EthanProduct Management

Why Choose This Feature?

Recently I finsihed reading Why Choose This Book?: How We Make Decisions, by Read Montague, a fascinating book about how the brain makes decisions. It brings neuroscience, biology and computer science together to explore some of the latest ideas in how the brains actually makes decisions.

Montague spends a lot of time going over the notion of value and how measuring value is implicit and essential to every decision the brain makes. For example, when you train a dog using rewards the dog eventually obeys because it transfers the value measurement from the act of getting food to the command itself – the dog’s brain actually reprograms itself to see the command as being as good as getting food. (The cynical among you can go and check out What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage¬†and how to apply these techniques more broadly.)

The book got me thinking – bringing in a value measurement is exactly what Product Managers do in product-oriented decision making. Why choose feature X over feature Y? Because we have some way of measuring the value of each feature. Too often we use an implicit value (“We added for support for AIX at my previous job and it never got us any sales”) but we often manage to do better (“35% of prospects said they would use the product on AIX”). But either way, Product Management is about making decisions by measuring value.