Executive Summary:

Avoiding ‘The Build Trap’: The Importance of Prioritizing Outcomes over Outputs: Delivering value is at the heart of every successful organization. However, many businesses fall into the trap of prioritizing output over outcomes, a phenomenon known as the ‘Build Trap.’ In this blog post, we explore why organizations should shift their focus to a Product Thinking Mindset and the detrimental effects the build trap can have on their operations.

The build trap occurs when organizations mistakenly equate success with building and releasing features (outputs) rather than achieving meaningful outcomes. This fixation on quantity over quality can lead to wasted resources, unsatisfied customers, and missed opportunities for growth. Employees may become overwhelmed and demoralized, and the constant churn of features can confuse or frustrate users.

Organizations must redefine their Product Thinking approach and prioritize outcomes to break free from the build trap. This means redirecting efforts towards delivering real value and driving positive customer and business changes.

Organizations can align their efforts with the desired impact by shifting their focus to outcomes. This strategic shift involves asking critical questions such as, “Are we making an impact?”, “Are we creating business value?”  and “Are we creating exceptional customer value.” By doing so, businesses can make more informed decisions, ensure their initiatives deliver meaningful results, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

See our blog post on Product Thinking, Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and User Experience to learn more about practical tools that can be used to avoid the build trap.


Hello, Product Managers, Product Owners, and Organizational Leaders! Today, we’re diving into a concept every product professional should be wary of – ‘The Build Trap’. It’s a place none of us want to be, yet many organizations find themselves ensnared. Below, we’ll unravel the complex web of the build trap and explore why it’s critical to focus on outcomes rather than outputs.

Understanding the ‘Build Trap’ Concept

Derived from Melissa Perri’s insightful book ‘The Build Trap‘, the phrase refers to the common pitfall organizations fall into, where they mistakenly prioritize building and releasing features over achieving beneficial outcomes. In other words, they focus on quantity (outputs) rather than quality (outcomes).

Why do organizations fall into the build trap?

Organizations often equate success with releasing new features or products – a tangible, visible sign of ‘progress.’ However, it’s the classic mistake of mistaking busyness for effectiveness. This mindset often causes organizations to lose sight of what truly matters – delivering value to the customer and the organization.

Effects of the Build Trap on Organizations

The build trap can be a significant form of waste for organizations, contributing to resource misallocation, unsatisfied customers, and missed opportunities. While feature development can indeed lead to improvements, falling into the ‘build more, deliver more’ cycle blindly can overwhelm teams, leading to burnout and lower morale. Furthermore, a feature-heavy product may confuse or frustrate users, leading to a loss of customers and a negative brand perception.

Why The Focus Should Be on Outcomes Over Outputs?

Focusing on outcomes implies prioritizing value delivery over feature delivery. Here, the focus shifts from ‘building stuff’ to ‘achieving results.’ Outcomes might include improved customer excitement, decreased churn, or increased sales- deep-seated objectives that lead to positive changes. By aiming for these potent outcomes, organizations focus on genuinely making a difference and, by extension, achieving business success.

Real-life Example: The Build Trap in the Healthcare Insurance Industry

Consider this: A health insurance company invested heavily in a feature that allows customers to track their fitness activity. This output – the fitness tracking feature – was intended to incentivize users to lead healthier lifestyles, thus lowering claims costs. However, the feature didn’t yield as much engagement as expected nor lead to decreased claim costs.

The company was stuck in the build trap. The focus was primarily on rolling out the feature (output) and not on determining whether the feature influenced customer behavior towards a healthier lifestyle (outcome). Instead, these resources could have been better utilized elsewhere on initiatives more likely to drive desired outcomes.

‘The Build Trap’ is a cautionary tale reminding us to prioritize outcomes over outputs. It encourages us to ask ourselves-

‘Are we merely building stuff, or are we making an impact?’

By focusing on outcomes, organizations can align to purpose, make more effective decisions, and ultimately drive more value. Whether you’re a product manager or an organizational leader – evade the build trap and lead your teams toward impactful outcomes.

Remember these lessons from the health insurance example as you plan your next product or feature. Remember, the goal is not just to produce but to create value- for customers and the organization alike. Do you have any experiences with the ‘build trap’? Share in the comments below!

Contact Us via our bot to learn how one80 can help your organization take full advantage of a Holistic Product Development Mindset.


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