Product Development Philosophy: Stoicism

To paraphrase Epictetus: The chief task in product development is to identify and separate matters so that I can clearly say which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for focus? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…


Be aware of external factors and monitor them. However, focus your attention on product development on the metrics you have control over. Find the relationships between these metrics. But continue to work on internal metrics. That’s where the impact/effort relationship is most significant.

Hypotheses or wishes

It`s hard to build hypotheses that are based on external factors. How can they be verified? Non-verifiable assumptions are more of an afterthought. There is no point in conjuring up reality.

Purity of product metrics

We should select metrics for our assumptions in such a way as to be sure that we can verify our assumptions. The more metrics the better. I realize that sometimes there is not enough data. That’s when it makes sense to move your focus to where the data will be. If there is no data, why are we focusing on this hypothesis/assumption? Isn’t it better to move to where the greatest impact will be?

Say „No” and gain more focus

If you agree to everything you will be distracted from the main path. Gain more focus. Say „No” to stakeholders and features idea. Say „No” for your internal gut feeling. Write everything down, and prioritize in their own time. Now focus on what is really needed.

To Summarize

Focus on what you can influence. Execute your assumptions slowly and without panic. Take small enough steps to avoid tipping over. Granularize your hypotheses and expectations. Step by step. This brings us seamlessly to the Kaizen philosophy in product development. There will be more about that some other time.