Our director shared three mental models with me I wanted to pass on.
In August, for annual planning I was researching a part of our product I didn't know much about. I happened to have a 1:1 with our director and asked her for pointers.
We talked it over and she effectively asked me:
Is this a situation where there's a simple answer, with few assumptions, you might be able to accept and move on?
Or is it a situation you have to research from all angles and interview a dozen customers and read all the latest market research to know what's up?
In other words, is this a situation where you can apply Occam's razor, or is it a situation where you need to boil the ocean?
Huh. I had totally been trying to boil the ocean to find the answer, but there was a simple answer available, without many assumptions.
Sometimes you don't need to boil the ocean. Sometimes you can accept the simplest answer and move on. Though there are gotchas with Occam's razor we should watch out for.
She gave me another tip too - to reduce uncertainty by scrappily getting five data points. She pointed out that it's very likely that you capture the median of the population in the range represented by the five data points - aka the Rule of Five.
I ended up getting five data points through a combination of desktop research and asking our CSMs, UXR, and other PMs, and that helped cut down the uncertainty of what I was working on.
I'm now keeping Occam's razor, boiling the ocean, and the Rule of 5 in mind when making decisions.
p.s. ok tbh I used these mental models rather loosely, let's read the following to make sure we're using these right 😅