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The Everyday Innovator Podcast for Product Managers
33 minutes | 12 hours ago
TEI 331: Everyday innovator obsessions – with Josh Linkner
Principles product managers can use to guide creativity and innovation The name of this podcast is changing to Product Mastery Now, to better reflect our purpose of helping product managers becoming product masters, gaining practical knowledge, influence and confidence so you’ll create products customers love. In this episode we discuss the obsessions of everyday innovators, as that is the language our guest uses to describe mindsets and actions that make us better innovators. You already know why this is important—because better innovators and product managers are more likely to create products customers love. Our guest knows a lot about this as he is the founder and CEO of five tech companies and a frequent keynote speaker. Interestingly, he started his career as a jazz guitarist. His name is Josh Linkner. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [1:59] What was it like to transition from a professional jazz guitarist to a founder of five tech companies? Surprisingly, there are many similarities between jazz and business. Both are about improvising and course-correcting when you inevitably screw up; they’re both messy, fluid, and creative. Jazz requires skills like passing the baton of leadership, taking responsible risks, and tinkering. Both jazz and innovation are about collaboration and co-creation. [5:48] From your book, what are the “obsessions of everyday innovators”? In my research for the book, interviewing amazing creators of all types, I found several common mindsets or obsessions of innovators. We can all apply these principles toward the outcomes that matter most to us, whether in business, our families, or our communities. Let’s dive into some of the obsessions of everyday innovators. [7:06] Fall in love with the problem. Fall in love with the problem more than a specific solution. Be willing to adapt, and study the problem from all different angles so you can solve it in the best possible way. [8:38] Don’t forget the dinner mint. Find a way to add delight with no more than 5% extra creative juice. Think about when you go to a nice restaurant and they give you a special treat compliments of the chef. That small surprise totally transforms your experience. When you’re creating a product, add a little extra something to take it to a whole different level. For example, a restaurant in New York City called Eleven Madison Park has a team of employees called Dream Weavers whose job is to add extra delight. A family with young children was visiting, and a server overheard that it was their first time to see snow. The Dream Weavers arranged for the family to be escorted out to a limousine, presented with brand new sleds, and whisked off to Central Park for an evening of sledding. It might sound crazy, but that family will never forget that night. Eleven Madison Park follows the 95/5 Doctrine; they spend 95% of their resources, time, money, and energy being super efficient and disciplined so they can spend 5% of their time “foolishly,” but it’s not really foolish at all because providing those extra special “dinner mints” is part of their strategy and a key driver of their incredible success in a crowded space. [13:27] Start before you’re ready. Too often, opportunities are out there, but we wait too long. When we wait for certainty, we can lose the opportunity altogether. Don’t wait for a bulletproof game plane. Just get going. It will be messy, and your first iterations will be sloppy and ineffective, but you’re going to learn quickly and course-correct. Suppose you and I both have an idea, and you test it for six months in the lab until it’s perfect, while I get going today. My first version is going to stink, but I have six months to catch up, pivot, adapt, learn, and grow. By the time you take your first shot, I’m way ahead of you. Meanwhile, the opportunity might shift and you might miss it altogether. It’s better to start quick and sloppy than to wait for perfection. [17:17] Open a test kitchen. Embrace rapid experimentation. Some people think innovation is about creating a once-in-a-lifetime perfect idea, but that’s not how it works. It’s much more effective, efficient, and less costly to use constant rapid experimentation. Shake Shack, a restaurant in New York City, has an innovation kitchen underneath one of their stores where they test new recipes, get feedback from their customers, and experiment with shaving time off their processes. They constantly experiment not only with their product but also with their processes, marketing and technology. Even if you don’t have a physical test kitchen or innovation lab, you can still be testing. The test kitchen principle is about a mindset of constant experimentation. There are a couple of ways to test: First, is the farmer’s market model—you look around at all your options and start experimenting, just like you might pick up some ingredients at the farmers’ market and then decide what to make for dinner. The other model is like a cooking show where the contestants have to use a bunch of weird ingredients. Sometimes you don’t have all the resources you would like, but constraints fuel innovation. [21:01] Use every drop of toothpaste. Be effective with the resources you have rather than bemoaning the ones you lack. When I was studying music in college, a professor made me take one, two, or three strings off my guitar. Surprisingly, when I could no longer rely on the patterns I knew, I was forced to problem solve and my creativity skyrocketed. We think we need more resources to be innovative, but the opposite is often true—constraints can be a catalyst for creativity. [22:32] Reach for weird. We tend to reach for the tried and true when we’re making decisions, but I challenge you to reach for “Option X,” the bizarre, unexpected approach that an make all the difference in the world. For example, a village in Iceland was experiencing a high incidence of motorcycle accidents involving pedestrians. The obvious solutions were to install more traffic lights, have more police officers on duty, or issue more fines. Instead, they reached for weird and painted the crosswalks with an optical illusion that looked like slabs of concrete floating in the air. This reduced traffic incidents dramatically at very low cost. Another example solved the problem of which bananas to buy. If you buy yellow bananas, they’ll be brown and mushy in a few days, but if you buy green bananas you’ll have to wait a week for a perfect banana. A company in Korea reached for weird and sells their bananas in packages of seven, each at a different ripeness; as the bananas continue to ripen, you get a perfect banana each day of the week. They sell the same bananas, but their approach allows them to sell more bananas at a higher price. As another example, the children’s hospital at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to create a better experience for their patients, so they had their window washers dress up as superheroes. Kids look forward to seeing them and it takes their attention away from the medical care. [26:44] Fall seven times, stand eight. It’s unfortunate that most of us have been taught that failure is fatal. It’s important that we celebrate and understand the role failure plays in the creative, innovative process. You can’t have innovation unless you’re willing to have some failures, and if you don’t have failures, you’re not pushing the boundaries enough. The principle of fall seven times, stand eight is not just dogged persistence—it’s about understanding that you will hit obstacles and learning from them so you can adapt and go forward. There’s a museum in Sweden called the Museum of Failure that celebrates failure, displaying products like meat-flavored water for pets and a urinal disguised as a golf club. When we hear about products like these, we have compassion for their inventors and think, “Good for them for trying.” Why don’t we give ourselves the same compassion and permission to screw up? Let’s fall seven times, learn, grow, adapt, and stand up. Action Guide: Put the information Josh shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Josh’s book at BigLittleBreakthroughs.com Learn about Josh’s work and get free resources at JoshLinkner.com Connect with Josh on LinkedIn or Twitter Innovation Quotes “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” – General Eric Shinseki “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
33 minutes | 8 days ago
TEI 330: The coming work paradigm shift – with Matt Coatney
How product managers can prepare for success in a rapidly shifting work environment This podcast will soon be known as Product Mastery Now. The name is changing, but the purpose is the same—helping product leaders and managers become product masters, gaining practical knowledge, influence, and confidence so you’ll create products customers love. The future of work is changing for many people. We saw some changes accelerate as a result of the pandemic, and others have already been in motion. The changes will impact product managers and innovators. Our guest, Matt Coatney, has studied the future of work as it is also related to his interests in the future of AI, automation, and other applications of technology. Matt has 25 years of experience bringing advanced technology products to market in a variety of industries and for some of the largest global organizations, including Microsoft, IBM, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer, Deloitte, and HP. Use this discussion to help you consider how your work will change in the near future. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [3:56] What is broken about work? As technology has evolved, it has made work easier, decreasing friction, but there’s a disconnect between changing technology and traditional corporations. Changes in technology are disrupting industries and, more importantly, changing the way we work, but large corporations are not set up to accommodate a world where technology is changing quickly. There’s a growing rift between management and employees. Engagement is at an all-time low, and job loyalty is not what it used to be. All these are symptoms that the underlying culture and systems need to be modernized for the world of the 21st century. Many people love their job but despise the environment. We see a lot of people loving project work, but the rest of their organization isn’t in a project-based mindset. [8:21] Your new book is titled The Human Cloud. What is the human cloud? The Human Cloud encapsulates the new world of work. In the book, we discuss two main themes and how they impact the way we work: the freelance economy and shift to project-based work artificial intelligence and how technology is creeping into every part of our life The Human Cloud is a visualization of a global cloud of people and devices that are all connected to accomplish an end. The cloud includes human and digital resources that you can tap into to do outsourced work. In the past, freelance work and AI were low-value, but now top-notch professionals are choosing careers of freelance work, and there are new capabilities that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago. People are becoming more comfortable with using outside experts, and technology is making it more convenient and inexpensive to outsource work. [14:00] What is a Changemaker, and how will Changemakers drive the future of work? A Changemaker is an entrepreneur or intrapreneur who is leveraging their resources to create value. They’re growing themselves, their business, or their role in their company. They’re taking charge of their work, and their focus is to drive value. Taking ownership of your work is empowering and provides accountability. People aren’t born Changemakers; you can develop the Changemaker attitude and approach to work. While writing the book, we interviewed freelancers and found that they operate as a business of one. They constantly think about how they can add value and stop doing things that aren’t adding value. We see tensions and dissatisfied employees when employees want to take ownership of their work but are in an organizational structure that doesn’t know how to let them do that. The 20th century corporate environment was very structured and hierarchical, which produced results but did not empower individuals or provide accountability. Many companies are still using those structures, but some companies are finding ways to work better. For example, one model assigns everyone to a pod that is working on a project. Once the project is finished, they’re reassigned. Each pod is given a mission, constraints, and a budget and then works independently to create value. The corporate structure is like a portfolio, managing projects, putting more bets on the projects that show value. Reid Hoffman talks about the two types of roles in an organization. People in traditional management roles needs structure, rules, guidance, and certainty, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, when an entrepreneur is put in that environment, they rankle at it. Entrepreneurs work better in an environment where they are given freedom to complete a mission and add value, with a mindset of project-based work. We’re shifting toward project-based work, and the traditional infrastructure is still vital but becoming smaller. [23:54] What should product managers do to prepare for this paradigm shift in work? How can they be Changemakers? Changemakers are orchestrators. Focus on how you pull together resources to accomplish something. As technology and AI take over routine tasks, humans will be increasingly valuable as orchestrators. As a product manager, define the strategy and be laser-focused on execution—specifically define what execution looks like and ensure the product is executed and delivered properly. As you’re staffing your projects, you have more and more opportunity to pull in the right expert, although your competitors also have access to increased resources. AI is becoming increasingly cheaper, quicker, and easier to implement, and it will affect your products and user behavior. You don’t need a computer science or data science degree to be a product manager, but develop your analytical skills to understand causality, impacts, trends, predictions, etc., because work is very data-driven these days. Action Guide: Put the information Matt shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out The Human Cloud on HumanCloudBook.com or Amazon Connect with Matt on LinkedIn Learn more about Matt on his website Innovation Quote “Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg, in the early days of Facebook “Move fast with stable infrastructure.” – Mark Zuckerberg, present day Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
31 minutes | 15 days ago
TEI 329: Are your misconceptions about product management holding your career back? An interview by INDUSTRY
