PRODUCTHEAD: How to evaluate product opportunities

PRODUCTHEAD: How to evaluate product opportunities

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

fake plastic opportunity solution trees #


Take a systematic approach to evaluating multiple solutions to the same opportunity

‘Assumption’ is just another word for ‘things we believe’

When there are many opportunities in contention, assess whether it’s worth solving the problem

We tend to come up with solutions before defining the problem they solve

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Imagine a topic close to your heart, something you feel authoritative on. Then imagine somebody tells you something that completely up-ends your understanding of the topic. It challenges your beliefs. How do you react?

Are you enthused, receptive to the opportunity to learn new things?

Or do you feel attacked and become defensive because it’s highlighting how much you have yet to learn?

Or is it a bit of both?

I always love to learn how other product leaders approach a tricky situation. It can sometimes be a bittersweet experience. How they tackle it can seem so obvious in hindsight. But goodness me — how it can trigger my impostor syndrome! I find myself feeling both disheartened and motivated by the conversation. It’s all a bit disorienting.

(It also serves as a useful hit of empathy. Next time I’m the one doing the challenging, I’ll remember how it feels.)

What helps me to regain my confidence is the reminder of why we’re doing this research in the first place. The ‘people stuff’ in product management can be messy. Helen and I want to help product managers to work with other people more confidently and effectively. Our research will enable us to write a better book on that subject.

We also know that to do this, we have to move beyond our own respective experiences of the role. We’re talking to product people precisely to learn about what we don’t already know. I really shouldn’t be so surprised when someone introduces me to a concept I hadn’t considered before.

One of the many techniques that has come up in conversation a few times is Teresa Torres’s opportunity solution tree. This week I’ve pulled together a few articles about it and other ways to evaluate opportunities.

An opportunity solution tree serves a few different purposes. On the face of it, it visualises the different paths that could lead towards a desired goal or outcome. It helps us to think about the problem more fully before jumping into a possible solution. It also encourages us to consider different ways to get there.

As Teresa explains, it’s all about being more systematic in our approach. Mapping the opportunity in this way makes the thought process explicit to you, your team and stakeholders. And a shared understanding can only be a good thing.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Why this opportunity solution tree is changing the way product teams work

Reframing has been a part of our practice for as long as we’ve been designing complex solutions.

What is new is the simple visual that helps us externalize our thinking. That externalization helps us to examine our thinking, it allows others to critique our thinking, and it can guide us toward what to do next.

A more systematic approach to achieving outcomes

[Teresa Torres / ProductTalk]

Opportunity canvas

The opportunity canvas will ask you to understand the problem you’re solving and the user you’re solving it for. It’ll ask you to think through the outcome you’d expect to observe after you deliver it, and how it ultimately impacts your business. Because if you don’t understand all those things, should you really be building it?

One problem, many solutions

[Jeff Patton / Jeff Patton & Associates]

Assessing product opportunities

A lot of product managers will have a love-hate relationship with prioritisation; constantly having to choose between ideas and making tough tradeoff decisions. Whichever way you look at it, prioritisation is part and parcel of our job as product managers. Before you prioritise a specific solution, I’d always recommend you assess first whether the problem is worth solving in the first place.

Assess the context

[Marc Abraham]

Ditch the solution-first mindset and start by defining the problem

Both in life and at work, we tend to come up with solutions before defining the problem they solve. From “I need to stop eating chocolate” to “let’s add Facebook Login to our online checkout”, we can’t help it. It’s natural – solutions and features are easy to imagine and talk about with other people. And coming up with a solution is a rewarding experience, it makes us feel like we have everything figured out

What if we spent more time framing the problem?

[Ludivine Siau / MInd The Product]

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can we help you?

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from a healthy dose of imposter syndrome.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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