Lessons learned from applying our approach

Many product builders are attracted to start-ups due to the fast pace of decision-making and execution, and the ownership of the product and the associated business results. Product thinking is a unified, end-to-end product development approach that combines key disciplines, mental models and methodologies to build better products that delight users and drive commercial impact. Many start-ups have product thinking in their DNA, but often in large organizations, the people closest to the users are removed from the critical decision-making processes because they do not own the value proposition. 

Through our work with dozens of large enterprises in financial services, automotive and social media, among others, we have discovered common patterns in applying the product thinking approach in these firms. Our partners in these large companies have been successful in championing product thinking even when facing typical barriers, such as

In this piece, we will share our key learnings from demonstrating the value of product thinking in large organizations, framed through the three core principles of the approach.

Unification: Product development teams unify as peers before the product.

Large organizations often have large and complex organizational structures and rigid processes, which can make it difficult to instill a sense of collaboration in a cross-disciplinary product team. 

The following can present hurdles in large organizations:

What you can do:

Example: One of our large enterprise clients envisioned the development of a unifying platform that would enable their internal teams to take advantage of large quantities of data in order to make product predictions. The team members knew each other but had very different priorities. Connected’s product thinking workshop helped the client align on the product goals and gave the team a direction that would continue to serve as the product’s ‘north star’.

Non-Linear Progress: The team’s job is to capture, shape and deliver continual progress for both the user and the business.

Product discovery is not about Google searches and PowerPoints; it is about making progress towards potentially investing in delivering a product to the market. It eliminates waste by shaping ideas, identifying risks, testing hypotheses, prototyping concepts and quickly learning whether to keep or kill a product concept. 

The following can present hurdles in large organizations:

What you can do:

Example: In one of our large delivery projects, the client team was eager to see product progress even before the product goals were fully established and agreed upon. We worked with the client to understand their concerns in order to build a communication and demo plan. After we demonstrated a high-fidelity UI and showed incremental progress on the code, it became easier for the client to see the value of the product development process, including discovery. 

Living Systems: Software-powered products are living organisms that exist within complex ecosystems.

The following can present hurdles in large organizations:

What you can do:

Example: In a project for a social media giant, we had worked from initial ideation through to the launch of their first software-powered hardware product. The product was designed for user needs, desires and tasks, but as with all other tools, the real-world usage of the product opened up new possibilities. After the launch, we worked with their team to evolve one of the product features. Our continuous discovery practice was applied to hear user stories and derive insights that were then applied to ongoing feature updates.


In the ideal application of the product thinking approach, the distinction between each of the principles—unification, non-linear progress and living systems—is small. Each has its own place, but as products are built, they mesh, dovetail and bleed into one another. Although large enterprises present unique challenges for product teams, including those related to collaboration, product discovery and complex requirements, you can work at the speed of a start-up while leveraging the benefits of your firm size. In our experience, product thinking is the key that unlocks speed and scale, keeping everyone focused on the most crucial metric: product impact.