Lean Production Notes
Medical Social Network. How an innovator can avoid absurdity and maintain self-confidence?
Note #1
I want to share a "magical" case from my product management practice. And, perhaps, at the end of this description, I'll try to draw conclusions about:
  • The impact of stress on an innovator in a company when their idea, whether big or small, is rejected without arguments and reasoned criticism.
  • How to overcome frustration when your ideas hit an insurmountable wall of genuine, unadulterated absurdity within your company, team, or with your clients.
  • How to navigate through all this without losing your mind and faith in yourself.
Whether the conclusions are correct or not, I don't know. At the very least, they seem worthy of attention.
Why are you needed?
The gift and curse of a product manager in IT are uncertainty. They constantly find themselves in a high uncertainty field, applying various strategies to reduce it, simplifying decision-making processes more and more.

The role of a product manager is not clear to everyone, as well as the necessity of having one in a team. There are programmers who write code; there are designers who create interfaces; there's a business analyst who gathers requirements, sets tasks, and so on. And you, the product manager, why do we need you?
Medical Social Network.
The management of a popular professional educational mobile application for medical professionals approached me with a request to help create a Medical Social Network based on the audience of their app, similar to Linkedin for medical personnel, and scale it globally. They mentioned having received an investment round and aiming for an IPO. Come and help!
The idea immediately seemed dubious to me:

  • Why create a LinkedIn for medical personnel when LinkedIn itself is successfully used by them?
  • Working with complex medical content and editing articles using a mobile app is inconvenient.
  • I wasn't sure if the founder understood the resources needed and the required team.
But, as they say, money talks, and for me, it was a very interesting challenge.

So, we have:
  • A successful professional medical education app with a decent active daily audience. A cash cow.
  • A development team that seems to be doing something but hasn't received any commercially interesting tasks in a year and a half.
  • Extensive experience of the team in healthcare.
  • I was also given access to a huge database of healthcare professionals available for interviews. And there are employees in the office.
We want to:
  • Launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of the social network for current app users within six months.
  • Conquer the world within the next year.
Opportunity score.
The first thing I do is conduct an Opportunity Score research. This is a very cool and simple way to identify underserved user needs and understand where our opportunities lie. Which features would be most successful with our audience, what they would like.

If briefly, the essence of the method is that respondents are given a survey describing what the app does for them. They are asked to choose the degree of importance of each feature and their satisfaction with its use.

Users choose a score from 0 to 10, where 0 is not important at all, and 10 is very important; where 0 is not satisfied with the use, and 10 is completely satisfied.

After the survey, the data is cleansed, and the Opportunity Score is calculated for each:

Opportunity Score = Importance + (Importance - Satisfaction)

Nobody wants a social network.
The survey was completed, and the data was analyzed. Here's how our features are distributed by Opportunity Score, in descending order of value:

  1. Educational features of the app
  2. Accumulative bonus system features
  3. News publication features
  4. ...
  5. ..
  6. ...
  7. Social network features
Nobody wants a social network.

The audience of our app unequivocally rejects the idea of creating a social network, as confirmed by statistical precision.

This sentiment was further validated through in-depth one-on-one interviews. Healthcare professionals believe that all their needs are already met by other social services, and our proposal brings nothing new to the table.

When Absurdity Struck
Armed with a comprehensive report, I eagerly headed into a meeting with the management to showcase how redirecting funds from an unappealing social network to enhancing educational functions with the power of artificial intelligence could save them a significant sum.

I meticulously prepared a high-quality visualization and spent an animated hour and a half presenting my findings, delving into opportunity scores, sample analyses, statistics, various future scenarios, the investment attractiveness of AI, and passionately gesturing to emphasize key points.

As I concluded, I expected applause and commendation. However, what transpired was beyond my expectations:

Max, is this what you've been doing for the past two weeks?
Yes, as I warned, I conducted research to prioritize the release of new app features. Here's what I found...
Max, we hired a product manager to create a social network. You've wasted two weeks of our time
I'm trying to explain that our potential social network currently offers nothing interesting to the market. We'll waste six months of development effort... And if we integrate it into our already successful app, we might even do more harm!
Nobody can confirm that your research is accurate. We didn't hire you for this. We hired you to create a good social network that our audience needs! And add job listings there. Don't waste our money. The meeting is over.
A silent pause followed. The meeting concluded, and the management left Zoom with displeased expressions. I took some time to recover.

"What did I do wrong? Where was I unclear? Where did I lack persuasiveness? Was there an error in my research that they noticed? Maybe I wasn't articulate enough?

I felt crushed. Frustration and a sense of inadequacy lingered after my competence was openly doubted by the management, and my pride took a hit.

How did I bounce back?
In such situations, the crucial thing is to realize that the criticism is directed at the idea, not the individual. Drawing a clear line between my identity and the situation at hand was essential. Making a possibly foolish statement doesn't diminish my intelligence or competence.

I refreshed my mind with a dozen successful cases where I showcased my capabilities to remind myself of who I am.

I sought support from colleagues who readily sided with me, citing the toxic atmosphere within the management.

External experts shared that they, too, had encountered similar situations numerous times. When dealing with people who criticize without offering constructive feedback, it's often a lost cause.
That's when I decided to cut my losses. After futile attempts to find common ground with the management, I realized the endeavor was futile.

I told them that perhaps my product management expertise might not be sufficient to meet the company's needs, bid my farewell, and left with a light heart and a clear conscience.

And that's the whole story.
The takeaway? What do I need to do to avoid frustration?
  • Realize that the state of resentment is a victim mindset.
  • Separate your identity from your ideas. Embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth. Сreating a system for error reporting is indeed a crucial part of a product manager's role.
  • Seek expert opinions to avoid imposter syndrome in the future.
  • Discuss your "failures" more with those you trust.
  • Steer clear of toxic environments.
Most importantly, understand that you're not alone. Every day, tens of thousands of proactive individuals find themselves in similar situations. Follow these rules, and making mistakes will become easy and enjoyable—just another step towards gaining new experiences.

P.S. Much later, I found out that the company needed the social network feature because they secured investments, requiring an impressive report for investors. As far as I know, they still haven't implemented anything.