Saleema-Vellani

29 / Empathy Is the Catalyst for Innovation

Description

Design thinking calls on product people to put themselves in their customer’s shoes. To empathize with them. Saleema Vellani agrees, but adds that empathy is borne out of self-awareness and that understanding others requires us first to understand ourselves. 

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Saleema Vellani, author of the soon-to-be-released Innovation Starts with I. Saleema explains how practicing empathy, more specifically compassionate empathy, requires a shift in mindset that helps us truly connect with our product’s users in deeper, more meaningful ways. 

“Compassionate empathy is becoming increasingly important,” Saleema says. “It’s not about just understanding a person, what they’re feeling. It’s actually feeling moved to help them.” To understand that connection, she adds, is to be the catalyst for innovation.

Listen in to catch Saleema’s easy-to-implement practical tips for product managers and their teams. What you’ll hear:

[01:59] The future of our product space. AI, machine learning, and automation is creating a lot of job displacement. But with it is coming exciting new product roles and opportunities.

[02:12] The “Augmented Age.” The human skills (e.g., emotional intelligence, empathy, critical thinking, cultural intelligence, technology, and data science.)

[03:39] 3 types of Empathy. Emotional empathy, cognitive empathy, and compassionate empathy.

[03:46] Innovation Starts with I. Practicing empathy starts with first understanding oneself.

[03:55] Design thinking guides us understand our customers, to put ourselves in their shoes.

[04:00] Associative thinking helps us first understand who we are and then connect seemingly unrelated things.

[04:50] Be a “dot connector.” Applying associative thinking to move from self-awareness to compassionate empathy to innovation.

[05:02] Can empathy be learned?

[06:03] Empathy and innovation. Empathy is the engine behind innovation.

[07:12] The “sweet spot” of innovation lies at the intersection of feasibility, viability, and desirability.

[09:11] Product radical listening. The key to a more holistic understanding of the problem.

[09:50] Groupthink. Creativity’s kryptonite.

[10:44] Product people, heal thyself. Starting with I requires an openness to learning about yourself.

[11:52] Product thinking. A newer concept in which product managers need to become product coaches, and more organizations must become product-led.

[12:15] Product thinking, part deux. It’s not just about the products; it starts from understanding yourself.

[13:50] Inclusion as the catalyst for innovation. Inclusion requires learning as much as possible about different stakeholders using tools like empathy mapping, journey mapping, and user experience mapping.

[15:22] Innovation. The process of taking all the things that are already out there and reassembling them in a new way.

[15:49] A “recovering perfectionist.” Wanting to be perfect is counterproductive.

[16:25] Outcomes > outputs. Perfectionists think about outputs. Problem solvers think about outcomes and how they make us feel.

[17:17] GSD (get stuff done). Better to implement something that’s not perfect than have a bunch of half projects hanging waiting for perfection.

[17:56] Compassionate empathy. The kind of empathy that actually moves us to help. It’s solution focused.

[19:59] Tips for product managers. Create psychological safety; let failure be OK. Practice inclusion. Be outcome focused. So many more!

[20:53] The job of product managers is to give value. Giving value starts with using empathy to understand yourself and your customer.

[21:44] Be an intrapreneur in an organization. Help others by giving them autonomy and flexibility, understanding what will make them happy in their work.

[23:50] The difference between listening and making a person feel heard.

[25:06] Understand the problem before jumping to hypotheses. When we take the time to understand the problem, we often learn that the real problem is very different than we initially thought.

[25:14] Innovation is putting together existing things in new ways that create value.

 

Saleema’s Recommended Reading

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

Innovation Starts with I, by Saleema Vellani.


About Saleema

Saleema Vellani is an award-winning innovation strategist, a serial entrepreneur, and the author of the forthcoming book, Innovation Starts With ‘I’.

Saleema is the co-founder of Innovazing, a strategy consulting firm that helps organizations develop business growth and innovation strategies centered in design thinking and agile processes. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship at Johns Hopkins University and an advisor to several startups and mission-driven organizations. 

Saleema holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Development from McGill University and a Master’s degree in International Economics and International Relations from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

She is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian and has lived in Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Italy, and the U.S. Born and raised in Canada, she is proud of her multi-cultural upbringing as a Toronto native with East African and Indian roots.

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Rich-Mironov

28 / Savvy PMs Engage All Their Audiences

Description

It was the best of jobs; it was the worst of jobs. (apologies to Mr. Dickens)

While everyone else has carved out their own place in the organization, the product manager is the person nobody works for. And who, it often seems, works for everybody else. But their role also puts them at the center of the action, wielding influence that drives product success.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Rich Mironov – a 40-year Silicon Valley product veteran, executive coach, writer, and self-proclaimed smoke jumper (more on that later in the pod). The product manager’s sphere of influence isn’t limited to the user, Rich says, or even to the client. PMs dance to the beat of many drummers, working to convince finance, sales, and customer support – not to mention industry analysts and C-suite executives – why their product is worthy of investment.

