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Jillian Kaplan

Using Analogy in Product Strategy

Jillian Kaplan

  • Aug 31, 2020
  • 5 Min read
  • 59 Views
  • Aug 31, 2020
  • 5 Min read
  • 59 Views
Management
Product Management
Product Discovery
Design Thinking

Introduction

When we think about analogies, we usually think about things in our personal lives. But can you use past experiences to drive product strategies? In this guide, we will discover how you can use analogous experiences to help you ensure success in your product strategy.

We will dive into how you can use experiences from yourself or competitors to create success. Using analogy is often overlooked in professional settings, but this guide will offer a very specific example to show you how it works and how you can make it work for you.

Discovering an Analogy

The best way to look at this is to consider a very specific example. I am going to talk about an example from my personal life in which I used an analogous experience to evaluate a potential new solution that may eventually come to market.

The example focuses on autonomous vehicles as a use case and their safety in preventing deaths and injury. Human error is responsible for 90% of car crashes on the road today (https://www.nhtsa.gov/). We do not have a lot of data around autonomous vehicles. There are five levels of automation from zero (no automation) up to five (full automation). Right now, most vehicles on the road are somewhere around a one to two, which includes things like cruise control, alerts when changing lanes without a signal, and front and back-up crash detection at low speeds. There are some vehicles on the road that have a little more automation and are somewhere around a level two to three. These may actually be able to drive or park themselves. However, they are very expensive and not affordable or available to the general public.

What is important to note is that because there are not many cars that have levels two to three automation, and there are future levels that will provide even more automation, it’s hard to get data on this. I was trying to figure out if autonomous vehicles would help prevent crashes and therefore injury and death, or if they could make them worse. However, the data was not there because there are not enough vehicles with high levels of automation.

So, I looked for an analogous experience. In this case, it would have to be another experience in which a human function was turned over to machines. I wanted to understand if, historically, this helped prevent injury and death or caused more injury or death. I used machine manufacturing automation as an example and did research with the National Safety Council (https://www.nsc.org/) .

I discovered that there are many more deaths when humans do the work than when machines do the work. The number does not go down to zero, because machines do malfunction, but overall they do appear to be much safer.

This is an example of an analogous experience that I could use to determine that it is possible that autonomy in cars would prevent deaths and crashes just like it has been proven by facts and numbers on manufacturing and automation.

Finding an Analogy

It takes work to find an analogous experience. You probably look at the above example and know that it makes sense, but how do you find an analogy for what you are trying to produce? It starts with a simple search. Go to your search engine of choice and look for keywords and topics surrounding the product and strategy you are looking into. This takes time and energy but will help you learn if anyone has tried to execute something similar to your strategy.

This is the same process I did when I wanted to learn about autonomy in machines. There is a lot of unreliable information on the internet, but you can find reliable sources and look at their statistics and qualitative information to help you figure out if any of their findings and results will help you.

There are also more formal and expensive processes. These include finding a market research company or an analyst to do this leg work for you. However you go about it, a simple search can help you get started.

Learning from Analogy

Once you find an analogy, take what they learned and turn it into your learning. Imagine if you didn’t have to spend the money to figure out that a certain product or feature would not make it in market. Then you could put that budget and energy into creating something that is needed.

Learning from others' mistakes and successes is one of the easiest ways to help you efficiently reach a product strategy. The key here is making sure you take your findings and apply them to what you are working on so that you see the most success. It’s like that saying, "History repeats itself." Don’t repeat bad history.

Additionally, having facts that back up your decision to bring or not bring a product to market will help you and your leadership team.

Conclusion

You can learn a lot from previous and similar experiences. You know the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." You can make a mistake, but you need to learn from it and not make the same mistake again.

This is exactly what we are talking about when we talk about analogies. We all make mistakes, but it’s what you learn from those mistakes that can help you determine future product strategies and make them successful.

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