Art of Message

Art of Message – April 24, 2023

Act of seeing

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.”

-John Berger

John Berger was an art critic, novelist, poet type who probably never commented on B2B tech or SaaS.  In the right context however, he’d have had a lot to say about “MVP messaging” – the way you communicate with, and learn from, the first users of a new feature/product.

Let’s assume for the sake of this discussion that to understand what someone actually wants, as opposed to what they initially say they want, you have to see them in an abstract sense.

Berger’s “Act of Seeing” essay pointed out that seeing is not a neutral activity – that any time you see someone, you’re bringing all kinds of ingrained ideas and feelings to your understanding of what they say. This comes from your cultural background, your socio-economic. background, your mood or personality type, etc. And so you distort your understanding of what users like/want.

Some people managing products merely seek user feedback that agrees with their own pre-ingrained biases.

Maybe there’s a better way. If we want product strategy and messaging that works, Berger would ask product owners to:

  • be attentive and open-minded, with the effect of actively seeking opportunities to be wrong
  • consider the dynamics between themselves and users – let users feel valued, respected, etc
  • consider the context in which users interact with the product – work environment, tech stack, time-zone, etc
  • become skilled in interpreting both explicit and implicit feedback from users
  • embrace an ongoing process where product teams to constantly observe, listen, learn, and adapt

Here’s the thing – to really see their customers, product teams have to assume they’re ignorant of them. Yes, nuggets of insight come, but they go in the temp folder.

The message above comes from…
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