ProductHow my 2-year-old daughter taught me a valuable Product-Management lesson

Paulo Ávila

Paulo Ávila

3 minutes read

My youngest daughter is 2yrs old. It's an amazing phase where she's accelerating her ability to speak and advancing other forms of interaction. This also means she's primed for communication from having gone through months of understanding people but being unable to respond in kind.

Result: Even though there are frustrating moments, our ability to “communicate” is at an all-time high.

From her perspective: She is talking (or at least she thinks she’s producing the right noises to form words) but sometimes, not able to understand why I can't comprehend her. Often all I hear is gibberish and many times, I'm unable to decipher even the mixed languages she's using. Perhaps even worse, I think I understand and respond appropriately only to find her repeating the same thing, over

and over
and over ...

However, we always find a way to “communicate”.

A specific interaction with my daughter this morning taught me a lesson related to how we carry out discovery during product development — more specifically when we interact with customers or ingest feedback and translate them as problems-to-be-solved.

After her morning shower, I gave my daughter a thin comb from the drawer and asked her to comb her hair while I advanced our routine. Upon returning, there was no hair brush to be found! I asked her where the comb was and she started pointing to the drawer and making noises which I imagine meant - "I put it in the drawer where you got it from, you twit" 😅

I opened the drawer, and….. nothing!

"Where is the comb?" I asked sweetly.

Same response from her - pointing and noises.

"But look, I don't see it inside" I repeated.

Still, same response from her.

I picked her up to show her that it wasn't in the drawer. We both looked at each other with a confused look.

Foreshadow alert: we were each confused about different things, it turns out.

"Never mind!" I concluded, "I'll find it later.", putting her down and closing the drawer in front of her.

She started repeating herself and pointing at the drawer again. I continued to walk out of the bathroom only this time I noticed that her pointing finger wasn't on the face of the drawer but in the small gap above the drawer. Continuing to walk out, I said out loud: "I understand, you slipped the comb through the crack. That's convenient. And fun!” in an effort to narrate what she’s attempting to say on her behalf, as parents often do.

Then, in a surge of parental patience, I turned around and knelt down next to her to give her a hug and reassure her that it isn't important right now and that I would look for it later. She stopped pointing and just looked back and forth between me and the drawer. So, I looked at the drawer, and then I saw it! The comb had wedged itself in the smallest gap underneath the countertop and the drawer, impossible to see from my perspective while standing up, but very visible from her height! Yay! 😃

Product development morale: It is indeed very easy for the subtle details to be lost in seemingly straightforward communication, and sometimes it's impossible to truly understand a situation unless you take the time to look at it from different points of view (literally).

Ask a lot and listen even more. Don't make assumptions or put words in customers mouths.

Strive to make your user research and customer discovery lossless!

Paulo Ávila
Product Lead

sociable introvert

Paulo leads one of our product groups at Factorial. He likes photography and building things with his hands both “in the cloud” and down here on earth. He appreciates intelligent humour, cold milk, and a neatly arranged desktop.

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