How product managers can avoid false beliefs and revive their careers In this episode, instead of me interviewing a guest, I’m being interviewed. Mike Belsito, co-organizer of the INDUSTRY conference for software product managers, interviewed me a few weeks ago for an INDUSTRY webinar. We both found the discussion very valuable and I’m sharing it with you on this podcast as well. The topic is: Are your misconceptions about product management holding your career back? Product management has a longer history than many people realize, dating formally back to the 1930s. The first professional association for product managers that is still in existence, PDMA, began in 1976. While the discipline is not new, several misconceptions exist about what product management is and what product managers do. In this discussion, I’ll help you find the best place for you to contribute to creating products and services customers love so your career will take off. Check out the Virtual INDUSTRY conference coming up on April 20 and 21 by going to industryconference.com. I’m not receiving any commission from INDUSTRY, just recommending it because it is good. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [4:45] Tell us about the misconception that product management is a brand-new discipline. Recently, product management has grown in popularity and visibility, but the discipline has been around for a long time. People have been building products for a very, very long time, and product management as a discipline originated around the 1930s at P&G, where product managers were originally called brand managers and were responsible for developing a product, growing a brand, and getting customers to adopt the new product. The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), the first professional organization for product managers, began in 1976. I found out about product management through PDMA and found their resources and body of knowledge really helpful. As product managers, we have access to a solid foundation of knowledge. [8:00] What are some other common product management misconceptions? Many people think that because they don’t have the job title of product manager, they’re not doing product management. Actually, many people involved in product innovation, product development, or product marketing are doing product management. I use the IDEA framework to describe the full spectrum of product work: Ideate—coming up with ideas and putting together a concept to pursue Develop—making the concept real, e.g., writing software or manufacturing Evolve—continuing to make the product better after launch Accelerate—practices that improve product work At some organizations, product managers are all about Ideate; at others they focus on Develop or Evolve. Understanding the full breadth of product work helps us find the aspects that are a good fit for us and bring us joy. [13:15] What’s an example of someone reframing their work as product management? A listener of my podcast was a product marketer responsible for growing the product’s position in the marketplace. He reached out and said he really wanted to get into product management, which he believed was all about coming up with new ideas. After talking, he realized that he could easily call his work product management. He was learning what customers want and improving existing products. He ended up continuing to work in product marketing and loved it. All he had to do was think about his work differently and it became a good fit for him. I hear many people say they love the work they’re doing but despise the environment they’re in. If they reframe their work, look for the aspects they really enjoy, and try to find work that aligns with that, they may be happier. [15:53] What misconceptions about product management are holding people back in their careers? One thing holding people back is not having good alignment between their role in product and where they find joy. This might be because they don’t have a broad enough picture of what product work entails. Someone might think product management is all about customers but find that their organization thinks it’s all about data. With a broad perspective on product work, they may be able to help their organization think differently, because their organization is limiting itself if it doesn’t let product managers gain customer insights. One listener emailed me and said he had had his first interview for a product manager position, but he was disappointed because the organization didn’t talk about product management in at all the same way as I do on my podcast. It’s important to remember there are different perspectives on product management, and understanding the full breadth of product management can help us recognize we might be focused on different areas but we’re all working together on product. [19:01] What can we do if we’re in an organization where product managers don’t get to talk to customers? First, examine yourself and get feedback from others. If your organization doesn’t let product managers talk to customers, it’s probably a trust issue. At some point, a salesperson felt a product person jeopardized their relationship with a customer. To get the chance to talk with customers, you need to build trust, so don’t go behind the backs of the sales or marketing teams. Consider building relationships with non-customers first. For example, product managers from an exhaust fan company went to Home Depot and asked Home Depot’s customers how they chose which fan to buy. After you gain some insights, take your salespeople out to lunch and share what you’ve learned. Build relationships so they might invite you to come along when they talk to customers. [22:50] What are common missteps product managers take and what can they do to revive their career? Set a cadence of predictably getting feedback from those around you. Ask for feedback from people you can trust to give honest feedback, even if it feels like a gut punch. Recognize that product managers have a great deal of responsibility but no authority. When I ask people why they got involved in product management, I get two common responses: Some people do it because they want more influence; product managers have no real authority but have to learn to wield influence. Others want to contribute strategically to the big picture of the organization; product managers should be becoming senior leaders because they interface with more of the organization than almost any C-suite role. If your career is stalled, reflect on why you got into product management in the first place. [26:29] How should product managers navigate customer interviews when they aren’t trained as behavioral scientists or their organization has a dedicated research team? Don’t approach the interview to confirm what you already want to do. That’s a total waste of time. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. Care deeply about the problem and be curious. Ask your customers questions about their problem. You can check out interview guides like Ash Maurya’s guide in Running Lean, but basically your job is to understand the problem deeply and not talk much about your solution. Action Guide: Put the information Chad shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful link: Check out the INDUSTRY 2021 Virtual Conference, April 20-21 Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
35 minutes | 22 days ago
TEI 328: Getting started with Jobs-to-be-Done – with INDUSTRY and Mike Belsito
A framework for product managers to dig deep into their customers’ needs I am changing the name of the podcast to Product Mastery Now. The new name is coming soon. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Mastery Now. The logo will look the same—just the name is changing. This episode has two of my favorite things. First, our guest is discussing how he got started with Jobs-to-be-Done and how you can use this valuable tool yourself. Second, he is also the co-founder of Product Collective and the co-organizer of INDUSTRY, the conference for software product managers. INDUSTRY has a virtual conference coming up on April 20 and 21 and it is worth checking out by going to IndustryConference.com. Our guest is Mike Belsito. Before his current work, he had a number of product roles and experiences, giving him insights that can help us. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [10:08] What’s an example of Jobs-to-be-Done? Jobs-to-be-Done is a framework for understanding how and why people choose products. For example, in my hometown of Lakewood, we have a restaurant called Angelo’s, which is a neighborhood pizzeria, and a Little Caesar’s, which is fast food pizza. If I’m rushing home from my son’s soccer practice and need to be home and eating dinner in ten minutes, I grab a pizza from Little Caesar’s. If friends are visiting, I take them to Angelo’s because I want to show them Lakewood’s personality. I’m not choosing a pizza based on the toppings or ingredients. It’s all about the context and the circumstances. In the language of Jobs-to-be-Done, I’m not “hiring” the pizza to complete the job of feeding me. I’m choosing convenience or entertaining my friends. [18:39] What are the elements of Jobs-to-be-Done? Struggling moment—a moment of pain or need, when we wish there were a better way. As Bob Moesta, a pioneer of JTBD, says, the struggling moment is the basis of innovation. Push—realizing there has to be a better way and deciding we’re not going to live with the current solution anymore. We’re pushed to find a new solution. Pull—when we become aware of the better way or new solution. Anxieties—excuses for why we shouldn’t switch to the new solution. Inertia—we stop exploring the new solution because it seems easier to stick with the old solution than to go through all the changes to switch. [23:59] How do we conduct a Jobs-to-be-Done interview? A Jobs-to-be-Done interview uncovers all the elements listed above. First, identify whom you’re going to interview. Avoid interviewing outliers; interview average customers or people who aren’t customers yet but have similar problems. Block off two hours for each interview. Spend the first 30 minutes doing a pre-interview; don’t plan out an exact script, but list the important areas you want to explore. Spend a full hour with the customer. Then spend 30 minutes in a post-session, reviewing while the interview is still fresh in your mind. When you’re interviewing, dig deep. I learned this from Bob Moesta, who helped us interview INDUSTRY customers. One time we were interviewing a customer named Matt and asked, “Why did you buy a ticket to INDUSTRY?” Matt said he wanted to learn from the best. I would have moved on to the next question, but Bob asked, “What do mean by that? Who is the best? What do you mean by ‘learn’?” Bob kept asking questions and digging deeper, and we uncovered valuable insights we otherwise would not have found. Bob told us to act like documentary filmmakers—we’re trying to uncover the story, and sometimes what people initially say is not the whole story. We need to dig deep to capture the whole story. Action Guide: Put the information Mike shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Learn more about Jobs-to-be-Done from TEI 106 with Tony Ulwick Check out ProductCollective.com Register for the INDUSTRY 2021 Virtual Conference Connect with Mike on Twitter or LinkedIn Listen to Clayton Christensen discuss the job of a milkshake Innovation Quote “No one can stop you from doing exactly what you want to do. If you can accept that the cavalry won’t come, and if you can be the cavalry, it gives you a chance to be happy.” – Mark Duplass, filmmaker Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
34 minutes | a month ago
TEI 327: How product managers can make better products – with Heather Samarin & Vidya Dinamani
Pillars and practices for product managers to deeply understand their customers’ problems I am changing the name of the podcast to Product Mastery Now. The new name is coming soon. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Mastery Now. The logo will look the same—just the name is changing. I expect you’ll find this episode very value because it is focused on how you can get better at making products, which is a topic important to all product managers and leaders. I am joined by Heather Samarin and Vidya Dinamani, the co-founders of Product Rebels, a product management leadership training company. They have enormous experience in product management and delighting customers through product-market fit. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:09] How did your time at Intuit help you as product professionals? We learned how to stand in our customer’s shoes. We performed observational research that allowed us to have customer empathy and understand our customers’ pain and problems. Clayton Christensen introduced a program called Design for Delight, which helped us innovate by observing, experimenting quickly, and getting feedback from customers. Customer learning was infused into all the product decisions we made. [9:05] What led to your book Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products? We see product teams and leaders hitting the same pitfalls we have hit. Product leaders struggle with an overwhelming set of priorities and struggle to figure out where to put their effort, and investors shy away when they can’t see how you’re going to spend your money. Product teams struggle with making decisions. They argue about features, letting the loudest or highest paid person get their way instead of listening to what the customer wants. These problems lead to unclear value propositions, lack of clarity, and unhappy customers. We kept seeing problems like these over and over again, across all industries and in all sizes of teams. We wanted to get to the root cause of the problems and create tools and tactics to solve them. [14:53] Your book Groundwork covers two areas—the Pillars and the Practices. What can you tell us about them? The three pillars are the foundation for good decision making and focus: Convergent Problem Statement—defining a problem in a way that drives focus Actionable Persona—knowing your ideal customer to allow you to make trade-offs confidently Individualized Needs—intimately understanding your customers’ needs The three practices are daily actions that allow us to consistently get to the pillars: Developing a Hypothesis—clearly defining what you want to learn when you talk with customers Scrappy Research—researching continually without a ton of money and resources Getting Commitment—framing information to lead to an actionable decision [19:16] Tell us more about the Convergent Problem Statement. We naturally want to create solutions, but we need to first focus on the customers’ problems. When we observe and really understand the customer, we define multiple different problems. Think broadly about customers’ different problems, then converge on one. A convergent problem statement expresses the difficulty or pain the customer has with no attempt to address a solution. Often, we work on solutions when we think we’re working on problems. Take a look at your work and see if you’re just working on a feature or actually describing the problem. [21:32] Tell us more about the Actionable Persona. Once you have a clear problem, you want to know intimately whom you’re solving it for so you can make good decisions about how to design the product and prioritize features. Many teams don’t find personas valuable, but we’re redefining personas and making them actionable, simple, and something everyone can use. We define personas using character trait spectrums that help you understand different aspects of your ideal customer and take action to design the product for them. The more focused you are in targeting your ideal customer, the better you’ll be able to delight them. [24:49] Tell us more about Individualized Needs. In an ideal world, you’d solve one problem for one customer, but in reality you’re solving many problems for many customer segments. To create delight, you need to group together a persona and a problem statement. Think in silos. Understand the needs of each segment so you can make decisions about tradeoffs for each persona. Action Guide: Put the information Heather and Vidya shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Visit Heather and Vidya’s website, Product Rebels Check out Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products on Amazon Innovation Quote “Innovation comes from saying no to a thousand things.” – Steve Jobs “People don’t buy a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
31 minutes | a month ago
TEI 326: Future of product management – with Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia
