What the Chernobyl Disaster Can Teach Us About Building a Great Product

by Sean Boyce
overconfidence trap chernobyl

Less than two months before the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the Ukrainian Minister of Power proclaimed that odds of such an event happening were 1 in 10,000.  Experts believed that such an event wasn’t possible. Clearly they were wrong.  

To build a successful product business, you must become an expert in all things industry related.  The catch is that the more we learn, the harder it becomes to change our views.  

Have you ever wondered about any of the following?

  • I’ve got the perfect idea for a product business.
  • Once my product is built, it’s going to fly off the shelves.
  • How am I going to keep up with the demand for my product?

These feelings are a problem of overconfidence.  They affect every product business owner.  

Overconfidence when building a product business impairs our judgement.  We begin to think five to ten steps ahead of where we are currently instead of where we should – step number one.  

Adding to the problem, is the fact that much of the material you will find on the web will just tell you to keep going.  If what you’re doing isn’t working, then it’s not a problem of strategy, it’s simply a problem of determination. Every entrepreneur has heard it a million times – you’re just not working hard enough.  

However, if the signs are all pointing to something else then you’re not crazy, but you are experiencing a different problem.  

The good news is this problem can be identified and addressed.  What is bothering you is also what led to the Chernobyl disaster and it’s called the confidence trap.

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The confidence trap makes difficult decisions very challenging.  The difficulty is even greater for those of us that have become experts.  

So now that we’ve identified it, what we can do to avoid it?

Constantly remind yourself – we are experimenting

Every decision we make regarding our product business is largely a guess.  These guesses are not based on nothing, but they are still guesses. All of them need to be validated through data and the experience of our customers.  The best product business owners are constantly aware of this and use it to their advantage. 

Everything is subject to change

You didn’t get into building something new for the predictable nature of the business.  You are drawn to making great progress and with any great progress comes plenty of change.  As a product business owner we need to figure out the right product for the right market and all at the right time.  Expect that many of your initial strategies will change over time. Just be prepared to update them when and where necessary for the right reasons.  

You will never be done gathering data

The more data you have, the better.  Collect as much as possible all the time.  Get into a routine of regularly reviewing it.  Over time you will become more efficient at processing it, but never skip this step.  Most product companies lack valuable customer insight. If you’ve not talking to your customer then how do you have any idea as to whether or not your product is working for them?  Make it a routine and stick with it.  

Want to know more about avoiding the overconfidence trap for your product business?  Let’s talk it through, email me at sean@nxtstep.io or visit us on the web at NxtStep.

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