Moving from subjective to objective discussions

I often work with product teams who have conversations—sometimes very difficult ones with stakeholders—that are full of unstated assumptions, subjectivity, and a lot of unsubstantiated “I think…” comments. For a startup with few people the conversations aren’t often difficult, but poor subjective judgements can sink the company. For larger organisations with a product team and senior stakeholders the conversations are difficult because it can be about the ideas of the people at the coalface conflicting with the ideas of the influential stakeholders.

But we can move towards more objective discussions. There are two key elements for this.

One, as I’ve discussed before, is to have measurable goals. I’ve worked with teams whose success is measured by money, by time, and by other metrics—all in very specific ways. By having a goal that’s measurable we remove ambiguity.

The other is user research—or any other kind of research that brings in the data to test ideas against the success measures.

With these two elements in place discussions move away from “I think…” and move towards “we found…”. Ideas become less personalised, data and direct experience become the currency in circulation, and decision making becomes more objective. Agreement is based around what we do or don’t know, and what more we might or might not build and test.

Measurable goals and user research help eliminate subjectivity and promote more productive conversations.

Photo by Mark Nockleby