The skills product managers need in a changing environment This podcast will soon be changing its name to Product Mastery Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Mastery Now. The logo will look the same—just the name is changing. The role of product manager is shifting, and you can position yourself for future success if you know how it is shifting. Our guest has some unique insights about this as he is the founder of Product School, a large community of product managers. His name is Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, and he’s here to share the shifts that are emerging and how you can prepare. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [3:22] What are some of the shifts in product management you’ve seen in the last year or two? When I started seven years ago, product management wasn’t well-understood. Now, there’s more understanding about what product management is. Many companies have a chief product officer who reports directly to the CEO. More and more companies are hiring product managers, even though many companies are downsizing because of COVID. They still need product managers to make their products and sell online, and with remote working, they need more efficient collaboration. Product management isn’t just for high-tech companies anymore; all industries need product managers. [5:05] What changes have you seen in product managers’ influence? The power dynamic is definitely changing. Product managers now have more influence because they’re in the middle of the organization, connecting the dots between engineering, design, and marketing. They create the roadmaps and vision. Product managers feel empowered because many CEOS are coming from a product background, setting up a product culture in their organizations. [6:22] Why is the cross-functionality of product management important? Product managers are generalists. They understand the company’s different functions and the customer. Product managers connect everyone under a common vision, similar to what CEOs do, which is why many product managers become CEOs and many startup founders and CEOs later become product leaders. [7:26] How can product managers be more effective at relating to different functions? Learn about functions you don’t have a background in. If you are trying to move toward a product manager role, and you have experience in marketing, take a year to learn about design and engineering. Become more complete by picking up skills outside of what you’re really good at. [9:04] What are the key capabilities a well-rounded product manager has? Technical acumen: You don’t have to be an engineer, but you will be working with engineers, so you need to speak tech and be able to earn engineers’ respect. Industry domain or business acumen: You don’t need an MBA, but you need to understand your customer, market, competition, and product, so you can be passionate about the problem you’re solving. Communication skills: Be comfortable communicating with different stakeholders, not only in big presentations but also over email, in-person, and online. You need to be there for your team and have time to support and coach others. [11:54] Tell us about your journey to become an effective communicator. It wasn’t easy. I immigrated from Spain, so I’m a non-native English speaker, and I still make a lot of mistakes when speaking. I had nothing to lose and no experience at all, so I pushed myself to practice, practice, practice. It’s okay to be uncomfortable; learning is a process. I encourage people to go for it and start practicing communication, even if they’re not native speakers or professional communicators. Non-verbal communication is important too; smiling while you talk goes a long way. Curiosity is also very powerful in making us more approachable and effective. [15:51] How is the role of product management changing going into the future? We recently released a report called “The Future of Product Management,” and identified several trends in how the industry is moving. Product management is becoming more data-driven. It’s becoming more of a science than an art. You can’t get away with just having a strong vision and being a great communicator; you need to also look at the numbers and listen to your users. There’s much more technology available specifically for product managers. These tools are becoming more and more visual, meaning you don’t need technical expertise to use them. Product management is becoming more collaborative. Product teams now include engineers, designers, and marketers, in addition to product managers, and they all work together to generate ideas and create successful products. Product managers need to learn about others’ work so they can connect with their teams. The pandemic has accelerated product roadmaps dramatically. Companies may be downsizing, but they’re hiring more product managers. Traditional companies are now investing in digital transformation, creating more opportunities for product managers. Many people are doing the work of a product manager even though their job title is something else, like project manager or product marketer. If you want to become a product manager, but your company won’t give you the title of product manager, you can still help your product team, build something on your own, design a website, or participate in a hackathon. There are a lot of free resources for product management. You just need commitment. [24:07] What should product managers start doing now to prepare themselves for the future? Design is underrated but very important for product management. You don’t have to be a professional designer, but you do need to develop an eye for design. Design is about putting the user in the middle and solving a problem for them based on data and qualitative information. As a product manager, you’re hired to bring questions, not answers. Make data-driven decisions, but balance that with the intuition developed with experience. As product managers, we’re there to serve others, make it easier to build the product, and create value for customers. We’re orchestrating the work of our team, not adding more to people’s plates, but providing clarity and direction. Action Guide: Put the information Carlos shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Learn more about Product School and check out their free resources Connect with Carlos on LinkedIn Download the Future of Product Management Report Innovation Quote “There’s never been a better time in history to build digital products because the world is moving online.” – Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
34 minutes | a month ago
TEI 325: 5 tools to create alignment, communicate better and build trust – with Stefano Mastrogiacomo, PhD
How product managers can get their teams on the same page This podcast is getting a new name—Product Masters Now. The name officially changes in a few weeks, but I want you to know it is coming. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. The logo will look the same—just the name is changing. Effective product managers are good communicators and can get team members aligned to meet the objectives of a product. However, that is easier said than done. Knowing a few simple tools to create team alignment, getting everyone on the same page, makes a big difference in your success and the success of your products. To help us with those tools, Dr. Stefano Mastrogiacomo, a project management professor, consultant and author fascinated by human coordination, joins us. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:30] Why do some teams underperform? Teams underperform when members work around each other and not with each other. This is caused by two factors: The team climate is unsafe psychologically—trust is lacking; there may be conflict. When the team activities are poorly aligned—when teams do not understand and trust each other, they experience confusion. [4:17] How can we recognize an unsafe team climate, and what are its effects? Visible symptoms of an unsafe climate include lack of recognition, disengagement, and team members losing the joy of working together. As Amy Edmondson said, psychological safety is the belief that the team is safe enough for interpersonal risk-taking. When the team is not psychologically safe, we’re afraid to speak up and share new ideas, and that undermines innovation. Because of fear, we won’t wake up the collective genius. Trust and psychological safety are cousins. Trust is the perception that I can be vulnerable with you, and psychological safety describes a climate of trust. We all can tell very rapidly whether we’re in a place that’s psychologically safe. When we are, we have joy and motivation. We want to wake up and go work with people we enjoy working with. During my academic research, we followed several teams to measure the impact of mutual clarity on task performance. We also included a question on motivation in our survey. We did nothing to encourage motivation, but surprisingly we found that the teams with greater mutual clarity had greater motivation. We concluded that motivation is a consequence of mutual clarity and mutual trust. [10:07] What are your tools to help teams improve? The high impact tools for teams improve the quality of everyday interactions, especially related to clarity on team processes and psychological safety. The five tools are: Team Alignment Map—structured discussion to help every team member clarify their individual contribution to the team Team Contract—clarifies the rules of the team before problems occur Respect Card—checklist of ways to show respect and recognition Fact Finder—helps team members ask good questions to decrease perception gaps and improve mutual understanding and trust Non-Violent Requests Guide—manages conflict and allows team members to express discontent or disagreement in a non-judgmental way leading to a constructive dialogue I divide the tools into blue pill tools and red pill tools. The Team Alignment Map is a Blue bill tool that clarifies team processes, mission, and goal. Red pill tools improve trust, and include the Team Contract, Respect Card, and Non-Violent Requests Guide. The Fact Finder is a hybrid of a blue pill tool and a red pill tool. [16:08] How does the Team Alignment Map help teams? The Team Alignment Map is most powerful when used for a new team, new project, or new collaboration. The map is a poster divided into four columns. Teams put the poster on a whiteboard, discuss each area, and fill in the columns. The four areas are: Joint Objectives: What do we want to achieve together? Write down the team’s objectives categorized under the team’s joint missions. Joint Commitments: Discuss everyone’s contribution to make the joint objectives happen. Joint Resources: What resources do we need to keep the commitments? Do we have what we need? Joint Risks: What might prevent us from achieving our objectives? Once you’ve filled in all four columns, you’ve completed the forward pass. Now everyone has a big picture of the collaboration ahead. Next, you must perform a backward pass to address missing resources and risks. Each missing resource or risk must be connected to a new objective and a new commitment. For example, suppose your objective is to run interviews with clients, and a risk is that the clients might not be available for interviews. In the backward pass, your new objective is to schedule all interviews. You assign a team member to do it and identify resources needed. The backward pass increases the resilience of the team by transforming problems into new activities and commitments. The Team Alignment Map gives the team members common ground to increase our ability to achieve. [23:37] How does the Team Alignment Map contrast with traditional product management processes? Often, traditional product management teams receive tasks to complete, but there’s not a common understanding of how each person’s work contributes to the project. The Team Alignment Map gets everyone on the same page and provides the big picture. The map doesn’t replace any product management methods, but it does improve communication, which is a key element of many methods. Mutual understanding is a collaborative process, and the Team Alignment Map helps the team align from the beginning. There’s less need for them to use memos and other documents to communicate during the project, since they’re already on the same page. Action Guide: Put the information Stephano shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Learn more about Strategyzer Check out Stefano’s blog, Team Alignment View Stefano’s book on Amazon Innovation Quote “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.” ― Niels Bohr Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
32 minutes | 2 months ago
TEI 324: What product managers can do now to prepare for senior leadership roles – with Evan Roth
Powerful actions and mindsets to take product managers to the next level This podcast is getting a new name to better reflect our objective here—helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. Product managers are in a perfect role to become senior leaders and part of the C-suite. Your role is in the middle of the work the organization does, giving you insights that few executives have, which is why you should become one. To prepare for that, you need to adjust your mindset, stop doing certain things, and start doing other things. Our guest, Evan Roth, is an expert on this as he has coached many product executives. We first met way back in episode 102 after a product VP and coaching client introduced me to him. Today, he’ll help you prepare a path to leadership roles. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [6:28] How can product managers change their mindset to prepare for a senior leadership role? Stretch out your thinking about the future—think longer term, wider breadth Embrace the gray—recognize that there won’t be perfect answers Focus on the big picture— when you’re a senior leader, someone else will focus on the details Stop thinking about urgent products and start thinking about important products—focus on solutions, opportunities, and possibilities Stop thinking about the details and start thinking about themes and trends Anticipate the future (future proofing) [10:38] How do we think bigger? Examine your mental models. Ask yourself, What is my framework? How far out am I thinking? Is my thinking unlimited or limited? Spend time with other people who think big. Change your mental models by being influenced by mentors. [13:53] Tell us more about how can mindset help product managers. I coach people on four aspects of mindset, using the acronym GAIL: Gremlin (inner critic) Assumption Interpretation Limiting Belief Our brains don’t distinguish between limiting beliefs and positive beliefs. A thought leads to a feeling, which leads to a behavior, which lead to an action. If we want to change our behavior and achieve a goal, we have to change our feelings and thoughts. We need to reframe the messages we tell ourselves. The brain is a pattern-recognition machine. If you want to create a new neural synapse, you have to practice mentally. Your mindset is not in your DNA. You can choose to change. The brain is seeking certainty and will continue to stay the same unless you actively change yourself. Awareness is big. If you want to change your mental models, you have to become aware of them. [20:21] What actions should product managers take as they’re moving toward senior leadership? First, list the things you’ll need to stop doing. When you advance to the next level, you can’t keep doing all the things you’re already doing or you’ll burn out. Identify the most valuable activity (MVA) you’ll be doing at the next level. Find out how senior leaders spend their time in ways that lead to economic or product success. Think differently by reading differently; read about what your next position may be like and read about things you don’t understand yet. At the executive level, you’ll be faced with things you don’t know all the time, so prepare yourself now. [22:28] What books can leaders read to expand their thinking? All great leadership starts with self leadership. Read about you can become better, self-actualize, and become aware of blindspots. Leadership and Self-Deception is a great book on how we’re deceiving ourselves all the time and how becoming aware of that can help us. Read about emotional intelligence and change methodologies. [23:44] What is a 360 review? The 360 review is a process I use when I’m coaching clients. I call it the “human pincushion experiment.” You get feedback from people above you, beside, and below you in the organization, and sometimes from customers too. You end up with a list of actions to start, stop, and continue based on everyone else’s input. The 360 review can be done quantitatively with a survey, but I do qualitative interviews. I talk to each person for a few minutes about the client I’m coaching. The conversation is confidential, but I use what people share to create buckets of actions to start, stop, and continue. These actions can be related to behavior, leadership, conflict, or collaboration. You get a rich set of feedback to help identify blindspots. The bigger the gap between other people’s view and your view, the better the coaching opportunity, because you can grow in self-awareness. [26:03] How can product managers ask for feedback to prepare them for a senior leadership role? Some people are hesitant to ask for feedback, because they’re afraid they’ll find out they aren’t as good as they think they are. But the beauty of it is you can ask people to bundle their feedback. Ask them to tell you two things you did really well and two things you could do better. Assure them you won’t take it personally. Develop the habit of asking for feedback now, and it will serve you well at the senior level. When senior leaders ask for feedback, they demonstrate trust and vulnerability and increase connection. Our brains react to trust by releasing oxytocin, so we can physically communicate better with one another when there’s trust garnered through vulnerability. Action Guide: Put the information Evan shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Learn about Evan’s executive coaching at CoachEvanRoth.com Connect with Evan on LinkedIn Listen to TEI 102 with Evan Roth Innovation Quote “Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
38 minutes | 2 months ago
TEI 323: Product management insights, stories, and secrets from inside Amazon – with Colin Bryar & Bill Carr
