from your idea:

1. Embrace the failure and think of it as a stepping stone
Failure is necessary in product management. You need to embrace it and think of it not as a failure, but as a one step ahead into the solution for your customers. It is not a failure because we are experimenting and failure is one important part of an experiment. So, no need to think too much about it!

2. Obsessed with the problem, not the solution
This is also an important part of become a Product Manager. You need to be obsessed with the problem that you want to solve, not the solution or ideas. Your goal is to solve the problem, not to build the idea. Hence, the idea is not your end goal. Your end goal is to solve the problem.

3. Don’t take it personally
When facing a failure, we tend to blame ourself as a leader of the product. “Why can’t I build the right thing? Why do I lead my team to a failure?” Those kind of questions might arise in our mind when our product or feature is fail. Don’t take it personally because we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to build a culture in our team that we don’t fear failure. We embrace it and we celebrate the learning from the failure. That’s how product development works.

Nanda Firdaus

Ex-engineer who is switching to product management role in Traveloka. Passionate about new technology and have interest in product development, business, and investment. Ex-Microsoft Student Partner. Master of Information System Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Bachelor of Information System, Faculty of Computer Science, Universitas Indonesia.

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