Product visionary (PV) is a title missing in action. It rarely exists in product companies, and when it does, its unofficial, often appended on to founders or their chief advisors.
In a few years from now this title will exist officially. And not because it sounds cool.
What is this function? PV is person or team who understands the consumer better than the consumer himself. Imagine the CEO could go to a shrink for advice on his customer’s mind!
What is the primary activity? Build a strong case supported with experiments to help the leadership decide what to do and what not to do, even if it means saying yes to something that may seem uncomfortable, and saying no to something that’s outwardly practical. The politically correct way of wording this activity – Capturing bits of vision from disconnected sources and taking those through a structured and unstructured process of creation and destruction to uncover opportunities for growth.
Why is this hot or cool? This activity will increase the lifespan of consumer facing (B2C, B2B2C, social sector) companies, preventing premature casualties.
Consider this: An entire space can recreate its existence in a matter of weeks. Last year, the world created more photos that those created across all previous decades. Yet the people who took all these pictures did not change in any noticeable way, and their adoption of this new wave seemed perfectly natural. Psychologists will ascertain that our basic patterns of decision-making or defaulting to old habits have not changed for centuries. Yet there’s change all around us. When evaluating a disruptive startup plan or just a novel growth plan, I constantly remind myself to check if this plan accounts for the fact that billions of socially connected individuals are both changing and not changing at the same time.
One needs to develop what some experts call the opposable mind, one which can simultaneously hold two opposing ideas with equal passion, and develop a superior third idea that opposes neither.
The PV and his team are the opposable mind of an organisation. The rules they live by are different from the rest of the executing team. In a following post, I will talk about a framework I am building to help me structure some aspects of this activity, for example, how should I decide which ideas to champion.