How to avoid tunnel vision as a product manager

Product Management
July 6, 2022
6 mins read
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When making a choice, humans often only consider the information that is immediately accessible to them. Rather than considering the potential of missing information, they base their decision on the most prominent information in their memory.

Tunnel vision is an inability to perceive the broad picture; it may affect leaders, causing them to fixate on a certain objective and filter all information and data via that outcome’s lens. As a result, the leader may get fixated on a single concept, excluding all others.

Evidence is given less weight, whereas any information that supports the chosen concept or conclusion is given more weight. This inherent ‘tunnel vision’ jeopardizes much of the logic of our daily decision-making processes.

When you need to get out of a dangerous situation, deliberating for an extended period of time isn’t going to help you. Instead, you decide depending on the circumstances. The fact is, most product management decisions should not be life or death.

In fact, jumping to conclusions in product meetings is just as seductive as it is in life-or-death circumstances.

Essentially, while conducting a product meeting, it is critical to establish protections that rationalize the decisions that will be made. Instead of everyone being weary and wishing to conclude the meeting, and therefore accepting to mediocre ideas, preparation and debate guidelines should increase decision-making quality.

Motivated Kindness

One very interesting reason is of “Motivated Kindness”. People dismiss knowledge when they do not want to deal with it. Rather than tackling the issue, they exaggerate it. Much of this ignorance is caused by the culture of the organization.

Example: Following the discovery of multiple fatalities as a result of the ignition-switch problem, General Motors was obliged to address the safety issue. According to internal papers, GM established a glossary of “words not to use” when outlining possible issues and bad news. People didn’t see possible concerns since they were downplayed. Minimizing problems cost GM billions of dollars in recall costs.

Prospect Bias

Another reason is of Prospect bias: a lack of features. It’s not only the biases in your organization that you have to deal with. You must also consider the prejudices of prospects and consumers when they assess your goods. This is frequently accomplished through a ‘checkbox paradise’  –  a page that has all kinds of characteristics that the prospect made up or that they take for granted.

One should try to avoid tunnel vision in ways like:

  • Be able to respond appropriately to leadership rather than being only focused on the work at hand. Have the capacity to see what is coming up on the horizon and identify what is changing. Have the capacity to spot red flags early on.
  • Assign responsibilities to subordinates. Many a time, PMs simply accept the way things are, especially when it requires them to actively coordinate initiatives that their employees might manage independently. Executives’ time and energy are depleted when they have to play nursemaid to so many events. Nonetheless, few appear prepared to assign a subordinate complete responsibility for attaining goals that would need significant feedback from peers.
  • Allow account managers to retain a list of customers who have requested a certain feature. The most recent consumer they interacted with may be the most vivid in their mind, but allowing them to take notes should help them avoid tunnel vision.
  • Don’t allow maintenance become a point of contention in the feature argument. Maintenance is required in all the situations. Allowing sales to argue for maintenance postponement may result in some small wins, but it will be highly costly in the long run.
  • Keep a careful watch on their competition. When your rivals make adjustments, you should make changes as well.
  • Work with meaningful contexts. Employees are more likely to alter their opinions if they understand what is expected of them, see some form of incentive, it makes sense, and they witness their leaders doing it. Most great leaders understand that role modelling - showing the new behavior - is what leaders undertake to teach people how to act properly in companies.

Tunnel vision may force us to get utterly disoriented before ultimately admitting defeat. Instead, perhaps we should be gentler with ourselves and our businesses. Pay greater attention to the first symptoms of indecision behind the wheel, and make more quick and smart changes. Rather of using the “my way or the highway” attitude.

Mahima Arora
Associate Product Marketer at Zeda.io.
A marketing enthusiast, trying to influence society by means of media and drive sustainable good.
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