What will they take with them? How building a product is like raising a kid.

Your individual results my vary.

The other day, I had a conversation with Effie Epstein, a VC at Sound Ventures and co-investor of mine in Infinite Objects. I happen to mention that my wife and I are expecting our first child in November. She’s out on maternity leave with her second, so I asked her for tips.

She told me a really great approach that her and her husband have taken. They asked themselves what they wanted their children to take with them from their home—and distilled each idea down to one word. This would be a word that would guide all of the ways they interacted with their kids, especially in the moments where there might not be advice, a best practice or even agreement about what to do.

For them, they chose “independence” and “kindness”.

So, whenever one of their kids was struggling with tying their shoes, for example, they’d let those two guiding words dictate what to do, because those are the things they wanted their kids to learn from their home life.

It actually reminded me a bit of some conversations I’ve had with founders I work with when it comes to building products. We had been discussing various potential features and I suggested that we pull back a moment to talk about something more fundamental.

What did we want our customers experiencing when they used the product?

I don’t really believe there are good features or bad features. Features should be measured against goals. If high engagement is what you want with your customers, then there are features that facilitate that goal and features that don’t.

If trust is what you want your customers taking away from their experience with your product that’s something your product teams can focus on interpreting and measuring against. In order to get everyone on the same page, you have to first establish what you want your customers taking away from their interaction.

Is working with your product suppose to make someone feel like they’ve bought into a much bigger program? Is it supposed to feel light, as if it’s not even there? Is it supposed to make them feel secure? Or educated?

What’s your simple concept that you’re trying to get across?

You need to figure that out to give your product team a clear north star. Interactions, like parenting I imagine, are going to be a bit messy and far from perfect, but if you can just focus on a small number of clear values or attributes of your interactions, be it with your kids or your customers, the moves you should make will come into focus.