Thinking about the people I admire most in business, they are all "product guys" (or gals). It doesn’t matter if they’re the CEO or the Director of Marketing or if the company is 3 people or 3,000. The bottom line is that they think and act on the "why" of the business. What the business does and how it does it are important, but its the why that defines the direction.
Why we do what we do isn’t about building this thing or that thing. Its not really about figuring out the economic model for something, or desiging an org structure for something. The why we do what we do is about answering a market opportunity. And market opportunities create customers. I think its also the hardest thing for companies to articulate – I get what it is your building, but explain to me why you’re building it. The why rules.
At Lijit, Todd and I talk a lot about the motivations of an online publisher. We start with the motivations because it helps uncover market opportunities. Those opportunities get distilled into the why. Its not easy, unfortunately. I think the trick is you have to really get inside the shoes (head?) of the publisher. As our business has expanded so has the publisher diversity which makes the job of getting to the why even trickier. We’re constantly pecking on refinements that all trace back to the why.
The why of what we do makes for a never-ending product cycle. Its also the reason that its so hard to build and publish a traditional corporate marketing copy that is largely static and therefore old and behind the day its released.
Every great company leader I know is also a great "product guy". They constantly think about why the company’s products look and feel the way they do. They think about the services the companies offers and how they’re delivered. They are obsessed with making things better, easier to use, more intuitive, and generally more helpful. Its not easy and it doesn’t get any easier over time.
I have a hunch this is why great company leaders are so obviously better than their peers. They obsess over the why.