Notes on Chapter 49: Product Insights, from "Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products" by Marty Cagan, Silicon Valley Product Group.

Goal: Leverage insights on few critical problems to focus on.

This is one most difficult but rewarding aspects of product strategy. To generate, identify, and leverage insights that will provide the foundation of the product strategy.

You're probably already familiar with the insights led Netflix to profitability. Insights around Facebook new user onboarding. Customer trials Salesforce and Slack.

There is no clear framework for this!

First, understand:

  • Product strategy requires real effort and thought. "Good strategy does not pop out of some tool, matrix, triangle...". Identify 1 or 2 critical issues, and focus action and resources on those.
  • This never happens without real preparation. Epiphanies may come. But you need the prep work. Strategic context is the foundation.
  • Insights can come from anyone and anywhere. Sales, industry analysis, random comments, academic papers. Without preparation, you wouldn't recognize them.

"You never know what might help connect the dots."

Four consistent sources of insights:

1. Quantitative Insights

Product Data. Data that may be related to the business model, such as customer retention, sales execution, etc. Which customers respond best to your product? Run an analysis. It may help you find more customers like that. Or may help you understand how to bring that dynamic to other customers.

Get data, run a test, learn an insight. Leverage this learning.

2. Qualitative Insights

User Research. May not be statistically significant. But often profound.

  1. Evaluative - what did we learn from testing new idea?
  2. Generative - did we uncover any new opportunities that we aren't pursuing, but should?

3. Technology Insights

Solving problems in new ways. Team might not have the knowledge and experience.

4. Industry Insights

Trends, competition, analysis.

Not just business strategy, but PRODUCT strategy.

Common Problems

Learnings are ignored because feature teams are focused on serving the business. Consultants don't have the depth and tenure to really do this effectively. It's important for Product people to own this.

Shared learnings.

Always discuss. Leadership and team level. Getting relevant insights into the right hands at the right time. These need to be shared and communicated. But reports, emails, IM's are rarely effective for this.

Product Leaders are usually the first to connect the dots. So we need make sure that insights make it to the product leaders. In many cases, leaders are given the data they request. Not the data they "need". Leaders should share with the broader organization.


  • Focus on a small number of truly important problems
  • Identify insights that will move the needle
  • Turn these insights into action--> Vision Pivots...
    Things are not always linear
  • Vision -> Strategy -> Execute
  • During work, insights can (and should!) change everything.