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What Goal Setting and Squid Rigging Have in Common

Carly Freeman Thompson
November 8, 2021

I was inked on by a squid last summer, and it was a huge accomplishment. Finding myself in the splash zone took perseverance, preparation, and perhaps a bit of luck. I discovered that this achievement required many of the same ingredients needed for success in work, life, and specifically, the digital product world.


A few summers ago, I went down to Falmouth Town Landing in Maine, where my family is from. One particular evening I struck up a conversation with someone who was fishing for squid. Feeling inspired and eager to learn something new, I went out to catch my own squid the very next night.


I soon learned that squid are incredibly picky, and this would not be easy. Despite hours of research, countless Google searches, and YouTube videos, I still had not caught a squid in the four summers I had been dropping my line in at Town Landing. It was increasingly frustrating as I continued to see people fishing around me and filling their buckets with squid.


With unwavering tenacity, some advice from my cousin (and her squid-fishing friends), and a little bit of luck, I FINALLY caught my squid. The single squid was just enough to give us a few bites; however, I can assure you it was the best calamari I have ever tasted.

The first catch


Essential mentalities for achieving goals

It may be a silly anecdote, but many of the mentalities for goal setting in squid rigging are not unlike those in product management. I've found that these principles ring true in my day-to-day work.


Achieving goals can take (a lot of) time – it's ok, be patient! 

Delivering a valuable product or feature requires understanding our users' wants, needs, and struggles. Obtaining this important insight takes intentionality, research, validation, and time. Patience and determination are critical as these processes don’t happen overnight and require collaboration with product teams, stakeholders, and users.

The consequences of failing to obtain and understand this insight may result in unused or improper features, squandered resources, and unsatisfied users. One of the key findings from Pendo & Product Collective’s The State of Product Leadership (2020) found that “product usage and feature adoption are now the north star measures of product success.”   


Goals may be more complicated than they seem (just because you can see hundreds of squid doesn't mean they like your bait) 

There may be an immeasurable number of opportunities, paths, and potential features with any given product. We must ensure that we evaluate each opportunity in conjunction with the insight we gain into the desires of our users. 

The State of Product Leadership (2020) showed that product leaders reported the largest sources of their best ideas to be customer feedback and product team brainstorming. User testing, perhaps similarly to experimentation with different bait, should inform our processes and strengthen our confidence in the features and products we deliver. Prior to creating a new product or feature, user interviews can help paint a picture of the users’ current processes for the need(s) you are trying to meet. 


Prepare, do your research, and ask others for advice

My initial attempts may have been more productive with more upfront research (party glow sticks float and cannot replace glowing lures). We must collaborate and keep an open mind as we prepare for the execution of our goals, product launches, etc.

By leaning into resources and the perspectives of others, we enable ourselves and our teams to collectively anticipate potential roadblocks and forks in our path that may arise. Thorough research will also allow us to present stakeholders with concise options for decisions or solutions to problems that inevitably surface along the product journey.

Wrap up

Much like reeling in the elusive squid, delivering valuable products and features requires preparation, perseverance, and adaptability. We must be intentional in all of these aspects to avoid frivolous expenditures of resources and maintain users’ trust to deliver valuable products and features. After all, in the words of comedian, writer, and actor, Steven Wright...

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.”

Header image credit to Raghavendra Saralaya

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