How product managers can work backwards to amazing products In a few weeks, the name of this podcast will be changing to Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming. If your player is like mine that lists podcasts alphabetically, it will be displayed further in your list of subscribed podcasts as the first letter of the name is changing from “E” to “P.” The logo will look the same—just the name is changing. To be a better product manager, it is worthwhile to examine organizations known for their product management capabilities. Amazon is such a company. In this episode we are joined by not one but two product professionals who built much of their career at Amazon—13 and 15 years. They are Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. They document the process Amazon uses to create successful products in a book titled Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon. And, they are here to share their insights with us. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:42] What makes Amazon so innovative? Innovation is a necessary part of everyone’s job. Our 14 leadership principles are woven into the DNA of everyone who works there and every process in the company, and six of them are directly related to innovation: Customer obsession—people wake up every day trying to figure out how to delight their customers. Invent and simplify—leaders expect invention and innovation from their teams, and they’re always finding ways to get better. Leaders are right, a lot—they seek diverse perspectives and try to prove themselves wrong to make sure they have the right thought. Insist on the highest standards—we’re continually finding ways to get better. Frugality—constraints breed innovation. Necessity also drives Amazon to innovate. Amazon operates at a scale that often can’t be supported by any commercial solutions, so they have to create solutions themselves. Amazon accepts failure as part of invention. If you’re not failing enough, you’re not inventing enough. When we started working at Amazon in 1998 and 1999, Amazon was an ecommerce business when ecommerce was completely new. We were inventing a whole new form of commerce from the beginning. The people who found it fun and exciting to invent something new thrived. As the company progressed, that mindset pervaded the company and drove them to move outside ecommerce. Also, some of Amazon’s raw materials like computing power, storage, and bandwidth, get cheaper over time. We use those advancements to invent new things, like scanning and storing every book in the world. [7:47] How did you see customer obsession encouraged at Amazon? Remarkably, Jeff Bezos and Amazon figured out how to create reinforcing processes to make customer obsession part of people’s jobs. Weekly business review meetings included a section called Voice of the Customer. At these meetings, a leader of the customer service group brought forward a customer problem that Amazon didn’t have a good solution for. The senior leadership assigned people to tackle the problem and create a solution so it never happens again. Another process, the COE (Correction of Error) process, tasked teams with diving deeply into the details of a defect, figuring out why the customer had the problem, and creating a detailed plan to fix the problem. Unlike most companies, Amazon created methods for leaders to programmatically seek out problems and solutions. [11:40] Who is responsible for innovation at Amazon? Everyone. Innovation is the lifeblood of the company. We don’t have a chief innovation officer, because that would be like having a chief breathing officer—everyone has to innovate, so you don’t assign that task to one person. We have found the best innovations come from people who are closest to working with the problems at hand, rather than having a management team several levels removed from the problem dictating how to innovate. Many of our innovations are small, and customers never see them, but they make Amazon work more efficiently and allow us to provide lower prices for our customers. In a lot of companies, people think of innovation as a product function. At Amazon, it’s a job for everyone, not just the product organization. Amazon celebrates innovation. Employees receive awards for finding ways to cut costs, going above and beyond to serve a customer, and filing patents. The awards have no monetary value, but they’re some of the most prized possessions of people at Amazon. Everyone is expected to innovate, and everyone celebrates and recognizes innovation. [17:37] What is Amazon’s Working Backwards methodology? Working Backwards is Amazon’s method for developing new products and services. We start with the customer needs and work backwards from there. Most companies take a skills-forward approach, meaning they develop new products based on what they’re good at. Instead, we start with our customers’ needs. In 2004, we started thinking about how we could build an ebook service. If we had taken a skills-forward approach, we would have focused on expanding our ecommerce site, which was already working well. Instead, we focused on invention on behalf of the customer. We identified what the customer would need to read ebooks—a device to store ebooks, a paper-like reading experience, the ability to download more books, etc. To come up with these concepts, teams use the PRFAQ process, which stands for Press Release and Frequently Asked Questions. As we were developing the Kindle, we figured out that we needed to start with the press release, which is normally at the end of the process. If you can write a press release that describes the product as something that people are going to jump out of their chair to buy, then you’ve got something. If it doesn’t sound exciting, then it’s probably not worth building it. We also answer FAQs at the beginning of the process. We describe the problems we’ll have to solve and potential solutions, answer questions the customer would ask, and answer internal questions like “How long will it take to build?” Set aside the skills you have today, focus purely on what the customer needs and work backwards from the end of the process. Working Backwards works for anything—small features, large businesses, or which country or industry to move into next. [23:48] Where do ideas come from in the Working Backwards process? The best ideas come from people who have a deep, fundamental understanding of the customer experience and the problem they’re trying to solve. Market research and focus groups can verify some hypotheses, but the best ideas come from looking for a unique solution to a customer problem. It’s an iterative process. Few, if any, products get the green light on their first PRFAQ process. The press release might be missing a few things that still need to be solved, the customer value proposition might not be right, or the product might not have a big enough impact to be worthwhile. [25:23] Tell us more about the PRFAQ process. The press release is an enticing description of the product. If you read the press release and aren’t saying, “Wow, the customer really wants this,” then there’s no point in continuing. After you’ve described something that’s amazing, the FAQs tell how it can actually happen. Your team should develop and review multiple PRFAQs for multiple ideas to figure out which ones are worth doing. You may write a press release that sounds exciting but realize once you delve into the FAQs that there is a problem that will prevent you from achieving your goal. Again, everyone is responsible for innovation—both the team that writes the PRFAQ and the people who read, comment, and make it better. The FAQ is both a business case and a feasibility case. When we developed the Kindle, the press release said the device needs to always be connected to the internet. In 2005, when the PRFAQ was written, wifi was not prevalent, so we didn’t know how we could solve that problem. The team problem-solves and brainstorms to understand the constraints and challenges and solve them in a way that is economically viable. [29:31] How do experiments fit into innovation at Amazon? Amazon used a lot of experiments to figure out how to operate. The PRFAQ process took a while to develop. Through experiments, we also learned how to make our meetings more productive. Customers never see these innovations, but Amazon spends a lot of time and effort on innovation related to its operation. Amazon also does A/B tests to optimize the website. Another example is Amazon Fresh. Amazon knew if they wanted to be big in retail, they needed to sell food, because food is a big portion of overall commerce. We didn’t know how to do it, but we knew from customer feedback that we had to do it. We experimented with a small geography; don’t go big until you’ve cracked the nut. As another example, in the early 2000s, Amazon did a big longitudinal test for radio and TV advertising. They tested markets in Minneapolis and Portland for a year but found that it was too expensive to roll out that advertising nationwide. Twenty years later, Amazon has become the largest advertiser. When it was time, Amazon went back and used what they had learned from that early advertising experiment. Jeff Bezos has a saying, “Stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details.” We know what the endpoint is, but we don’t know exactly what product will get us there. For example, it didn’t take long to figure out that shipping costs were one of the biggest barriers to customers’ purchasing from Amazon. We ran multiple experiments of different free shipping promotions, finally creating Amazon Prime. We were very clear on the vision—making shipping free—but we didn’t know what the right formula was. Action Guide: Put the information Colin and Bill shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Working Backwards on Amazon or workingbackwards.com Innovation Quotes “We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent.” – Jeff Bezos Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
35 minutes | 2 months ago
TEI 322: First Time UX analysis for product managers – with Elizabeth Ferrao
Four steps for product managers to make an awesome First Time User Experience This podcast is where product leaders and managers become product masters. That has been our purpose from the beginning, and it is why I’m changing the name of the podcast to Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. If your player is like mine and lists podcasts alphabetically, it will be displayed further in your list of subscribed podcasts, as the first letter of the name is changing from “E” to “P.” The logo will look the same—just the name is changing to Product Master Now. How much do you think about the user experience of your products? The entire user experience? I know I have put my focus in one area and neglected other aspects of the user experience—for example, the functional experience with the product, while perhaps ignoring the onboarding aspect or the customer support aspect. Even if you argue that such areas are someone else’s responsibility, I believe you, as the product manager, have important insights for improving these areas. Our guest, Elizabeth Ferrao, has a practical framework for quickly evaluating UX called First Time UX, or FTUX, which is an acronym for a 4-step process. She’ll take us through the steps and an example so we can understand how to apply the framework. Elizabeth is the founder of Product Mindset, a product consultancy focused on FTUX and onboarding. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [3:01] What is your focus as a UX product person? I’ve worked as a product manager for many companies, repeatedly working on onboarding—getting customers into the funnel. I started thinking about the first time user experience. I learned that 77% of mobile users download an app, then never use it after 72 hours. That means the money spent on getting those customers to download the app is wasted. The funnel is leaky. How do we make sure that the first time user experience is fantastic and offers immediate value that keeps users coming back? [6:38] What is First Time UX? First Time User Experience (FTUX) is the experience a person has the first time they encounter a product. FTUX is important for physical products and digital products. For digital products, it’s very measurable because we can measure our bounce rate, why people are dropping off, and what they’re looking at. [9:45] What are the steps of your First Time UX evaluation? I have a set of four steps that I walk through in any product experience, physical or digital. [9:54] Step 1: Landing Page On the landing page, I look for… Really strong message strength. Are they speaking directly to my pain point? The customer persona. The landing page tells whether the team understands whom they’re building the product for. I should be able to identify the key customer persona from the landing page. Are there any barriers to entry? I don’t want to have to enter a credit card number or talk to a salesperson. [11:09] Step 2: One Minute Magic Moment This is what the customer sees in their first minute with the product. For example, if an orange juice bottle tells me it has no sugar, and that’s my pain point, I’ll keep reading the bottle and might purchase it. As another example, when you first start using Spotify, it asks what music you like to listen to and automatically recommends songs you might like. It’s important to note that as a product manager you can’t satisfy your super fans and first-time users at the same time. You have to focus on one. Often product managers are focused on creating more value for current users, and they might not think about first time user experience. It’s important to have someone focused on getting users into the funnel. [15:06] Step 3: Five Minute Magic Moment In five minutes, you can give your customer a lot of information about your product. Within five minutes, you should be able to give them something fantastic, beautiful, or magical. For example, on a photo sharing app, in five minutes you can create an awesome photo album you can share. [15:45] Step 4: Grit Score The grit score measures how gritty your customer has to be to understand the product, keep using it, and convert from a free user to a paid user. I measure the grit score from 1 to 10. A low grit score is good, meaning customers don’t need to be very gritty to understand the product. [19:27] Let’s talk about an example of great FTUX—from Lemonade Insurance. I loved the Lemonade Insurance landing page and the entire experience. The landing page made it obvious that they were talking to me, a millennial who is purchasing home insurance for the first time and has heard things that scared me off before. Other insurance companies ask you to spend 15 or 20 minutes putting in information, and then they tell you that they’ll call you. Lemonade asked for a 90-second questionnaire, and I didn’t have to talk to anyone. The one minute magic moment was answering the questions and getting my initial quote, which was just $150. Then, in the five minute magic moment, I could add and subtract different values like pet insurance or the cost of staying in a hotel if my home had a fire. They had only asked for the information they needed to provide an accurate quote, and then they collected more information by allowing me to make choices based on my situation. As a user, I felt agency. Answering their questions was easy and made me feel empowered. To get someone to go from a free prospective customer to purchasing the product, you need to empower them, and you can only do that through first time user experience. The grit score was 1 out of 10, because I was engaged in just 90 seconds and got fantastic results in five minutes. [25:41] Anything else you’d like to share about FTUX? Any hiccup in the customer journey is felt really deeply. If you lose a customer after their first experience, you’re not going to get them back. For a customer to give you five minutes of their time, you have to have given them value in the first one minute; and for them to give you one minute, you have to have given them value in the first 10 seconds. If you have low conversion, it means people weren’t spending five minutes, one minute, or 10 seconds with your product. Making great First Time UX doesn’t depend on company size or funding. Two engineers can make FTUX even better than 500 engineers. Action Guide: Put the information Elizabeth shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Elizabeth’s website, Product Mindset Check out Elizabeth’s YouTube channel, Product Sins, including the video about Lemonade Insurance Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn Innovation Quote “Don’t be ordinary.” – Elizabeth Ferrao’s dad Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
35 minutes | 2 months ago
TEI 321: How product managers can delight customers – with Chip Bell
