Reminds me of something I learned from doing art. I've often said, "People think I'm a great photographer. Really, I'm a great editor." I only allow the world to see 2-3% of my output. Working with less experienced subjects, they'd often want several versions of the same basic shot, because I took several good ones. Me, I only want the best version to see the light of day.
It seems that people are afraid to "throw away" work, which means they hold on to things they've built (even when they shouldn't) just because they've invested time in them.
But the throwing-away of work is crucial to building something lasting, similar to editing the photos you show to the world. At the very minimum you gain a better understanding of the problem. The thing you keep probably wouldn't be as good without having done the throw-away work.
This also kinda reminds me of the Picasso Principle :
The famous Pablo Picasso was at a party. A woman
recognized him and approached the Master. She asked,
“Will you create a sketch for me?” Picasso agreed,
and, as he pulled out his sketchpad, asked her for a
subject. “A bird in a tree will do,” she responded.
So Picasso spent about a five minutes doing what
Picasso does on the sketchpad. Finished, he ripped the
sketch off the pad, handed it to the woman and said,
“That will be $10,000.” The woman was floored. “Ten
thousand dollars! Why, it only took you five minutes to
draw that sketch!” To which, Picasso replied, “No,
madam. That sketch took me a lifetime.”
Reminds of a joke about a mechanic who charged $500 for hitting something with a hammer. When the customer grumbled, he said he wasn't charging $500 for the blow, but rather for knowing where to hit it.
You'd better maximize your listening skills before hurrying to sharpen your 'saying No' skills. Half the time I've heard people say "our problem is we can't say No", it was simply a rescue blanket for their pride because they couldn't/wouldn't face the real problem.
Reading this, as I prepare my list for tomorrow's product management meeting, having to decide our product's next ~6 months development priorities. Around 100 feature requests and our team's ideas we have to order, of which may be up to 5 major ones and/or 20-30 small ones can be actually developed. An easy task? Definitely not.
So it's a good question, when is it time to say yes?
It definitely depends on the product's stage and having reached or not reached a good product/market fit. There's also the question, have you already discovered a local maxima or is it a global one? And there's a mix of product owner's gut feeling and long-term vision vs proved market feedback.
This post brought into my attention Intercom, which seems like a great product, which perhaps was and is still built with that "The Art of Saying No" philosophy, and which can help you communicate with your users and say yes or no to their requests.
It is important to view your product from a holistic/macro perspective. With all the various metric tracking available it's easy to derail your product's focus by optimizing features rather than the product.
If the product in question is an application or Web service with well defined purpose/workflow, then I agree.
If the product is something like an operating system then I disagree. Visualise different users needs as a series of overlapping circles in a Venn diagram. OPs approach would result in truncating the Venn diagram at the intersection, thus satisfying nobody.
Product posts are always fun here. This "no" strategy is awesome, but only works if you've got support from the C suite. If not, you have sales goals and whoever runs sales will always convince people that they can get more sales with "feature X", which is of course almost always just deflecting responsibility (and is sometimes true for large features that open up new markets).
Every vision is flawed, because we are fallible. The question is what we do about that. Do we keep the product nailed to the flawed vision until the last user has gone elsewhere, or do we use feedback from reality, from users telling us what they need, to improve the vision?