Jen Dante starts her talk by observing that people are terrible at making predictions but a product manager’s job is all about making predictions. She says you can increase the chances of being right if you “stop behaving like a hedgehog, and start behaving like a fox”.
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Archilochus, Greek philosopher
Jen applies this quote to product management. The hedgehog knows one big thing, so only has one framework of how they understand the world, whereas the fox uses many frameworks to try and understand what is happening and to make predictions. She says human nature often conflates confidence with competence, and views the hedgehogs as the most competent when the opposite is often true.
She says product managers should be collecting a variety of frameworks that we can pull out to tackle different types of problems. She takes us through some of those she finds useful in her work, namely Jobs To Be Done, Behavioural Economics, and The Kennedy Principle.
She likes to use the last one – Never ask your user to do for you, what you can do for your user – to investigate user behavior within a product. She says she’s made companies millions of dollars simply by using the Kennedy Principle and focusing on reducing friction in flows for users. While this is exciting, it is also not always the right solution. She points out the track record of Steve Selzer (formerly of AirBNB), who has made companies millions of dollars by adding friction to workflows.
She finishes by advising that we should avoid thinking that any one framework is the right solution for every problem. We should play the field in the frameworks we choose, because in Product, monogamy might not be the best way!
Watch the original talk: The promiscuous product manager by Jen Dante