Secrets for working with customers to create products they will love This podcast is getting a new name to better reflect our objective here—helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. You are in store for an enriching discussion with someone who has more experience delighting customers than most of us will ever see. You’ll learn a few important tools along with deepening your understanding of what it means to create products customers love. Helping us with this is Chip R. Bell, who has been ranked for six years in a row as one of the top three keynote speakers in the world on customer service. Bell has appeared on multiple TV networks, and his work has been featured in several prominent publications. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:18] What is co-creation? Co-creation is a partnership of creating collaboratively. I’ll be discussing the application of co-creation between a customer and an organization. The customer and the organization work together with equal license to make contributions to the product. Many organizations make products for the customer, but in co-creation, you’re making products with the customer. It’s a win-win partnership. [3:47] How do you find co-creation partners? Good co-creation partners have a need and the knowledge to contribute effectively. For example, a contributor to an electronic device needs to have knowledge about electronics. Choose a partner who can make a contribution in a way that’s unique and different from how you would normally approach the problem. Another group of contributors are catalysts. For instance, I might bring in third graders who will ask questions that stimulate product development. They don’t have the expertise to create a product, but they will help us break out of our normal way of thinking. Talk to people like drivers or security guards in your company; they have a different viewpoint and can often bring intelligence you might otherwise miss. A friend of mine who manages a hotel got valuable insights from taxi drivers about what customers liked and disliked about the hotel. [10:44] What are the five secrets for creating co-creation partnerships? For many years I’ve worked in customer service innovation. In contrast to value-added innovation, customer service innovation is value-unique—it’s all about creating new experiences that your customers will want to tell someone about. I wanted to write another book about this topic, and I decided to focus on including the customer in the innovative process. I found five secrets that the cultures of the most innovative companies share. My book Inside Your Customer’s Imagination is about applying those secrets to a relationship with the customer. The customer’s imagination is a door that can only be opened from the inside. The question is what to do to get the customer to open the door and share their crazy, unique, or unusual insights. Customer service innovation is about looking for opportunities to add something that delights the customer in an unexpected way. If you involve the customer in this, you get their cool ideas mixed in with your creation, and your customer will be loyal to a product they helped create. [15:55] Curiosity that uncovers insight Curiosity is approaching an inquiry without having any clue where it’s going. Normally, when people do customer interviews or focus groups, they are looking for confirmation of something they already expect. Product managers know better than to ask leading questions, but the expected answers are in their heads. Instead, what if you took a treasure-hunting approach? Invite the customer to be part of the treasure-hunting process, and be curious, not knowing where the process will take you. For example, I worked with a pizza delivery company, and we were getting the same comments from customers again and again because we were focused on their needs and expectations. We switched to focusing on their hopes and aspirations. We asked dreamer questions, like “What’s something that no pizza company does that would be really cool?” Customers imagined having something useful or fun to do with the box—the inside of the lid could be a puzzle or coloring book. Several years later, the company added fun activities to their boxes. That insight only came from demonstrating real curiosity about the customer’s desires. Make your customers feel valued by demonstrating that you are truly curious about their needs. If you can “be the customer,” you will see their world from a different angle. Experience what your customer experiences and demonstrate understanding in your relationship with them, and they will be more open to sharing the ideas you need. [22:00] Grounding that promotes clear focus In the creative process, rabbit holes are attractive, but great product companies are incredibly focused on the intersection between customers’ hopes and aspirations and the organization’s mission. I live on a golf course, and there’s one hole that’s separated from the tee by a lake. There are a lot of balls in the lake, but good golfers don’t pay any attention to the lake; they focus on the hole where they’re going. Likewise, organizations need to stay focused on what their mission is really about and what customers really want. For example, the tenants of a high-rise office building were complaining that the elevators were too slow. The building contractor did a lot of studies, and their engineer said they just needed to build another elevator. But then they talked to tenants and found the issue was less about the elevators and more about people’s impatience as they waited for the elevators. The contractor installed mirrors around the elevator lobby and shaft so that people would be preoccupied with looking at themselves and not notice the wait. They found the solution by focusing on the customer’s true problem. Grounding gives you a sense of what you’re about and why you’re here and guides you to making decisions and pursuing ideas consistent with those goals. [25:22] How can customer journey maps help us with grounding? I invented customer journey maps. In the early 1980s, Ron Zemke and I were working at a large telephone company, and we needed to help management understand the customer’s experience with telephone repair. We met with the senior leader in telephone repair and drew a flip chart of what the customer goes through, but the senior leader didn’t believe it. We said we would take it to the customer to verify it. In the cycle of service, this is a moment of truth—when the customer interacts with your organization and can give a thumbs up or thumbs down. We drew a map and asked the customer, “Is this what you go through?” We kept asking, “And then what happened?” The senior leader realized he had no idea what the customers were going through. He started having executives go through the same process as the customer and realized why customers were so frustrated with phone repair. It’s not about what you think. It’s about what the customer thinks. Your drawing of what you think is guaranteed to be wrong. The only way you can learn about the customer’s journey is to get them to talk you through it. [29:35] Tell us more about moments of truth. We use moment of truth impact analysis. We looked at a customer’s moment of truth, or one of their actions, and asked them, “What should happen here?” They list what should happen in a particular encounter. Then we ask, “What would be a detractor? What would be a delighter?” We found that the detractors weren’t just the opposites of the delighters; they were completely different. This analysis gives us a deeper understanding of the customer’s encounters with our organization and gives us insight into creative ways to enhance these moments. For example, at Hampton Inn, customers have an encounter with coffee cups. If someone is travelling with their spouse, and they both get coffee, they didn’t have any way to tell their cups apart. Hampton Inn put drawings of lipstick and mustaches on their cups so they would be easy to tell apart. This is called anticipatory innovation; Hampton Inn predicted a problem that the customers might have. It’s not a big deal, but it would be nice for them to not have to worry about which cup is which. They came up with an innovative solution. It’s a small enhancement but fun and imaginative. Action guide: Put the information Chip shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Inside Your Customer’s Imagination on Amazon Visit Chip’s website Innovation Quote “We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemists eyes to notice.” – Jacob Nordby Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
39 minutes | 3 months ago
TEI 320: Visual strategies to better position your product ideas – with Amy Balliett
How product managers can use visual storytelling to make their ideas stand out As we move into 2021, the name of this podcast is changing to better reflect our objective here—product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. Product managers must communicate their ideas to others in ways that are clear and solicit feedback. Using visuals to help communicate information can be very helpful. Visual tools can make information easy to understand and also place it in context. When it comes to visual information, Amy Balliett is a leader. Her visual communication agency has created thousands of successful information campaigns for Fortune 1000 clients. She speaks on and teaches visual information concepts whenever she can. Today, she joins us so we can understand how simple visual tools can make us better communicators. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:44] How did you end up on the path to becoming the “Queen of Visualizing Information”? In film school I fell in love with visual storytelling. Later I pivoted my career and started my own business, Killer Infographics, creating infographics for online marketing. We evolved from infographics to motion graphics, interactive eBooks, and other visual media. We merged marketing and visual storytelling and drove success by applying what we had learned with infographics—the best practices of visual storytelling—to all these other types of creative content. Visual storytelling makes a huge difference for businesses because audiences want to get to know the brands they’re buying from, but they often don’t want to take the time to read content that delivers authenticity and transparency. We visualize those messages so that audiences will consume them far more often and voraciously. [8:13] You’ve been compared to Edward Tufte, the “King of Visualizing Information.” What are your thoughts on that comparison? To be compared to Tufte is a huge compliment. I’ve followed him from the beginning, and one time I went to one of his workshops and saw that some people were overwhelmed by the pace at which he was sharing information. I wondered how I could share the same content in a way that’s easier to digest. Tufte focuses on visualizing scientific or historical information for an analytical audience. At Killer, I focus on visualizing content to advertise to an audience. We want to make content edgy and exciting while delivering a clear, succinct message. We focus on catching attention very quickly, because today’s audiences have super short attention spans. What would you like to share about your eight rules for visual communication? [11:04] Always think about con-text. It’s a con when there’s too much text. The definition of visual communication is the act of graphically representing information to efficiently and effectively create meaning. A key word is graphically, but 99% of infographics have paragraphs of text next to images. That’s not visual communication. According to brain science, humans take in visual information in one-tenth of a second, but they take over five seconds to take in text-based information. If you have only five seconds to get your viewer to come to a conclusion, use visual content. If they have to read the text to understand the visuals, you’re not visually communicating. A recent study found that articles with images every 75-100 words had two times the engagement of articles that had one image or less. [14:53] Avoid the stigma of stock. It’s not enough to stick unrelated images into your content. Quality visual content is what succeeds online. Ninety-four percent of first impressions are based entirely on design. Lead with quality design, not stock imagery or clip art. Custom illustrations convert seven times better than stock imagery. In today’s world, we all have the tools at our disposal to quickly edit video and photos and create original content. If brands are leading with stock imagery, they’re not even doing what any of us can do. Lead with 100% custom illustration or photography and ensure that all your images have a matching style. Content is king. Visual content is the new king. But quality visual content reigns supreme. Consider using a designer to design quality content for you. [22:19] There’s no gold at the end of the rainbow. Color theory has been debunked. We’re a global society, and colors have different meanings in different cultures. Colors don’t invoke emotions. However, when used wisely colors convey meaning as your viewers start to recognize patterns in the colors you choose. Don’t use an overwhelming rainbow of colors; be minimal with your colors. [24:18] Good visual strategists ask “Why that font?” Unlike colors, fonts do invoke emotions because different fonts have different styles associated with different topics. For example, wedding invitations usually have script fonts that invoke the ideas of celebration, classic beauty, and formal wear. Use fonts to drive your audience to action. You can’t go wrong with classic fonts like Arial and Helvetica, and they have many different weights to add diversity to the look and feel. How you’re laying out your fonts matters too—instead of lining everything up on a straight line, consider using a layout that draws the eye in an exciting and different way. It takes a good eye to see which fonts work well together; I like to use the website Lost Type to put fonts together. Consider whether to use lowercase or upper case—all lowercase is more open and welcoming, while all uppercase speaks with more authority. [31:29] Small visual cues have a large impact. We read meaning into many subtle visual cues—everything from colors to fonts to using an emoji instead of a period. Action Guide: Put the information Amy shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Amy’s book on Amazon Learn more about Killer Visual Strategies Connect with Amy on LinkedIn Check out the font resource Lost Type Innovation Quote “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” – Niels Bohr Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
31 minutes | 3 months ago
TEI 319: Product Innovation Management – with Jerry Fix