As the non-hierarchical leader in the organization, product managers have to meet our audiences where they are, Rich adds, “instead of expecting them to love product management so much that they just want to do it my way.”

Whether you’re a junior product manager still practicing the hard skills or a savvy product leader refining the soft ones, the job of the product manager is about understanding all your audiences and how each rewards you for delivering what’s important to them.

What you’ll hear:

[00:51]  Validation & discovery. Convincing the C-suite to invest here is really hard.

[02:09]  Mistakes we make. We believe our users when they tell us how to fix the problems instead of doing the hard work to figure out what problems they actually have.

[04:20]  Timing. The time to figure out what the market wants is 9, 12, even 15 months before we give the product to the sales team and tell them to go bring money in.

[05:29]  Shock me and surprise me. Use open-ended questions when interviewing users to extract everything out of their heads.

[06:52] Don’t lead the witness. Only after drawing unprompted, unaided insights from customers should you show them mock-ups of your design.

[07:12]  Validate ideas way before we code. Most ideas don’t play out. Better to have them fall flat before we spend the next $2 million dollars building it.

[08:20]  The job of salespeople is to bring money in, not to get all fussy about the technology.

[08:30] When PMs aren’t helping salespeople bring money in, they should make sure they’re building the right product and preparing answers to questions users are going to have.

[09:17]  2 huge changes in product management. The availability of data to help make decisions, and the social network to talk them through.

[10:50]  Why product management is like parenting. We’re not really parents until we’ve gotten some poop on our hands – and laughed about it.

[13:12]  Why product management is like smoke jumping. In both roles, we’re bringing order to chaos.

[14:29]  A note to CEOs. When you’re looking for a product leader, hire for the right skill set.

[16:48] KPIs, OKRs, MAUs, and GA. Performance metrics are not one-size-fits all.

[18:14] The mark of success. Be sure you’re measuring your users’ success, not your own.

[20:23] Keep your developers happy. When they love the product as much as PMs do, they’ll do anything to make it right and keep it that way.

[23:16] Guerilla discovery. How eager are you to embarrass the executive team?

[24:56]  Discovery. You can pay for discovery now, or you can pay later. But make no mistake. You are going to pay – whether by design or default.

[26:10]  The evolution of a product leader’s skills. From the hard skills and workflows to the soft skills and communication.

[27:08]  Outputs vs. outcomes. Which should you invest in?

[27:41]  Resilience. A measure of the product leader’s emotional range.

[28:20]  Product Managers are the product person nobody reports to.

[32:09]  Innovation exists at every level of the organization, at every level of scale.

[34:12]  It’s okay to “beat your chest.” We have to not only love our products; we have to make sure our team gets the credit.

[35:01] Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t cost a nickel.


Rich’s Recommended Reading

Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams, by Mickey W. Mantle and Ron Lichty.

Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, by Henry Chesbrough.

Outcomes Over Output: Why customer behavior is the key metric for business success, by Joshua Seiden.

Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value, by Melissa Perri.

John Cutler, blogger on Medium.

Teresa Torres, blogger on Product Talk.


About Rich

Rich Mironov is a 40-year veteran of Silicon Valley software companies.  Currently, he coaches product executives, designs product organizations, and parachutes into companies as interim VP Products/CPO. In an earlier incarnation, Rich was the “product guy” at six B2B start-ups including roles as VP of Product Management and CEO.

Rich is a relentless writer, speaker, teacher, and mentor who has been blogging on software product management since 2002. Rich launched the first Product Camp in 2008. You can catch Rich’s work (blogs, talks, and pods) here

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radhika-dutt

27 / Product Success Starts with a Clear Vision

Description

A product’s vision communicates the change we want to bring to the world. It starts with why, but in the same breath also answers for whom. That’s why the best vision statements are outwardly focused. Product teams craft them not to declare our own goals and aspirations. But to focus attention and energy around the problems we want to solve for our users.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Radhika Dutt sits down with Sean and Paul to explain how vision-driven products not only clarify the why and for whom. But they also resist the common diseases that afflict product success. In the absence of a clear vision statement that is uniquely our own, we work without direction. We confuse activity with purposeful effort. And we deliver solutions to problems our users don’t have.

