Product Discovery Marty Cagan

Deep Thinking

Now that the world is starting to see the rollout of vaccines, many of us are, at long last, looking towards seeing our friends and colleagues again.

For nearly a year now, I have been coaching people and teams remotely, and very often coaching them specifically on how to collaborate together more effectively when they are forced by circumstances to work remotely.

I’ve written several articles about the challenges and the techniques that help with that, and my next article will discuss yet another technique.

However, there is at least one consequence of the pandemic that I am hoping we can hold on to as long as possible, even for those that head back to an office.

Because we haven’t been commuting in to work, and so many of us have been trying to isolate – even those living in dense cities – many people report much more time available to take long walks, often alone, or maybe with their dog.

Besides the likely benefits to our physical and mental well-being, for many of us, these solo walks have allowed us to get some quality time to think through some of the hard problems we face.

When this pandemic started, I was in the midst of writing a book covering some very ambitious and complex topics.  I’m confident that the time I had for thinking deeply about these topics helped me make faster and better progress than I would have otherwise.

I started talking about the benefits of this quality time for deep thinking with several of the people I coach, and those that were also taking these long walks were reporting the same experience.

Last summer I published an article on how to coach others on the importance of developing the skills to effectively think through hard problems.  Deep thinking is another technique for this purpose.

As you identify an especially difficult decision or problem, to be able to have a solid hour or more of time to consider the problem, largely uninterrupted (be sure to turn off your phone’s notifications), can fundamentally change the quality of your understanding and your conclusions.

When you later discuss your reasoning with your colleagues, your thoughts will likely be considerably further developed.

I don’t view this solo time of deep thinking as in any way a substitute for the give-and-take collaboration between product, design and engineering.  Rather, I view the time as a knowledge multiplier.  You will contribute more, and get more out of your collaboration time.

I fully realize that in the pre-pandemic world, the thought of freeing up even an hour of quality time for deep thinking would have been inconceivable for many product people.  But hopefully in the post-pandemic world, with the progress that has been made on other fronts, I am hoping we can find a way to protect this time.