A quick recap of the curiosity grid
Curiosity is a powerful tool for product teams. When thoughtfully wielded, it can lead to runaway product success. Healthy, high-performing product teams understand that curiosity is a muscle that, if not used regularly, will atrophy.
In the first installment in this series on fighting for curiosity, I introduced the curiosity grid as a tool to help product people assess how their teams and overall organizations relate to curiosity. It looks like this:
(If you need a refresher on what each square means, check out the previous post.)
The grid is a great tool for visualizing where you want to be (intentional curiosity) and where you definitely don’t want to be (myopia, apathy). But products and product teams are nuanced. It’s unlikely that your team fits neatly into one box at all times. In fact, your team probably moves around the grid—flowing or hovering between boxes—at different stages of the product lifecycle. Let’s dive into what this can look like.
The grid and the product lifecycle
Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar: At the start of a discovery phase, you’re on fire. You find a new insight that creates a spark. You talk with customers, dig through data, assess the competition—you’re wondering, but with a purpose.
As you move through validation and delivery, though, your aperture narrows (maybe especially if you’re under pressure). Your sense of curiosity wanes to make space for a deeper focus on delivery. You might start slipping back toward myopia.
When was the last time you or someone on your team paused during delivery to be curious about the data during those stages? The inertia of delivery is difficult to overcome. But in a culture of curiosity, it’s not just possible—it’s expected that you’ll challenge assumptions and stay curious, regardless of the time or effort that’s already been spent.
A real life example of moving around the curiosity grid
Recently, one of our product managers asked a thought-provoking question about alphas and betas—those early product versions out to a subset of customers. The question was effectively: Are we treating alphas and betas as a checkpoint or a checkbox? Are we pausing during delivery to be curious about the data during those stages, or are we fully inside the myopia box?
And the fact that he even asked this question is a reflection of the culture of curiosity we’re constantly working to build up at FullStory. We try to balance moving with urgency with pausing on principle, and he had the wherewithal to look at our launches and ask, “When was the last time we got to an alpha or beta and didn’t continue on?”
The inertia of delivery is a powerful force, and it’s tough to be that person who leaves a user research session and asks, “Wait…Does this still make sense?”
3 steps for intentional curiosity
Part of the endless challenge (and joy) of product work is maintaining two diametrically opposed mindsets at all times: The passionate zealot (“This thing we’re building is going to change the world!”) and the objective critic (“We need to continue to poke holes, ask questions, and challenge our assumptions”).
An exercise for you team this week: Pick a few projects that are mid-flight and ask yourselves:
1) Have you already decided to ship, no matter what? Why? Be brutally honest with yourselves.
2) In what ways are you continuing to be curious and gather learnings as you move from discovery into delivery?
3) What new learnings might cause you to stop that work mid-flight? Do a pre-mortem.
In part three of this blog post, we’ll look at the five cornerstones of a culture of curiosity. Stay tuned.
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