Unlocking the Future of Product Sense

Future of Product Sense


Product sense has recently been a hotly debated topic among product managers. But what exactly does it mean to have a strong product sense? That was the aim of this insightful webinar hosted by Mike Belsito, the co-founder of Product Collective and organizer of INDUSTRY The Product Conference, with Praful Chavda, CEO of Chisel, as the guest.

As Mike began,

“I’d love to get right into today’s topic and introduce our guest, the topic product since. And this has been a scorching topic over the last couple of years.

Praful, a seasoned product management leader with over 23 years of experience, shared his insights. His career spans from Microsoft, where he was the head of product in Office 365 and built the Windows Phone app store, to the dynamic world of startups.

With over two decades in the industry working at established companies and startups, Praful was well-positioned to share his expertise in developing products. As the CEO of Chisel – a product management platform, he has also helped many other product leaders hone their skills.

This article is a treasure trove of the key learnings from their enriching discussion on developing a solid, intuitive understanding of products and customers. It delves into best practices, dispels common misconceptions, and explores how product sense may evolve further with emerging technologies.

So, Let’s get started right away.

Defining Product Sense

Mike and Praful plunged into the primary subject matter as the discussion began.

Mike: So maybe we should just start by defining product sense and why it is important for product people to have a good understanding of it.

Praful: Product sense is essential. It is about understanding your customers’ or users’ needs and then building successful products to satisfy them. It’s as simple as that. The bread and butter for a product management job is creating excellent products that users fall in love with.

Critical Elements of Product Sense

While Praful provided a succinct definition of product sense, he went on to explain four key elements that make product sense:

1. Understanding Customers

This involves gathering qualitative and quantitative customer feedback to truly understand customer needs.

2. Domain Knowledge

Knowledge of the domain or market you are operating in, including competitors and barriers.

3. Analytical Skills

Possessing strong analytical problem-solving skills to analyze data and glean insights.

4. Creative Thinking

The ability to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions when regular solutions don’t work to meet conflicting requirements.

According to Praful, these four elements encompass the critical skills and mindset needed for a strong product sense. Mastering each area will help any product manager better satisfy customer needs and build successful products.

When Mike asked about prioritizing different aspects of a business or product and whether they are all equal or if any have more weight, Praful responded:

”In terms of the absolute priority, there isn’t anything more important than the other. It depends on the context, such as the product you are building, the market situation, etc., and one element may become more important. However, I have a favorite: understanding the customers’ needs and behaviors. It indeed is quite critical. Because that can tell you or give you signals about a lot of other elements as well.”

4 Elements Of Product Sense

Developing Product Sense

As the dialogue deepened & we moved forward. The discussion progressed to the development of the product sense.


If you can hone the product sense you’ve developed, What is the best way to do that?

Developing the Four Elements

Praful explained that product sense can be developed by strengthening the four key elements. He suggested going deeper into each aspect through targeted training programs, books, and other resources.

  1. To understand customers, programs exist to hone qualitative interviewing skills and gather quantitative feedback through tools.
  2. Product managers can systematically analyze competitors and the overall market milieu to build domain knowledge.
  3. Analytical problem-solving skills can be grown through the literature on techniques like funnel analysis and root cause analysis.
  4. Creativity can be developed using training focused on thinking outside the box and pattern recognition to explore unconventional solutions.

Continuously strengthening each element individually and encouraging one’s team, a product manager’s product sense will continue to evolve and sharpen over time.

Common Misconceptions

As Mike and Praful’s conversation progressed, the topic of common misconceptions about product sense came up. Praful said that, after years of talking to different product managers and understanding product sense better, he has realized that some commonly held beliefs don’t quite resonate with him. Let’s explore some of those misconceptions.

One misconception Praful mentioned is that.

  1. You are born with product sense, and it can’t be developed through learning and practice. He says- I’m afraid I disagree with this notion as I believe any product management skill, including good product sense, can be trained and developed over time. Like developing expertise in listening to customers thoroughly, using various qualitative and quantitative feedback tools, delving deep into the domain trends, and honing problem-solving and analytical skills, all contribute to nurturing good product sense. It is not an inherent capability but something that can evolve by putting focused efforts in the right areas.
  2. Another misplaced belief, according to Praful, is overemphasizing creativity alone in building product sense. He highlighted that-  ”I have found solid analytical abilities to decode patterns from vast customer data equally important. Often, data tells the story by itself, and one need not develop creative solutions. A balanced mix of analytical rigor and out-of-the-box thinking makes a product manager genuinely effective.”
  3. The conversation also highlighted that years of experience in a domain alone should not determine one’s understanding and ability regarding that domain. While experience matters, what contributes more is actual knowledge gained about customers, industry developments, pain points, and perspectives over time. A product manager who sincerely tries to become well-versed in various aspects of a domain through diverse research approaches in a short period can build expertise similar to that of someone with significantly longer years of association.

Overall, the discussion helped bust many commonly held but limiting views around product sense. As highlighted in the end, the most important thing is for product managers to have an unbiased, balanced, and objective synthesis of information from all relevant dimensions to chart the most sensible path for customers.

The conversation also went on as Praful debunked a few myths.

Applying Product Sense

As we moved forward in the webinar, Given Praful’s experience as a product leader at Chisel,

Mike asked him-

How do you leverage your understanding of product sense in your role as CEO at Chisel?

Praful mentioned that, at its core, like any other company, Chisel aims to build products that truly meet customers’ needs and help them succeed. This involves profoundly understanding user feedback, prioritizing accordingly, and ensuring continuous improvement through iterative releases.

