Academy Xi Blog

How to get your whole organisation practising ‘product thinking’

By Academy Xi

These days business is running at a much faster pace, with a greater intensity of competition and higher expectations from customers, thanks to digital transformation. Discover how product thinking can help all departments of your organisation to stay ahead of the pack. 

If you want your business to exceed customer expectations and thrive, it is vital that you move from a fixed thinking mindset, to one that is highly agile, across every function of your organisation. Product thinking, also referred to as product design thinking, is no longer reserved for product managers within product and tech teams and the sooner your wider business embraces the approach, the better.

Let’s dive in and discover how getting your teams applying product thinking can lead to successful outcomes for all.

What is product thinking and why is it important?

Essentially it is the process of identifying the problems a customer has and designing a solution to directly address these pain points. The aim is to shrink the gap between your customers’ challenges and the solution your business offers, ideally scoring a perfect match. Focusing on customer problems and solutions that also meet business goals is the ultimate win.

Product design thinking is about product development. A set of methods and processes are applied to identify and solve the customers problems. The target audience is always at the centre of product thinking, with robust customer data driving the decision making that results in the development of the product.

Balancing the needs of the customer with those of the business has always been viewed as a fundamental role of product management, which has grown exponentially with the rise of digital transformation, but ideally this is the thinking you want all roles to take within an organisation as it encourages agility.

This approach to navigating problem solving and development of products and services is also important because it results in an ongoing evolution and improvement of whatever your organisation offers its customers, as opposed to a static output that is launched and left as is.


Shifting to an output focus

In order to apply this new way of thinking across all business functions, it’s vital to shift the focus from the departments ‘outputs’, to their impact. This speaks to a customer centred and agile way of working, which is core to any product team. Organisations leading the way with product thinking are implementing agile practices across all of their departments

What are the benefits of product thinking?

A primary benefit of product thinking is that it enables the creation of a product or service that fits a genuine need of your target market. Successful product led growth companies have meaningful insights into their customers, which drive their development approach.

Organisations that struggle to survive are likely not understanding the true needs of their audience and as a result, aren’t creating products and services that genuinely reflect their needs, nor create meaningful value.

Other key benefits of product thinking include:

  • achieve transformation goals
  • reduce budget blowouts by getting products to market on time and on budget
  • more accuracy in understanding how a product can meet customer need
  • an ongoing evolution of your product, continually adding value
  • the ability to change or scale your product at pace
  • an increased likelihood of a successful product-market fit
  • time and money spent on things that actually matter

5 steps to get your organisation embracing product thinking

It’s important to note that any change can take time. The following steps are a framework to guide your process.

5 steps to get your organisation embracing product thinking

✔️ Step 1: Seek clarity

The more specific you can be about the problems you are wanting and needing to solve within your organisation and for your customers, the more laser focused you can be with your planning and approach.

Being clear about which problems you are wanting to resolve will also be beneficial when encouraging other members of the organisation to adapt to this way of thinking (see step 2). Taking a statement approach can be helpful. For example, an organisational challenge could be stated as “Our decision making isn’t supported by robust data” or “My team isn’t clear on what success looks like”.

Get clear on your problems and then consider how product thinking could assist in resolving them.


✔️ Step 2: Get buy-in

Stakeholder buy-in is vital to get any kind of change happening across an entire organisation. Change is also a team effort. Product thinking is no different. If the people at the top are on board, it is far more likely to be embraced and implemented by everyone else.

But how do you get buy-in from the top?

One approach is by identifying who in your organisation is already applying product thinking successfully, with examples to showcase. Once it is clear how product thinking can benefit the wider business, you can increase broader buy-in by upskilling members of teams with product thinking training, so they take on a champion role. This empowers individuals and can inspire others to engage with a new concept, such as product thinking. 

Another option is to curate examples of other organisations, within your industry if possible, to demonstrate best practice and successful implementation of product thinking – real world product thinking in action for your organisation to aspire to.


✔️ Step 3: Start small

Try on this new way of thinking with smaller projects first. It will build confidence and support  experimentation amongst teams before embarking on larger scale assignments.

Encouraging a beginners mindset for all involved is important here. This will be a totally different approach for many people and the key is to bring everyone along for the ride, not intimidate anyone into resisting change.

It’s during smaller projects like these that you should be on the lookout for any potential product thinking champions who could be offered specific design thinking training.

Begin with the data

Use existing data to inform decision making on a smaller project. If the data doesn’t exist, explore how it could be gathered. Getting teams trained in basic data analytics could also be considered to support the product thinking approach. Data exists across all functions and is a powerful area to upskill any team in.


✔️ Step 4: Be adaptable

Every organisation and team will have their own problems to address and need to develop processes that suit their unique circumstances. Try different approaches to see what works and be open to changing things up as required.

Training in product thinking can provide a strong foundation to help your team navigate developing processes and support critical thinking as to what would best suit.

Remember, there is no fixed one-size-fits-all approach.


✔️ Step 5: Take notes

From little things, big things grow… by documenting your process as a team and as a wider organisation, you will be aware of your learnings and able to share with others so they too can learn from your journey.

Encourage everyone to note their experiences of product thinking specific to projects, highlighting that what might be perceived as a mistake is just as valuable as a ‘good’ outcome.

Want support getting your organisation adopting product thinking?

Organisations of all kinds are investing in their internal product capability – from Big 4 Australian banks through to world-leading universities. Academy Xi helps organisations to level up and align their teams around product skills, frameworks and language. Our product management training program delivers an industry-leading learning experience that can be immediately applied to your organisation, or reach out to our team to discuss how we can support your product capability.