How product managers can innovate throughout the entire product lifecycle As we move into 2021, the name of this podcast is changing to better reflect our objective here—product managers becoming product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. This is the final episode in the series on a product management body of knowledge. Every-other-week starting in episode 307, we have explored the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) guide to the body of knowledge for product managers and innovators. PDMA is the longest running professional association for product managers, existing since 1976. We end the series by discussing product innovation management, which is the knowledge area for maximizing the return from product innovation through application of sound management practices throughout the product life cycle. Our guest is Jerry Fix, a global Product Management professional who has successfully launched numerous products. He has significant experience managing global organizations to develop and support products and guide the commercialization of products and technologies. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:35] What are the key topics addressed in the chapter you wrote, Product Innovation Management? Innovation is a theme woven throughout the Body of Knowledge. We don’t treat innovation as a static event but as a process that winds through the entire new product development lifecycle. This final chapter wraps up the theme of innovation and highlights the idea that innovation should be managed throughout the process. [4:29] What responsibilities and skills do product managers have? I like how Marty Cagan describes the job of a product manager—to discover something valuable, useful, and feasible. Product managers’ main responsibilities are… Understanding the customer experience well. Internalizing a vision and communicating it to others. Assessing and prioritizing processes and activities. Managing pricing and roadmaps. Building business cases. Working with stakeholders. Effective product managers’ key skills are… Understanding the market. Understanding what innovation is. Switching easily between thinking strategically (big picture) and tactically (immediate actions). Being able to explain technical requirements to users and stakeholders. [11:58] What is the product life cycle? The product lifecycle is a curve that describes the stages of a product from the time it’s introduced to the time it’s retired. It includes the areas shown in the graphic. Historically, the introduction, growth, or maturity phases could last years or decades, but today we’re seeing the whole process getting shorter. As technology develops, consumers become more demanding, leading to more new technology, causing consumers to become more demanding, etc. Some product managers aren’t aware that retiring the product is part of the product lifecycle. They say their products never go away, and they have to continue managing them. They’re overextending the maturity phase. During the maturity phase, the product doesn’t change much. You’re generating as much revenue as possible while holding off decline as long as possible. If you extend that phase too far, your competitors will develop alternatives to your mature product, and you’ll miss opportunities for revenue and innovation. [18:08] What should product managers be thinking about as they’re taking a product through its lifecycle? During introduction, product managers are subject experts; during growth, they’re growth hackers; during maturity, they’re retention strategists; and during decline they’re solution seekers. In the growth period, product managers are looking to expand the reach of the product; they’re making sure it’s competitive and ready to scale. Their focus is on supporting as many users as possible while optimizing for the fastest growth possible. During maturity, product managers focus on retaining customers and sustaining their market share. They stay aligned with how the value to the user is evolving. Their goal is to deliver customer satisfaction and customer delight. Reframing a product is a very smart, low-cost way to stay in maturity. For example, Wisk detergent extended their maturity by 30 years simply by reframing their product as a solution to the ring around the collar. [23:09] What metrics should we use for managing product innovation? What gets measured gets managed. If you want to improve something, you have to measure it. If you think of innovation as a singular “ah-ha” moment, you can’t manage it. But if you think of innovation the way PDMA does, as a process woven throughout the entire product lifecycle, then you can definitely manage it. Some metrics for managing innovation are: Balanced scorecard—considers people, process, and organization KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)—indicate how well you’re achieving a business goal by measuring the status of processes and outputs Percent of revenue coming from new products ROI (Return on Investment) Ability to capture new markets and market share in existing markets Action Guide: Put the information Jerry shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Learn more about PDMA and the PDMA Body of Knowledge Get the PDMA Body of Knowledge for yourself on Amazon Learn about NPDP Certification Connect with Jerry on Twitter or LinkedIn Catch up on any episodes you missed in the PDMA Body of Knowledge series: TEI 307, TEI 309, TEI 311, TEI 313, TEI 315, TEI 317 Innovation Quotes “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – attributed to Henry Ford “Strategy without execution is daydreaming.” – Jerry Fix Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
36 minutes | 3 months ago
TEI 318: The focus of product management—building right products or building products right? – with Narasimha Krishnakumar
How product managers can understand and solve their customers’ problems This podcast is getting a new name to better align with its purpose of helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. Today is a discussion with a listener who contacted me after hearing episode 304. I sent an email to listeners who are subscribed to receive the show notes in their email box that said, “If you thought your job as a product manager was building products right, think again. In this discussion, Ken Sandy shares why the job of a product manager is not building products right but building the right products.” I admit, I did phrase that to be intentionally thought-provoking. A Chief Product Officer of a global company responded to that message and we began discussing the responsibilities of building the right product and building it right. It’s such an important topic, which is why I invited the CPO to this episode. His name is Narasimha Krishnakumar, and he is the Global CPO for Wind River, a cloud-based IoT company, and he is also an advisor and a product consultant to startups and new ventures. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [3:16] What are your responsibilities as a Global CPO? At Wind River, we focus on software and tech for edge devices. I oversee product planning, product roadmap, vision, and strategy for our products. We look at the landscape of devices in the market and create innovative solutions for our customers. [4:42] Where do your ideas come from? We look at technology that has already been developed to know what our capabilities are. Ideas come from looking at our customers’ problems and finding ways to solve problems that we aren’t already solving. We consider how market dynamics and changing technology are relevant to our products and the problems we’re solving. We look at what our competitors are doing and understand what our value is and why customers like or don’t like us. It’s also important to think about how solving a problem will affect the business—how will we scale and grow through the products we’ve introduced? [6:56] In the many product management roles you’ve had, what is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned about product management? Product management is all about reducing the number of variables when you’re building a product. Product management begins with the customer problem—Who is the customer? What are you trying to accomplish for them? Why will it benefit them? After you’ve answered these questions, you must figure out how you will build the products. As you make decisions about building the product, make sure that your variables are easy to manage so you can meet the time to market requirements for the product. I was in a situation where we picked brand-new technologies for building a product, and we ended up facing an extreme delay because the technology was not mature. When we drive a product idea through execution, we have to make the right bets about technology choices. Product leaders must assess the risk and make the number of variables manageable. [10:20] What should our focus be—building the right product and/or building products right? We need both—building the right product and building products right. Building the right product starts with looking at your customer problem, market opportunity, and competitive dynamics, and using that information to create a product definition that has a fair chance of successfully solving the customers’ problem. Building the product right means making decisions to solve the customers’ problem. It also includes building a high quality product. While building the product, you will have to make tradeoff decisions. Work collaboratively with engineering teams, quality teams, your DevOps organization, etc., to make sure your product is meeting your customers’ requirements and is high quality. Product managers tend to focus on the market problems and customer problems—the who, the what, and the why. But product managers can also influence the how—determining the best way to build the product. Building the product tends to be an engineering activity, but product managers still have an important role to play. They should get active in the execution process and understand how the product is built. Product managers can also influence how the product is built by setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and quality standards. Effective product managers focus on the who, the what, the why, and the how. They’re curious and have a customer-first attitude. [19:48] Sometimes engineering creates a long-term architecture well beyond what the product is ready for now. What should product managers do in that situation? Product managers should take small chunks of the big problem and make incremental progress. You can have an architecture that includes a three- or five-year plan, but you need to know which components of the architecture can fit the time to market that you’re expecting. You don’t have to solve all the customers’ problems on day one. Focus on the top problem first, and work with engineering to solve it within your expected time to market. You can’t boil the ocean, so boil one glass at a time, and make sure that the glass you’re boiling is meaningful for the customer and the business. [24:05] How can product managers build the right product and build the product right when working with new products and existing products? When the company is introducing a new product, there’s often no clear problem definition. To build the right product, understand the customer requirements—do one-on-one interviews with customers to learn about their problems and what solutions they would value. Ideas can come from anywhere—have an open mind to listen to ideas and validate then with your customers. Other times, product managers step into situations where the product has already been built, and they need to take it to the next level. This situation can be challenging for product managers because the product may not be right for a new market you’re trying to approach. Again, dig deep to understand the problem you’re solving for the new market segment. Then capture the requirements for that segment and consider how the product needs to change. You’ll need to make trade-off decisions about your architecture, so it’s very important for product managers to carefully outline the requirements of the new segment to the engineering team. At the back of your mind, always ask yourself how you can build the product right for both the new and old segments. [29:34] How can product managers effectively work with engineering to give valuable insights but not dictate how to build the product? It’s always good for product managers to have technical curiosity and understand how the product is built, what the architecture is, and how it impacts the customer. Don’t question engineering’s build process, but always take a customer-first approach. Ask how the architecture solves the customers’ problem. Take the customers’ perspective and weigh-in on how every decision impacts the customer. As a product manager, you know what your customers’ objective is; work with engineering to determine how to best achieve that objective using the technology available. Have a very good understanding of what your customer wants and what the architectural implications are. Ask the right questions and engage with both customers and engineers. Action Guide: Put the information Krishna shared into action now. Click here to download the Action guide. Useful link: Connect with Krishna on LinkedIn Innovation Quote “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Unknown Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
37 minutes | 3 months ago
TEI 317: Culture, teams, and leadership – with Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD
The secret sauce product managers need for success This podcast is getting a new name to better align with its purpose of helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show up in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now. This is another episode in the series on a product management body of knowledge curated by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA). If you are unfamiliar with PDMA, they are the longest running volunteer-led professional association for product managers, existing since 1976. I’ve been publishing this series every-other-week, starting with episode 307, which was an introduction to the body of knowledge. Today we cover topics related to culture, teams, and leadership, which are essential to forming and maintaining an innovative environment that enables, encourages, and rewards product management and innovation processes and practices. Our guest is Dr. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, founder of Global NP Solutions, which helps individuals and organizations learn, adopt, transform, and sustain innovation. Previously, she worked in R&D, process technology development, and as an internal innovation expert at ExxonMobil Chemical Company. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [3:12] How are Culture, Teams, and Leadership important to product innovation? It’s easy to implement systems, templates, and checklists, but culture, teams, and leadership really make for success. Teams need collaboration, expertise, and autonomy. You need trust among your teams and effective leadership that bridges the gap between strategy and execution. [4:45] What is culture and how does it impact organizations and product teams? You can feel the culture when you enter an organization—an innovative culture or a hindering, bureaucratic culture. The culture teaches how we do things in an organization. It’s how people behave and accomplish the mission. Culture allows a company to understand important qualities such as their risk tolerance, how much they can trust their teams, how much they interact with customers, how they work together, the pace of work, and how they bring an idea to commercialization when there’s risk involved. Culture is the “secret sauce” to unlocking success. [9:20] How does culture relate to strategy? Strategy consists of vision, mission, and values. Vision is who we are as an organization and includes our long-term goals for interactions with our community, employees, and environment. Mission is how we accomplish the vision. Values are the driving behaviors. Culture is closely tied to values because culture includes behaviors that allow an organization to have a reasonable approach to risk, fulfill their mission, and meet their vision. [13:19] What is the importance of teams to innovation? Lone geniuses don’t create spectacular innovations. For innovation, we need teams, particularly cross-functional teams that start together, work together, and launch the product together. Cross-functional teams can take many forms: Functional work groups for depth of innovation Lightweight teams for minor tweaks Heavyweight teams for large innovations Autonomous teams for something brand new Important elements of a successful innovation team include: Trust Autonomy Ability to learn from mistakes and not be punished for them Being close to customers [19:31] How do work styles impacts teammates and team performance? The Z model identifies four categories of preferred work styles: Creators like to come up with ideas. Advancers are good at communicating ideas, interacting with customers, and getting feedback. Refiners are good at making plans. Executors want to get their hands dirty, jump in, and do the work. Teams find that understanding each others’ work styles helps them communicate more effectively, and communication is what makes an innovation team successful. [23:35] What assessments do you use to identify people’s work styles? The Z model from PDMA has a very short assessment that teams can take together. Additionally, I use the DiSC assessment, which has four categories of work styles: dominant, influential, steady, and conscientious. These work styles relate to how people think, their preferred pace of work, and whether they rely on people or data to make decisions. [25:29] What are the characteristics of an effective leader of an innovation team? The DiSC assessment and Z model profiles help leaders build their teams and encourage their team members to understand each others’ work styles. Equally important for leaders is emotional intelligence, which includes: Self-awareness—can come from a DiSC Assessment or Z model profile Self-regulation—being proactive but not reactive, especially when addressing uncertainties Understanding motivation—self-motivation and how to motivate the team Empathy—for customers and team members It’s also the leader’s role to understand their team members’ work styles, priorities, and strengths. They must understand and address conflict and help their team members see each others’ viewpoints calmly and with control. Leaders should lead by example, demonstrating their skills. For example, Home Depot’s executives spend a couple of weeks every year working on the floor at Home Depot stores. They understand the challenges of their customers and employees. Leaders have to get into the field to understand what their customers need. We follow leaders we admire, so leaders should behave how they want their team members to behave. Action Guide: Put the information Teresa shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Teresa’s Innovation Answer Book on Amazon Take the free Innovation Health Assessment Find more useful resources at GlobalNPSolutions.com Learn more about the Z model in the previous episode with Teresa, TEI 303 Email Teresa at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary DiSC Assessment and one-hour coaching session (one per company) Innovation Quote “Rigor, zeal, and faith.” – Teresa Jurgens-Kowal’s life quote Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