But bringing vision and strategy isn’t enough. Product leaders and their teams need to translate vision and strategy into action. Radical Product Thinking, a movement co-founded by Radhika, provides a step-by-step approach to help teams build game-changing products. It guides teams through a process of applying sound vision, actionable strategy, and effective prioritization to prevent the ailments that end up killing products.

What to listen for:

[01:09]  Maintaining momentum through iteration. The right way to build products is through iteration, but we also need to limit the number of iterations by eliminating the unnecessary ones.

[03:29]  The 2 extremes of Vision statements. One aims to disrupt, reinvent, or revolutionize. The other is focused on business objectives.

[05:03]  Vision statements must be outwardly focused. Users don’t care about a company’s “best in class” aspirations.

[05:36]  3 product diseases. Strategic swelling, obsessive sales disorder, pivotitis.

[06:21]  Radical Product Thinking. It’s a response to repeatedly running into these same diseases no matter the size of the company or the industry you’re in.

[07:58]  Follow your North Star. But don’t be afraid to step back and say, “Wait a minute; we’re following the wrong star.”

[10:34]  Is there risk in being too tied to a vision?

[13:00]  Use your vision as a filter. Does this feature I’m working on align with my vision?

[14:07]  A strategy has to be flexible enough to allow you to adapt in the face of market realities.

[16:25]  Anything can be a product. Based on the commonalities, even a government policy can be a product.

[21:05]  Align your vision to where people want to go anyway. That way, the product isn’t forcing people to change. It’s adapting to what is going to be.

[22:41]  Serving multiple personas in 2-sided markets. Use your North Star to determine where your true loyalty lies.

[25:19]  How to prioritize a feature. A balance between helping me survive the quarter and fulfilling my vision.

[27:37]  Business KPIs and Product KPIs. The Ying and Yang that helps you progress toward the vision while tracking your business success.

[31:14]  Innovation. Changing people’s lives for the better.

[32:00]  Accidental Villains. As you change one person’s life for the better, you’re changing someone else’s for the worse.

[33:36]  Empathy. It’s not just about product managers showing empathy for their users. It has to happen across the whole organization.

[34:05]  Organizational cactus. The internal friction that leads to the accumulation of vision debt.

Radhika’s Recommended Reading

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries.


About Radhika

Radhika Dutt is an entrepreneur and product leader who has participated in four acquisitions as a result of the products she built; two of these were companies she founded.

She advises organizations from high-tech startups to government agencies on building game-changing products. She co-founded Radical Product Thinking as a movement of leaders creating vision-driven change.

Radhika graduated from MIT with SB and M.Eng degrees in Electrical Engineering. She speaks nine languages and is learning her tenth.

You can follow her on her Medium publication, Radical Product or LinkedIn.

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Marty-Cagan

26 / Empowered Teams Build the Best Products

Description

The difference between the best product companies and the rest is pretty stark. And you don’t have to wait until the end of the fiscal quarter to figure which is which. Those lagging indicators will tell you only what happened. Past tense. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in what will happen, begin by examining the level of empowerment within those companies.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul sit down with Marty Cagan, product thought leader, mentor, and founder of the Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG), to discuss the power of empowerment. The job to be done by empowered teams, Marty says, is to solve the hard problems. Sounds simple, but the implications are enormous.

So take heed, product people. Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned product veteran, there’s something for you in our no-holds-barred conversation with Marty Cagan. What to listen for:

  • Feature Teams, Product Teams, Delivery Teams (06:47). The differences between them and empowered teams are real, and significant.
  • Empowered Teams (08:33). Like start-ups, they need to figure out the products customers are willing to buy (value) and whether those products can sustain a business (viability).
  • Innovation (11:25). Solutions to hard problems that add value for our customers and our business.
  • Role of the Product Manager (13:13). They have to go figure out something worth building. So they have a bigger responsibility on an empowered team.
  • For New & Up-and-Coming Product Managers (16:32). What hiring managers are looking for is much more about how you think about solving problems, coming at it with a different perspective. 
  • The Best Single Source of Innovation (21:56). Marty’s comments may surprise you…though maybe not. 
  • Value of Developers (25:00). If you’re just using your developers to code, you’re only getting about half their value.

Marty’s Recommended Reading

What You Do is Who You Are: How To Create Your Business Culture, by Ben Horowitz.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Product Customers Love, 2nd, by Marty Cagan.

Coming Soon: Empowered, by Marty Cagan.


About Marty

Marty Cagan is the founder of the Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG).  Before founding SVPG to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, coaching and advising, Marty was senior vice president of product and design for eBay. At eBay, he was responsible for defining products and services for the company’s global e-commerce trading site. 

Marty is a guest speaker at conferences and major tech companies around the globe, and he is the author of INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love.

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