Making Product Decisions in Bets

Niall O'Connor
4 min readApr 23, 2018

Someone told me that building a product is a lot like gambling. You gather evidence to support your decisions but don’t know how a product will perform until people start to use it.

A team makes many important decisions when building a product. It’s common that members of the team will disagree on what those decisions should be.

A product development team faces countless crucial decisions, and it’s no surprise that disagreements often arise. As a user researcher, you need to expose these different opinions. This will help you:

  • Gather hypotheses that you can prove or disprove
  • Gather research questions that can help you focus your research
  • Encourage debate within the team
  • Position user research as a method to settle disagreements within the team
  • Make decision-making transparent

To achieve this, start by asking each team member what they hope to learn from the user research throughout the project. Then, have them:

  1. Jot down their questions on colourful sticky notes (Burning Questions)
  2. Add their best-guess answers to those queries (Reckon)
  3. Assign a confidence score from 0–10 for each reckon (Confidence Meter)

Note disagreements

After everyone has finished writing their questions, reckons and confidence scores ask them to present back to the group. This creates an opportunity to identify and group similar questions. If two questions arise with different reckons then mark it with a red post-it note (Disagreement).

Debate and agree on team confidence

After you mark all the conflicts, go through each of the questions again and give each one a confidence rating agreed by the team (Team Confidence).

This will spark debate and more reckons about what the right answer is. That’s fine. Write everything down. You’ll be able to prove or disprove these hypotheses during the course of your research.

Agree on methods to answer questions

In situations where there is disagreement acknowledge the difference in opinion and agree on a method for resolving the debate (Method).

If the product owner feels something is not up for debate allow them to override everyone and make a decision on the spot. At the end of the day if the product fails it’s their responsibility. At least in this situation it’s publicly acknowledged there is no room for debate, but at least you’ll most likely hear their rationale.

As a result, you’ll spend more time focusing your attention on what you can change and less time on what you can’t.

Prioritise your questions

You now have a good understanding of questions that need to be answered, the hypotheses that need to be proven/disproven and where disagreement exists within the team.

The last step is ranking the questions. Ask your product owner to prioritise the top 10 questions that need to be answered and get agreement from the team.

One other sorting technique is getting the team to position the questions onto a timeline of which need to be answered during the course of the project. This can prove tricky in a group setting, so it may be better to do this yourself and get feedback later.

Keep updating your confidence level

Increase or decrease your confidence level on reckons to questions as you gather evidence during the course of your research. Naturally, your reckons will change over time depending on your research findings. If you start getting to an 8 or 9 confidence level you can start to shift your focus elsewhere. Good luck :)

Thank you for reading, if you have any questions, suggestions or comments message me at @wnialloconnor or Sanjay Poyzer who co-developed this workshop.