Kill your darlings!

I just finished Stephen King’s superb book “On Writing”. For someone who’s not a fan of King’s horror stories I thoroughly enjoyed it and came across this quote:

Kill your darlingskill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

I later found out this is one of the most frequent advice given to writers and I think one that can be 100% applied to product managers as well. First though let’s see what are darlings and why should they be ruthlessly killed?

What King means by “darling” are those storylines, characters, or paragraphs that a writer works hard on and is often most proud of. S/he loves them, to the point that she almost doesn’t care if those bits are clear to readers or not. She loves them, and wants to keep them even if it makes the overall story worse! Dear product manager does this tale sound familiar to you? 🙂

One of the common mistakes we product managers (and product designers) make is getting attached to our darlings. It’s understandable! Coming up with a solution takes creativity, time and energy. When you spent many hours crafting one into a workable requirement doc or a design, it can be really easy to get attached to it!

When you fall in love with your solution if someone gives you a feedback at best you argue your hardest to justify its existence and at worst you get defensive and block the critique even when it can help you. Getting attached to a particular solution will also prevent you from seeing better solutions out there if you tried to tackle the problems from different angles. However the biggest danger of it all is if our solutions only make us happy but fail at the problem-solving then we are failing miserably as product managers!

Therefore it’s imperative that you are willing to “kill your darlings” on your route to find the best possible solution to your user’s problem.

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