37 minutes | 4 months ago
TEI 316: Tools CPOs use – with Anup Yanamandra
Insights on roadmaps, metrics, OKRs, and more for product managers It is a new year and this podcast is getting a new name. In a few weeks, the name will change to Product Masters Now. You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming—The Everyday Innovator will be renamed to Product Masters Now. Chief Product Officers (CPOs) have many responsibilities, such as mentoring product managers, defining product strategy, leveraging cross-functional resources, developing products to meet an expected schedule, and more. They use tools to help them with these responsibilities. Joining us for this episode is a CPO who shares some of the tools he uses, including roadmaps, metrics, and OKRs. He knows a lot about tools as he is the CPO for Betterworks, a provider of enterprise OKR and performance management software. His name is Anup Yanamandra. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [1:58] What are your responsibilities as a Chief Product Officer? My primary responsibility is defining the product strategy for the company. Increasingly, CPOs are also thinking about the user experience strategy. It’s becoming important for CPOs and product managers to dig into data and make decisions based on data rather than pure intuition. In my company, I help with hiring great people across the company and explaining why the company is going to win using its great product vision. Product advocacy, internally and externally, is important for CPOs. [5:42] How do you use roadmaps? I use PowerPoint or Google slides for my roadmaps. I structure these roadmaps very clearly. We start with the company’s high level goal. Then we identify two or three themes that we’re trying to build through the product or portfolio; it’s important to communicate these themes internally and externally. Next, we create individual product ideas. We identify two or three big goals and create a slide for each one. Then we create more detailed slides under each goal, answering the questions, What is the business problem? What is the solution? What is the benefit? The roadmap will be slightly different for a new product than for a product that’s already in the market. When you’re launching a new product, the important questions are, What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Who is the persona that’s going to benefit? What is the core of the problem? When you’re creating a roadmap for a product that’s been in the market for a few years, you need to focus on four different types of problems: How do we generate new sales? How are we helping with renewables? Technology infrastructure as your underlying frameworks change over time. Support tickets that existing customers are logging. Put badges on your slides to show which features address each of these problems. This helps you be clear about why you’re creating each new capability and how it will benefit both your organization and your customer. [14:44] Do you use roadmaps at different levels? As a CPO, I like to have one roadmap slide that gives a high-level picture. I use a 12-18 month roadmap and break it down by quarter. This provides a strong foundation to build a great product. You must have a strong platform to have a successful long-term product strategy. As a CPO, I create a 4-5 page roadmap that highlights two or three goals to accomplish for each quarter. Then each director of a product line develops a more detailed roadmap, about 15 pages. All our roadmaps are available to everyone in our company. We’ve found that the 4-page, high-level roadmap is best to share with customers; once we have a commission, we can share the 15-page, detailed roadmap. [18:00] What metrics do you find useful? Adoption: If no one is going to use the product, what is the point of building it? While you’re building a new feature or product, have in mind four or five customers who would use it right away. Make sure that those customers will pick it up in its first phase. A month or two after the product is out, it should be used by at least 10% of the existing customer base. Every product, feature, and button should be instrumented. We need to know which pages and buttons are being used. If people aren’t using a certain feature, we can find out why. Net Promoter Score (NPS): There are two parts to this: First, we survey the satisfaction of product sponsors who purchase our product, typically just one or two people. Second—and more exciting—we ask end users to rate their experience on each of our pages. We get hundreds of responses every day with specific information, and we connect the responses to a Slack channel that the entire company sees. User feedback can be pretty tough on product managers, but good product managers don’t shy away from it; they want feedback and work to fix problems. Revenue: At the end of the day, people have to purchase your product. You need to become a market leader and drive revenue. Product managers don’t control selling the product or pricing, but it’s important for them to understand those metrics. CPOs and PMs need to understand how many engineers you need to support a product based on the amount of business it’s generating. [28:02] How do you use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)? OKRs make a useful framework, but you need to know how to use them or they’re just a bunch of text on paper. First, we look at the business strategy. The leadership team meets with the CEO to discuss where we want to take the company on a quarterly basis and agree on company OKRs. The CEO and I discuss high level goals for my department to support the business. Next I share the business strategy with my department’s leaders and discuss OKRs that we can put in place. We then take a bottom-up alignment approach and discuss our goals with the entire department. Once our OKRs are in place, we connect our key results to our Jira tickets. We have complete transparency within the company about how the product team is doing. It’s very motivating for product managers to see the entire company supporting them. We also use social features called Cheers and Nudges. People cheer for projects and initiatives that are going well. As a leader, I can nudge people who are behind on their initiatives. At the end of the quarter, we reflect on the OKRs that failed and those that were successful and determine what to do next time. Action Guide: Put the information Anup shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Connect with Anup on LinkedIn Check out the book Measure What Matters on Amazon Innovation Quote “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.” – Steve Jobs Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
41 minutes | 4 months ago
TEI 315: Product Design and Development Tools – with Carlos Rodriguez
How product managers can take an idea to a market-ready product This is fourth in the series on a product management body of knowledge I’m doing every-other-week. We are exploring the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) guide to the body of knowledge for product managers and innovators. If you are unfamiliar with PDMA, they are the longest running volunteer-led professional association for product managers, existing since 1976. We started in episode 307 with an introduction to the body of knowledge, explored strategy in episode 309, portfolio management in 311, development process in 313, and now we are discussing Design & Development Tools. These are tools that are used in a product process to move from idea to market-ready product. Our guest is Carlos Rodriguez, who is an associate professor of marketing and quantitative methods and also the director of the Center for the Study of Innovation Management (CSIM) in the College of Business at Delaware State University. He recently published a book, Product Design and Innovation: Analytics for Decision Making. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:36] You contributed to the “Product Design and Development Tools” chapter of the PDMA Body of Knowledge Guide. What is the purpose of that chapter? The purpose is to guide product designers, product developers, marketing managers, and other innovation managers toward selecting the most relevant tools and techniques to take them from the ideation process to getting ready to launch the product. [4:06] What are some Ideation tools you’d like to highlight? Ideation tools are used to generate ideas for products. Storyboarding: Focuses on the development of a story about the consumers’ experience with the product or service. This technique allows us to understand the problems the consumers face in trying to connect with the product. Day in the Life of a Customer: Focuses on the routines, behaviors, and circumstances of users interacting with the product. This allows us to observe consumers’ behavior in natural settings. Journey Maps: Allow us to understand the customers’ process before, during, and after a sale. Recent data show that measuring the journey at the end of the cycle may not be a good indicator of the consumers’ experience. Ethnography: Allows us to find insights we might otherwise miss by observing customers in their environment. [8:41] What are some of your favorite Concept Design tools? Concept design helps us to better understand the value proposition that is meaningful to the consumer. Concept Engineering: Translates the voice of the customers into customer requirements—what exactly is the customer asking us? This technique avoids the mistake of trying to find a solution during the development process. Kano Method: Helps us clarify which attributes of a product are important and which are not, so we don’t waste resources or distract by including features the customer doesn’t value. [16:32] What are your favorite Embodiment Design tools? Embodiment design moves from the basic concept definition to more technical and economic criteria. Functional Analysis: Allows us to draw a map of all the functions that define a product. It’s a useful tool for communicating across cross-functional teams as the designers correct and improve functions. Function Analysis System Technique (FAST) Diagrams: Allow us to set the boundaries of the product. [19:31] What are some of the Initial Design Specification tools? In Initial Design Specification, we move into quantification of all the specific requirements consumers are looking for. These tools ensure the product satisfies the dictates of the design. Let’s be very clear that the design doesn’t belong to the designer; it belongs to the team supporting the new product development process. Design for Functionality Design for Production: Helps us be sure all the elements can be appropriately manipulated in production. Design for Maintenance: Allows us to market to consumers who often want to maintain their own products. Design for Recycling and Reusability: Reminds us to be aware that consumers are increasingly selecting products that are more environmentally-conscious. [21:59] What are some tools for Detailed Design Specification? Detailed DesignSpecification takes us to the details, particular features, and specifications that are important. During design, we need to communicate with other colleagues, and detailed design allows us to connect with engineering. Quality Function Deployment: Allows us to bring in the customer requirements from the Kano method and connect with the technical requirements. It helps us translate the voice of the customer into the language of the technical and engineering team. It allows a comparative analysis of competing products and allows us to define the cost of making modifications. Emotional Design: Helps us think carefully about which emotions we’re going to design into the product. It is not important what the product does for me—it is how the product makes me feel about myself when I use it. Kansei Engineering Method: Analyzes the meaning of words to customers and how those words trigger specific emotions. Our job as designers is to build an emotional relationship between the product or service and the consumer. [29:49] What are some Fabrication and Assembly tools that you like? Functional Prototyping: Confirms that the product’s functions are effective, robust, and doing their jobs. If products do not satisfy functions, consumers are not going to buy them. Experience Prototyping: Takes us through the experience of using, assembling, maintaining, and/or adjusting the product. Design for Sustainability: Allows us to think about the sustainability of the product from several angles. Unfortunately we don’t yet have very concrete, robust measures of sustainability, but the PDMA Body of Knowledge provides criteria to use. We consider sustainability from the perspectives of service design, improvement, and material design. Product Sustainability Index: Analyzes sustainability effectively with a consolidation of several criteria. Action Guide: Put the information Carlos shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Learn more about the PDMA Body of Knowledge at the PDMA Knowledge Hub Check out Carlos’s book, Product Design and Innovation: Analytics for Decision Making, on Amazon Get useful information from DSU’s Center for the Study of Innovation Management Innovation Quotes “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” - Albert Einstein “Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.” – Jonathan Ive Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
35 minutes | 4 months ago
TEI 314: How to make your ideas thrive instead of die – with Shankar Achanta
Insights for product managers from an R&D Engineering Director How does an R&D Product Line Director lead the development of products and help to mentor product managers? That’s what I wanted to know when I talked with our guest, Shankar Achanta. He has had a number of engineering product roles at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, which designs and manufactures products for the power industry. Shankar shares several tools for getting ideas for new products along with practical tips for how product managers can frame their ideas and gain support from colleagues as well as leaders. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [1:30] What are your responsibilities as an R&D Engineering Director? I’m responsible for a large portfolio serving the global energy industry. My role includes vision and strategy for my portfolio projects, as well as executing the strategy by introducing the right products at the right time. I’m also involved in portfolio management. I lead product development teams and product management teams. [2:51] Where do you see ideas for new products coming from? Great ideas come from anywhere in the organization—sales, talking to customers, product development, etc. Recently, my team and I experimented with a three-month Innovation Framework. We brought together product managers and product development leaders to solve difficult problems our customers are having. We let them create self-forming teams, with a maximum of five people per team. After we provided the problem domains, we asked the product managers and product development leaders to read the problem domains and ask us questions in the first one to two weeks and then provide a one-page abstract with all the solutions each team came up with. We saw a lot of participation, and many teams came up with the one-page abstracts. [6:05] How did the product managers and product development managers come to have good insights into the problems that customers encounter? These insights are key for the Innovation Framework to work. The product managers and product development leaders engage with customers at conferences and in one-on-one meetings and get input from the sales organization. Once we have the ideas from this variety of avenues, we compile a list of problems for a particular segment of customers or enhancements to an existing product line. [6:52] What’s an example of the Innovation Framework in action? We had a couple of challenges with our sensors for power lines: They communicate wirelessly, so they need to have a line of sight between the transmitter and receiver, and they need to last for 20+ years. Using the Innovation Framework, one of our engineers solved these problems with a device that repeats the signals and doesn’t need batteries. Once the teams created their abstracts, we selected a few and allowed the team members to use 20% of their time every week to explore those ideas. We found that they spent additional time on their own to come up with solutions, and one team put together a prototype of the sensor. [10:37] How do you select which solutions to pursue? First, we consider how practical the solution is to commercialize. Second, we consider how it fits within the company’s strategy. Third, we consider the effort, technology, and time to create the solution. [15:19] Do you get customer feedback on the solutions being created? Once we have the early prototype, we engage with customers who give us feedback about the solutions. We didn’t engage with a large number of customers because the Innovation Framework was limited to three months, but we got early customer feedback on the ideas, and we had upfront research that we’d already done on the problem domain. [17:06] How can product managers share ideas and draw attention to them? I ask my product managers to think like scientists. You have a hypothesis that your idea solves Problem A by creating Solution B for the Customer Persona C. Fill in the blanks and write down your hypothesis. Then understand and document your assumptions. Answer questions: Is the problem I identified really a problem? Does my proposed solution solve the problem? Does the customer persona want this problem to be solved? If so, are they willing to pay for it? More importantly, are they willing to switch from their existing solution and pay any switching costs? Once you have the answers to these questions documented, show the strategic fit of your problem statement, which is extremely important to get the stakeholder buy-in from the executive level. [20:07] How do product managers frame their ideas to show strategic fit so they can draw attention to their ideas and get resources? We already have a pipeline of existing projects, so when a new idea comes up, we have to choose to either displace or slow down what we’re doing or put the new idea in the backlog. We compare new ideas to the company strategy and to a document that I write every year for my division that explains where we fit into the company strategy. We look for new ideas that are connected to those strategies and will take us forward. We’re not trying to be rigid, but we are very clear about our goal for the portfolio of products we’re responsible for. For mature product lines with low business risk, we can have bigger budgets and keep the product line going with improvements. For new products, we use a “pay as you go” approach. Feature by feature, we release the product and test the customer base and generate some revenue, then invest little by little. [24:00] How do you pay as you go when projects need more resources upfront? There’s definitely a critical mass to a get a project going. When we evaluate ideas, we ask who the pilot customers are. We follow the 80/20 rule—80% of the customers use only 20% of the features. We need to know what the pilot customers need before we just put a lot of features into the first product. We want the minimum valuable product—the minimum product that creates value for the customer. [26:12] In your organization, what do product managers need to get support for their ideas? They need a mix of story and data. We’re a very engineering-centric organization, and we look at data, business cases, return on investment, etc., but I’ve been extremely happy to see great ideas come from anywhere and get approved fast. For example, we were building a power controller. We brought in product managers, product developers, engineers, and the developer who was building the product, and we were able to look at the entire system, not just the power controller product we created. We created a new sensor that worked with the power controller and build a rapid prototype in two weeks. We went all the way to our executive team with just the prototype—no PowerPoint presentation—and they approved it and gave support throughout the process until it became a product. Our customers really love the product, and it’s taking off. We had some data, but we went beyond our “box,” looked at the whole solution, and created new value. Action Guide: Put the information Shankar shared into action now. Click here to download that Action Guide. Useful links: Connect with Shankar on LinkedIn Learn about the company Shankar co-founded to help small businesses, Apex Specialist Innovation Quote “Engage early (with your customers) and iterate often (your product or service based on your customer feedback)”. – Shankar Achanta Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
33 minutes | 4 months ago
TEI 313: Product Innovation Process – with Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe
What product managers need to know about the journey from idea to product This is another episode in the series on the product management body of knowledge I’m doing every other week. We are exploring the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) guide to the body of knowledge for product managers and innovators. If you are unfamiliar with PDMA, they are the longest running volunteer-led professional association for product managers, existing since 1976. We started in episode 307 with an introduction to the body of knowledge, explored strategy in episode 309, portfolio management in 311, and today we are discussing Product Innovation Process. These are the processes and tools for making a product real. Our guest is Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe, who authored the new chapter on process in the PDMA body of knowledge book. He has many years of experience in a variety of senior product roles and is now serving as the Research, Development, and Innovation Program Manager for the Minerals Council in South Africa, with a focus on Digitalization, IoT, AI, and Technology Research. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:24] What is the purpose of product innovation process? Product innovation process takes us on the journey from an idea to putting the product in the customers’ hands. The purpose of process is aligning our organization and team around a common goal. It creates a baseline of consistency and repeatability while allowing for change, and it allows us to balance reward and risk when developing products. [5:22] What is the Product Innovation Charter (PIC)? The front end of product design is uncertain or fuzzy, and the PIC allows us to get what’s in people’s minds into a structured format on paper. It causes the team to think about key elements like the goals and metrics they want to achieve, sustainability factors, the rationale for doing the work, and assumptions that need to be tested. The PIC validates what’s in scope and what’s not and explores the environment. It shows the direction we’re heading. It also elaborates on day-to-day management of the product. Let’s walk through a few product innovation processes. [9:18] Stage Gate The idea behind Stage Gate is managing uncertainty along the journey. Typically, the first stage is about discovering and exploring. Then we reach a gate, which is a decision-making event. The team uses criteria to determine what they need to get out of each stage and how to proceed going forward. The focus of Stage Gate is quality decision making. Stage Gate is very transparent and adaptable. Recently, a methodology has been created combining Agile and Stage Gate; in this methodology, the team always thinks in terms of customer needs. Stage Gate increases team morale and improves communication. People know what to expect; quality decisions can be made and focus is maintained. [14:34] Lean Product Innovation Lean Product Innovation originated in companies like Toyota where eradicating waste in production and innovation is of primary importance. Lean Product Innovation is about gathering information and knowledge as early as possible. It’s unique in that it includes gathering knowledge all the time and incorporating it back into the process of eradicating waste and improving. In this process, the team develops a sense of ownership, so it doesn’t require heavy governance. It does take time for the team to buy into it, but it’s a fantastic way of managing risk, quality, and performance in the long run. It’s also easy to scale. [18:36] Agile Agile is an iterative approach, a quick way of achieving milestones and iteratively checking what’s working and what’s not throughout the life of the product. Agile was made to be done by self-organizing teams who collaborate, share ideas, and develop solutions that fail fast and fix fast. Working in small stages allows you to change plans quickly, so it’s especially useful in an unpredictable environment. You can’t spend too much time on any one phase, so you work in sprints. Agile is underpinned by pillars. One pillar is the interactions of individuals—the team players work in specific roles. Another pillar is the heavy customer involvement in product development. [25:02] What do you tell organizations that want to improve their innovation process? First, evaluate the problem with the existing methodology. Remember that culture is key; it is people who create, ideate, and innovate. Include all the stakeholders on the journey to improving the innovation process, and don’t bring in anyone who would disrupt the process. Be clear about the roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities that everyone has in the process. Be clear about the product—remember that any process is a means to an end. Give the new process time and check it again. Action Guide: Put the information Jean-Jacques shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful link: Connect with Jean-Jacques on LinkedIn Innovation Quote “The most important invention Thomas Edison gave us was not an invention at all. It was the process of invention, the codification of the discrete steps to take a raw idea to a commercial product.” – Harry Roman, in an IEEE publication Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
41 minutes | 4 months ago
TEI 312: Are you using empathy correctly as a product manager? – with Rob Volpe
How product managers can empathize with customers and colleagues in five steps You’ve heard it before, product managers need empathy. One way we talk about empathy in our role is “walking in the customers’ shoes,” meaning that we understand the customer, the problem they need solved, or the job they want done. Indeed, product managers who use empathy wisely are more likely to gain customer insights that others miss, leading to products that create more value than competitors and products that customers love. Clearly, empathy is important, but not all product managers have gained this skill, and others are not using it correctly. Our guest, Rob Volpe, will help us use empathy better. He is the CEO of Ignite 360, a consumer insight firm, and a self-proclaimed Empathy Activist. He uses his years of experience in marketing research and promotions to help organizations launch and position better products, including at Kraft Foods, Wild Planet Toys, Pepsi, Sprint, Target, Pinkberry, and many others. Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers [2:37] What does empathy mean and why is it important to product managers? Empathy is the ability to see the point of view of another person. That’s important for product managers because if you’re creating a product, you need to understand your customers, how your customers view the world, and how your product is going to solve a problem or do a job for them. Some people are afraid of empathy because it’s an “E” word like emotion, and they’re afraid of their emotions. It’s important to know that there are different types of empathy. The type that’s relevant for innovation and product management is cognitive empathy, which means seeing another person’s point of view. It’s not about feeling their feelings; it stays in the head. Cognitive empathy doesn’t mean sacrificing your belief; it’s just recognizing another way of seeing the world. Affective empathy means having deep emotion, and that can be harder for people to control. Cognitive empathy still includes an emotional component—it’s still below the surface—but affective empathy is deeper. The trick is to marry cognitive empathy and affective empathy. This combination of the head and the heart can create conviction. Empathy helps us understand a problem so we can solve it. [9:07] Tell us about your system, Ignite 360, with five steps to empathy. We created the five steps because we were seeing empathetic failure in our work. Everyone wants empathy, and everyone is born with the trait of empathy, but empathy is in decline, like a muscle that’s atrophied. We need to exercise and focus our empathy. The five steps explain what it takes to get empathy. [12:47] Step 1: Dismantling Judgement Judgement is made up of our biases, stereotypes, and limited experiences. Passing judgement on others is a brick wall you’ll keep running into until you’re aware that you have it. Just recognizing that you have judgement helps. Example of dismantling judgement: I working with a client to talk with customers about food products in convenience stores. One respondent talked about how his brother would take home a pizza from the convenience store and get a second pizza to eat on the way home. Later, my client told me that he felt judgement and was having trouble listening because that seemed crazy to him, but he decided to drop his judgement and then was able to listen and understand. [16:52] Step 2: Asking Good Questions Good questions are exploratory and open rather than closed. Good questions are important in innovation because you don’t know the story someone will tell you; you need to be open and hear what they’re saying. Example of asking good questions: I was interviewing people about soup, and one respondent kept referencing his nephew who had recently passed away. I asked the open question, “Tell me about your nephew,” and we spent 45 minutes having a conversation much richer than we would have just talking about soup. [19:45] Step 3: Active Listening Active listening is not just what you hear with your ears; it’s what you experience with all your senses, including your sixth sense of intuition. It means paying attention and being present in the moment with somebody else. Example of active listening: When I was talking to the man about his nephew, I could feel the nephew’s presence in the room because my intuition was at work. When you’re doing an in-home interview, observe everything in the room. In a conversation, even over Zoom, notice body language and nonverbal cues. Bringing a second person with you to take notes helps you catch all the nonverbal observations. Debrief with that person afterward and talk about what you each noticed. [27:33] Step 4: Integrating into Understanding Integrating into understanding means reconciling others’ beliefs to your beliefs. It goes beyond dismantling judgement to making room for other perspectives, including customers’ perspectives. Example of integrating into understanding: When Chobani and Fage came out with Greek yogurt, one of our clients could not understand why someone would pay more than a dollar for a cup of yogurt. That belief was preventing them from having empathy. They had to make room for another perspective and understand that some people choose to spend more money on certain products, in this case yogurt at Whole Foods. If we were going to create a successful product at Whole Foods, we had to understand that our customer was looking for a whole different premium product. [32:04] Step 5: Using Solution Imagination Solution imagination is imagining yourself as another person. A common mistake that product managers make is only thinking about their customer in the moment of purchase or use of the product; instead consider the 360 view of them as a person. Example of using solution imagination: Continuing the Whole Foods example, you need to understand the role of Whole Foods in the customer’s life, their beliefs, and their priorities. Get into their mindset and take their perspective. Action Guide: Put the information Rob shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide. Useful links: Check out Ignite 360’s website Visit Ignite 360’s blog Connect with Rob on LinkedIn Rob’s book Everyday Americans—see Rob’s website for more info when the book becomes available Innovation Quote “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Henry Ford “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” – Jonas Salk Thanks! Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.
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