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How a Product Mindset Drives Long-Term Success

By: Harry Blodgett, Rob Purple


Shifting to a people-oriented perspective leads businesses to develop successful and impactful solutions.

With project — and product — management comes a fear of failure; 35 percent of projects end unsuccessfully, often for very preventable reasons. This is because many businesses solely define success in a profit-oriented way instead of a people-centric way. As a result, customers (or end-users) are not a major driving force behind new initiatives when they should be. In fact, 44 percent of projects falter because of a misalignment in business and client vision.

Successful project outcomes require developing impactful solutions and an ownership mentality — it doesn’t just require meeting deadlines at the expense of value. Fortunately, failure can be easily averted by employing a product mindset.

What is a Product Mindset?

Having a product mindset requires thinking like a product manager and applying tried and true approaches and techniques to your problem-solving process. By putting customer needs first, a product mindset involves experimentation designed to expedite value creation. In essence, building a deep understanding of who you are supporting requires reframing success around the customer’s expectations, not a clock nor a budget. 

Here’s how to nurture a product mindset and deliver real value to your customers:

  • Be Inquisitive: The more time you spend asking questions and learning about your audience — who they are, what they do, and what their pain points are — the better equipped you’ll be to deliver relevant products and applicable solutions. Market research, focus groups, and surveys are just a few of the many ways you can demonstrate empathy for and establish a connection with your customers. For valuable insight into the efficacy of a product in development, try inviting customers to design and prototyping sessions. The key is to identify what your customers want and avoid unfounded assumptions.
  • Embrace an Enterprise-Wide Culture of Stewardship: Product and project development should be a continuous journey involving constant piloting and directional provisioning from every single employee in your business. No matter your role, every employee should cultivate leadership skills in order to provide customers with high-quality service throughout every interaction with your business. In doing so, communication remains consistent, driving efficiency as solutions are ideated, tested, and established.
  • Orient Solutions to User Problems: Design thinking empowers leaders to make human-centered decisions by reframing solutions as the result of open collaboration. It involves five steps: empathizing with customers, defining “pain points,” ideating possible approaches, prototyping leading solutions, and testing the final product or service. This process allows leaders to discover and address problems their customers didn’t know they had.
  • Own the Solution: Empowering teams to own the challenge at hand and equipping them with the resources and information they need to solve it nourishes a culture of trust and accountability. When employees are bought-in, they’re more likely to do whatever it takes to tackle complex problems earnestly. SEI’s own work model is based on ownership as each consultant possesses the autonomy and power needed to make the right decisions. In this way, product mindset is universally applied to all customer cases to ensure that value is prioritized every time.
  • Experiment Towards Value: No solution is foolproof without real-life application and testing. Expect to hit a few roadblocks, but use these small bumps as stepping stones to optimize your product or service. Analyzing consequent outcomes and deriving developmental iterations to perfect them makes the difference between a successful project and an unsuccessful one.

Applying a Product Mindset to Research & Development

SEI consultants tackle all problems with an open, user-focused mentality, including non-traditional use cases. 

When a major medical device manufacturer wanted to upgrade their research and development (R&D) process through new technologies like 3D modeling, augmented and virtual reality, computer simulation, and generative design, we applied a product mindset by:

  • Developing a shared understanding of how workplaces function in today’s digital landscape
  • Breaking down silos and pulling together groups to forge a common vision
  • Identifying the right solution for each problem, which often meant utilizing current resources in a novel way
  • Refining ideas through small test groups for speedier development, ideation, and decision-narrowing
  • Constructing a roadmap to link opportunities to value propositions
  • Defining key metrics and integrating a plan to track progress and measure success

Through this method, we helped our client become more data-centric and current in their development practices.

Using a Product Mindset to Streamline Investment Interactions

Role-based objectives can also benefit from a product mindset. When a major financial services firm, in response to a federal regulation, tasked us with facilitating the development of a new experience tied to workplace retirement account distributions, we quickly engaged with all stakeholders to align on requirements.

This information allowed us to craft and maintain a product roadmap and implement a solution that both met the requirements under the regulation while also streamlining these interactions through automation. Further, amidst ongoing client resourcing gaps and leadership transitions, we provided interim ownership to support post-launch scoping, prioritization, and enhancements.

By facilitating a consistent, proactive, and hands-on workstream, we implemented ideas and concepts that exceeded the expectations of our client and their customers.

Deploy a Product Mindset with SEI

SEI consultants aren’t just comfortable thinking outside of the box, it’s where we thrive. As product mindset leaders, we creatively address every obstacle through collaboration and a people-centric lens to make a valuable and lasting contribution to any business.

We put ourselves in our clients’ and customers’ shoes and work together from concept to delivery, quickly resolving obstacles.
Want to learn more about product mindset? Reach out to SEI today.


Harry Blodgett


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Rob Purple


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