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Product Thinking Quick Hits: Explaining Hunch Maturity

Alessio Symons

Alessio Symons

August 25, 2021

The fundamental difference between a hunch and a guess is experience. A guess is blind and random, while a hunch is an untested hypothesis based on previously observed themes and patterns.

In product development, a hunch is usually the starting point. Although it’s possible to come up with the next big product in an artificial setting, our experience (or hunch) tells us that beginning with a hunch—an idea of the problem you’re trying to solve, a gap in the market, or an emerging space to explore—is crucial for refining and prioritizing your team’s efforts. In essence, this boils product development down to the concept of hunch maturity.

Hunch maturity is our way of describing how a hunch moves through the product development process. A hunch may begin as little more than the essence of an idea, so the first job of the team is to discover whether this hunch is misplaced, has a grain of truth, or contains an early version of the final product. In the discovery phase, the team’s chief role is to explore the possibilities, to mature the hunch into a clear idea, concept, insight, or roadmap that leads to the next phase.

In the delivery phase, the team continually evolves and adapts the hunch to fit the discovered insights about the customer and the technology. In this phase, the team members continue to explore but also take on the role of experimenters. From high-fidelity prototypes and early builds to the minimum viable product, the team should be experimenting with ways to bring this increasingly mature hunch to life as a market-ready product. 

By the time a tiny hunch is available to customers, it is likely to have evolved, morphed, and changed beyond recognition, yet that initial hunch is the first jolt of energy that began the whole process. Great product leaders give experimenters and explorers space to test their hunches, because somewhere in that space the next little hunch is waiting to become the next big product.

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