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Finding the questions, and not the answers

Many products die because of the lack of conversations in the product team.

I am not a trained coach or teacher but our work involves a lot of education, building the right conversations with the right people for how we should design and ship products for the real goals. So often, it is about identifying the goals, communication, clarity in how we work, and defining some standards or guidelines in the teams for how we all should work together for the common goal.

When we guide or train someone, we want the audience to ask questions.

How coaching helps

In my opinion, the real coaching for the working professionals is very little about the product, or design, or content, or architecture. They can learn the tools or coding practices by the vendors or on tonnes on Youtube videos. Coaching is a lot about self-discovery.

For example, if we have a workshop on how product content strategy helps UX writers, then the participants should can have two different takeaways—A or B.

  • A—Yes, I need to see how the content in the shopping cart aligns with the brand voice and tone. Now, I understand how product content strategists make it possible. I can write the shopping cart and checkout step content more clearly and accurately now.
  • B—Yes, I need to reach out to the product marketers for what they say about the guest login checkout. Do they follow the style guide or the design system for the brand voice? Are they communicating in the way our product guides them in the checkout? I need to ask them and now I am more confident to frame my questions, and the timing of raising these questions.

B is more likely to apply their learnings in their work.

Shreyas Doshi ran a Twitter poll for a possible coaching program.

Later, Emily Patterson tweeted about the Product Sense part in Shreyas’ tweet.

The discussion shows that the audience and the community in general agree that training someone in product means training on many soft skills and inter-personal skills or technology-adjacent skills rather than teaching tech itself.

The goal of any such course is not about how we can design or develop digital products. Why we work in certain ways in general or in specific situations, how we make decisions with others, what drives us, what builds us—this is the core objective of coaching. The takeaways are clarity, awareness, and it should leave us with right questions and leave us prepared to find the answers in our work.

Finding questions in the conferences

I always traveled for the tech conferences to find how people work, how they plan their work, and how the talks build conversations. My takeaways from the conference have always been finding the questions and framing those questions, and not directly seeking the answers to my questions.

Finding questions in team meetings

One of the most important skill that I build in my team, is to ask lot of questions.

Questions in coaching and learning

When I was talking the content design classes for the FH-JOHAEN university students earlier this year, I made sure that I was preparing the students to ask me lot of questions. Sometimes, I would leave a conversation to see if they smell an opportunity to ask something, and sometimes they did. Our discussions were a lot about framing the questions, why it is important to ask questions, and why to keep our minds open for the impact of our work beyond the interface.

We learn by asking questions, and then by trying to find the answers in our work or workflow.

Now it is your chance to ask me any questions. I am on Twitter.

I plan to discuss this topic in my advanced course in product content strategy, content design, and UX Writing. See the course details for how we can find and add more meaning to our work.

Vinish Garg

Vinish Garg

I am Vinish Garg, and I work with growing product teams for their product strategy, product vision, product positioning, product onboarding and UX, and product growth. I work on products for UX and design leadership roles, product content strategy and content design, and for the brand narrative strategy. I offer training via my advanced courses for content strategists, content designers, UX Writers, content-driven UX designers, and for content and design practitioners who want to explore product and system thinking.

Interested to stay informed about my work, talks, writings, programs, or projects? See a few examples of my past newsletters—All things products, Food for designInviting for 8Knorks. You can subscribe to my emails here.

Vinish Garg is an independent consultant in product content strategy, content design leadership, and product management for growing product teams.