Test and iterate
While the team may be excited about one set of ideas, it’s important to understand how your vision and prototypes hold up with potential customers. On a regular cadence, identify the most important things you need to learn, and gather information through direct interaction with potential customers. Your week could look something like this:
- Monday: Identify the most important thing to learn this week
- Monday–Wednesday: Build out a prototype/test
- Thursday: Run interviews with potential customers
- Friday: Synthesize learnings. Run a retrospective about the week.
Pro tips: To maintain this pace, you’ll probably need to book the Thursday interviews in advance. Having a number of participants agree to return in subsequent weeks is also a good way to fill this schedule quickly. For effectiveness, just make sure you’re still adding fresh eyes as you go.
Run as many of these cycles as time allows. The more you learn, the more informed (and therefore stable) your North Star product experience will be.
Resources → Read about what it’s like to be a Product Design Scientist. For getting started with live user-feedback sessions, read how we do it during Real World Wednesdays.
Form the narrative and socialize
Figure out how you want to tell this story in a way that compels, inspires, and drives action. Michael Margolis suggests that your narrative framework can look like this:
Start with the 50,000-foot overview. Tell your audience the category you’re working in, then tell them which ordinary thing you’re rethinking. Finally, tell them the possibility of how the world looks after you’ve reimagined it.
Next, zoom in to a specific example. Introduce a user. Tell your audience what the user wants to accomplish. And then tell them the dilemma the user is facing. (At this point, you can tell them how you’re going to solve this dilemma.)
Finally, you’re ready to show your audience the data that backs up your story. By now, you’ve primed them to be receptive to the facts. Instead of wondering how this data fits into their old mental model of the world, they’ll use it to validate the vision you’ve painted. If you’ve done this well, they might even be excited to see the facts that prove you right.
Resource → Read about the value of story vs. narrative.
The common pitfall of North Star vision work is that it creates a big splash up front and then quickly fizzles out. Connecting your vision to stable research gives you a solid foundation, but follow-through is equally important. Here’s what that looks like:
Create the one-year version
The North Star product experience probably has a three- to five-year time horizon. Create a prototype that shows where the experience will be one year from now. Start with the current product, account for technical and business constraints, and think about how far you can go while sprinting toward your North Star.
Build the “ideal path” roadmap
Take your one-year version and break it down into the parts you’d need for building to smaller milestones. While not every product feature will be necessary or feasible (in fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be off the mark with at least half of the features), this will give you a solid starting point for planning.
Confirm your plans through experimentation and learning
Teams should work through each meaningful feature and, with rapid experimentation, build sufficient confidence to keep moving forward. To keep the team laser-focused on solving customer problems, even through periodic pivots, you can leverage an opportunity solution tree. This tool allows you to easily explore alternative approaches when necessary.
Resources → Learn about opportunity solution trees. Read about how to run riskiest assumption tests.
Deliver and launch it!
While the product launch is more like a midpoint than a finish line, it is an important milestone. Get the product in customers’ hands, and continue to learn and iterate.
We hope this glance at developing a North Star vision will help you align teams on a customer-centric approach to building impactful products. To learn more about how our team approaches product design, read here.