by | Oct 29, 2021 | Business & Product, CROP | 0 comments

One of the five P’s in the Profit (or Pivot) optimization phase of CROP is perspective. Do we have the right perspective on the situation? Our perspective is our view on a situation, and it gives us a framework for interpretation and decision-making. It transfers bias based on our beliefs and experiences. We can change those, but it’s hard.

I grew up in the military, but my family has a ranch in the country which we would visit often. One day I was riding in the truck with my rural cousins near their property and suddenly there was a cow in the narrow highway. “OMG there’s a cow in the road!” I said. At the same time, my cousin said “Oh man there’s a hole in the fence.” We were looking at the exact same situation but had two entirely different perspectives on it. My interpretation of the situation came from my expectation that roads I drive on should not contain cows. My cousin’s interpretation of the situation came from his experience that fences should withstand cows.

When optimizing for profit, it’s important to keep perspective in mind. If you’re not profiting, there’s something wrong. Is it your perspective on the problem? If you were to take a look at the problem from another angle, what would you see? What looks like a cow in the road might more accurately be diagnosed as a hole in the fence. What are we really solving for? Is it a cow that needs to be re-homed, or is it a fence that needs rebuilding? Perhaps both? What’s more important; which should be done first?

When solving for customer pains, what are our assumptions? What is our paradigm for interpreting the data? When we developed our hypothesis for the marketing mix, what was our paradigm and are we seeing this paradigm validated or is something missing the mark? Are we measuring the efficiency/re-homing rate of cows or should we actually be measuring the strength of fences?

It can be very difficult to step outside our current paradigm to see things from a different perspective. But there are some tools I’ve found (and used) that can help evaluate and improve products and profitability by changing perspective, so I’ll share my thoughts here with the huge caveat that this is by no means a scholarly essay in psychology. It’s just some stuff I’ve experienced myself.

Creativity & Discomfort

One tool…and frankly a key to successfully evaluating your product and/or business from a different perspective…is creativity. Because our paradigm is built on our experiences, it comes from what we know. To create a different paradigm we must draw on the unknown. And that’s very creative.

There are some things you can imagine. You can imagine yourself being a different age, speaking a different language and/or coming from Mars and knowing literally nothing about this thing you are seeing/doing. You can imagine yourself in your customers’ shoes, but it can be quite difficult to actually *think* like them, so one bridge to creativity is to intentionally put yourself in uncomfortable places. Where would you never usually go? What would you never usually do? What causes you discomfort? By giving yourself new situations and intentionally finding those uncomfortable moments you unlock parts of your brain and open your mind to new ways of thinking. You can then bring those experiences back to your “thinking time” and use them as a springboard to find new ways of considering problems and change your perspective.

Stakeholder interviews and the invisible players

Conversations with your stakeholders should be a key part of your status quo. You will constantly be getting feedback from customers in one form or another. To understand their perspective, it’s essential to really listen to them, to have open dialog with them and seek to understand their motivations and paradigm. In Lean Customer Development, there’s a list of suggested questions for discovering product market fit. I absolutely love and highly recommend this list but my favorite question of all is the magic wand question: “If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about [x] what would you change?” Here’s where you open the conversation up to the other person and let their creativity with follow up questions like “If nothing was impossible, what would you do/how would you do this?” Listening to people can spur your own creativity and help you see things you might never have considered.

Customers as stakeholders

As part of your product/business discovery conversations hopefully you were asking open-ended questions like “Tell me about the last time you encountered this problem. What did you do? What was the most difficult part of that?” And now in the profitability analysis stage you can get more specific and ask questions like “Tell me about the last time you used [my product/service]. What was the most difficult part of that? If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about my business, what would it be?” And you can broaden the conversation from there. Understand their daily lives. Are you reaching them at the right time and place, in the right way? For instance if your target market is young mothers, and you’re offering an app for them to use, can they use speech recognition to navigate and/or otherwise take advantage your “solution” when they have a child in one arm and a frying pan in the other? Think about things from that mom’s perspective. Are you really solving problems for her in the right way and/or right time at the right value? What percentage of your users are colorblind, sight-impaired, or otherwise face challenges in using your product?

Spending time with real users can give you a whole new perspective on things.

Team and suppliers as stakeholders

I’ve mentioned I’m a huge fan of cross-training within teams not because you expect other people to actually be able to pick up and do the thing on a daily basis, but because it gives new empathy, vocabulary, and mental patterns for communication. We tend to think of stakeholders as the people we work with on a daily basis. But really considering problems from different perspectives requires us to broaden our thinking of what is a stakeholder. Especially when it comes to optimizing profit, or making a decision to pivot, we should include suppliers and the entire supply/value chain in our list of stakeholders. What do they see here? What’s going well and what’s not? If they could wave a magic wand and change anything about our current operations, what would they change?

Seeing the situation from their point of view can give us a foundation for communicating to identify opportunities to refine things to fine tune our people, process, problems, and priorities.

Invisible stakeholders

And now it’s time to ask “Who isn’t here? Who am I not thinking of? Who is not buying this product; which are our under-performing segments?” By seeing who isn’t showing up in the customers, team, and supplier conversations, we start to see the shape of invisible stakeholders: the people who we thought might be served, but in reality aren’t. Which customers churned out? What deals did we lose? What’s their perspective? By having open-ended conversations with invisible stakeholders we start to see the edges of the unknown unknowns and get a better grasp on what would make the business more profitable and/or opportunities to pivot.


Honest debate within teams is critical; forced debate can be fun and eye-opening. To help see things from a different perspective, force yourself to take the completely opposite stance from your own opinion. Then debate from this opposing point of view with every intent to “win.” Think through your arguments deeply; find statistics and other research supporting this point of view and bring it to bear with the conviction that this is THE ONE AND ONLY point of view and it’s up to you to save the world with it. By investing such vigor and effort into an opposing point of view, you’ll see things in a new light. You may or may not decide to permanently adopt this opposing point of view, and whether you do or don’t end up adopting this different perspective is irrelevant: the important thing was researching, articulating, and advocating it. This process opened your mind to an alternate paradigm and allowed your brain to process different possibilities.

Changing perspectives is not easy, and can’t be done in isolation. But going through the effort, and considering different perspectives will highlight opportunities to improve profitability and/or areas you may want to pivot. Maybe we need to be looking at solutions for the cow; maybe we should be looking at solutions for the fence. Either way, by considering the situation from different points of view we’ll see things that might not have been obvious to begin with.


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