However, he highlighted a unique aspect since Chisel caters to product managers. The platform itself can influence how PMs nurture their own product sense. Features like advanced feedback collection tools, customer portals, idea synthesis, and PRD generation aid customers in gaining closer insights from users. As a PM utilizes these instruments, it also rubs off on enhancing their expertise over time. Praful explained that Chisel focuses on equipping PMs with the means to strengthen core skills like qualitative research and quantitative analysis that directly feed into having exemplary product sense.

Regarding risk management and critical decision-making, Praful spoke about how intuitions play a more significant role in the early stages due to the need for internal product usage data and metrics. The onus is then on correlating available market and competitive intelligence. Making data-backed calls becomes more prudent to avoid biases as a product matures with live customer feedback. Similarly, time emerges as the top risk that needs mitigation through faster experimentation and learning cycles.

Here, Praful eloquently explained how Chisel facilitates other PMs’ professional development by providing the right tools. This aligns with his philosophy of continually honing different elements of excellent product sense through practical application and experience over time.

Developing Team’s Product Sense

As we peeled through the various layers of the topic, Mike took the discussion to a team-level

Mike: Many people want to get better and hone their craft. They want a better product sense to develop for themselves and their team. It could be a two-part question. How do you do this for yourself? And also, for on teams, whether we’re leading those teams or not, how do we help the rest of the people we’re working with hone their product sense as well?

Praful stressed that both goals are deeply interlinked. He quoted-“Whatever they are doing for themselves, they can also encourage and evangelize within their own teams.” As the leader, focusing on developing one’s individual skills sets the right example and mindset for others to follow.

He further suggested breaking down the elements of product sense—understanding customer needs, domain knowledge, analytical problem-solving abilities and creative thinking into specific trainable areas. For each, he said “there are really good training programs or books available” that PMs can refer to. Some examples include qualitative research techniques, usability studies, analytics tools for insights.

A key responsibility of the product leader is to “encourage and evangelize” these best practices among their team members.

Praful recommended

Take each of them and go deeper, take each of them and train yourself.” That training can then be shared via internal workshops, mentoring sessions, or platforms for discussing learning.

Lastly, giving opportunities to demonstrate skill-building in action through work: “Whenever I think the idea really is to seek and latch on to the opportunity. Which allows you to demonstrate…” This could include showcasing market research, showcasing data storytelling during product reviews”

In summary, the leader catalyzes others’ growth by first expanding their individual horizons. Their influence then propagates intangible yet highly impactful assets like mentality, collaboration, and a culture of continuous enhancement of product mindset across the team.

Future of Product Sense

As we reached the end of the insightful session, Mike and Praful discussed AI and tools’ pivotal role in enhancing product sense alongside the critical balance between data-driven insights and human judgement.

Role of AI and Tools in Enhancing Abilities

Mike asks: let’s talk about the future of product sense. With all the advancements in technology, particularly AI and various tools available, how do you see the landscape changing?

Praful emphasized the exciting potential of AI and machine learning in shaping the future of product sense. He highlighted that- ”these technologies provide previously unimaginable insights; AI can analyze vast amounts of data much faster than any human could, identifying patterns and trends that might be impossible for us to see.” This capability allows product managers to better understand their customers and their needs.

However, Praful also pointed out that while AI and tools are powerful, they should aid human judgement rather than replace it. He explained, “The data and insights they provide are only as good as the questions we ask and the context we provide.”

While AI can process and present data, interpreting and acting on that data effectively requires a human touch.

Focus on Judgment vs. Just Data Collection

Mike asked the burning question about the potential risk of over-relying on AI and tools at the expense of human judgment. Praful agreed, stressing that product sense is fundamentally about understanding people and how they think, feel, and behave, necessitating empathy and intuition that AI cannot replicate. He stated, “At the end of the day, product sense is about understanding people. And that requires empathy and intuition, which AI cannot replicate.”

The conversation underscored the importance of balancing data collection and human judgment. AI can identify what features are most used or where users are dropping off in a process, but understanding the “why” and deciding on actionable steps often require human insight. Praful articulated this balance well: “We need to use our judgment to make sense of the data, to ask the right questions, and to make decisions that align with our product vision and customer needs.”

Mike and Praful also discussed the necessity of training and educating product managers to effectively use these tools while developing their soft skills. Praful highlighted, “Product managers need to be comfortable with data and familiar with the tools available. But they must also develop soft skills like empathy, creativity, and strategic thinking.”

In the end, Praful and Mike’s conversation led to a clear conclusion: the future of product sense lies in the synergy between technology and human judgement. As Mike aptly summarized,

 “The synergy between technology and human judgment will define the future of product sense.”


And that’s how the webinar came to an end, indeed a profound and meaningful perspective.

Let’s quickly recap critical learnings, Shall we?

Mike’s webinar with Praful provided unparalleled insights into developing a strong product sense. Some key learnings included:

  • Product sense encompasses four main elements: understanding customers, domain knowledge, analytical skills, and creative thinking. All of these can be strengthened over time through focused training and practice.
  • Common misconceptions, such as product sense being inherent rather than learnable, were debunked. Experience alone does not equate to expertise; knowledge must be actively gained.
  • As a leader, developing one’s own skills sets an example for others. Best practices can then be shared through internal workshops, mentoring, and showcasing learning opportunities.
  • AI and tools have immense potential to enhance abilities by analyzing vast amounts of data. However, human judgement is still needed to interpret insights appropriately and make decisions aligned with customer needs.
  • The future lies in leveraging technology and the soft skills of empathy, intuition, and strategic thinking. Product managers must be comfortable with data while balancing it with human perspectives.
webinar key takeaways

If you would like to continue honing your product sense, be sure to connect with Praful on LinkedIn. The Chisel website has many helpful resources regarding product management best practices. Praful’s insights provided a comprehensive framework for continuously sharpening this critical skill.

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