One concern we product builders often cite with our C-suite sponsors is their disdain for discovery. “We know what users want,” is a frequent refrain when we recommend investment in user research. Sometimes, even we fall victim to that flawed “we got this” mentality. When we do, we limit our own market exploration by rejecting the notion that there’s always more to be learned.
With that kind of thinking, we tend to get in our own way, says Lesley Betts, who joins Sean and Paul on this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast. As Senior Product Line Merchandiser for Burton Snowboards, Lesley shows us how going beyond “our little maple curtain” – a Vermonter’s term for thinking outside the box – helps us align our role as product managers to what’s actually happening outside the industry.
“We know the product so well and as snowboarders we’re users of the product,” she adds. “But that’s where we have to challenge ourselves to do things that are outside the norm. We have to listen and be mindful of what our users are telling us.”
The lesson here actually goes much deeper.
When we invited Lesley to join the pod, we thought it would be fun to get an expert’s insights into the physical product development space. We knew there would be similarities between our physical and digital worlds – but even we were amazed how exacting they are. In fact, aside from the product life cycles, the number and nature of parallels between software and snowboards are freakishly close. As are the responsibilities product managers share across industries.
Listen in as Lesley describes her role as “the hub of the wheel” when it comes to product leadership, “… as far as identifying problems, working with the creative team, collaborating with ‘team riders’ (i.e., in-house product experts), marketing, sales, and our customers…yeah, every single one of those touchpoints always comes back to the hub.”
Sound familiar? We thought so too. Enjoy!
[02:13] Creating the correct product requires a ‘rider-driven mentality’. We had to listen to our customers. We had to be advocates for them. We had to listen to ourselves as well. At the end of the day, we’re all snowboarders.
[04:23] The PM role by any other name. Whether product manager or merchandiser doesn’t matter. I’m the hub of the wheel. Identifying problems, working with the creative team, working with our team riders, marketing, sales, our customers. Every touchpoint always comes back to the hub.
[06:25] Physical product vs. software product. The life cycles may be different, but the development process is very much the same.
[07:55] Self-awareness and trusting your team. If I were better at snowboarding, I could be the person leading that. But really, I just need to trust and lean into those guys.
[10:26] Culture, mantra, rallying cry. At Burton, we call it “The Stance.” It’s what we believe and what we do. It bleeds throughout the building, and it’s the reason people come here: because it feels like you’re part of something bigger.
[12:11] The 7-minute focus group. Every time you ride the lift, sit with someone new. Just have a conversation: “Why are you riding that product? Why are you riding here? What brought you here? Where did you get your board? You can learn so much just from a few moments with a person, in the moment.
[12:53] People don’t trust brands. People trust people.
[14:22] Get out of your own way. Developing product, we can actually get in our own way; we know the product so well. That’s where we have to challenge ourselves to do things that are outside of the norm.
[16:16] The ‘white room’. Like an innovation workshop or design sprint, we need to pause. To remove all other responsibilities so that we can truly focus on one problem statement.
[18:53] Innovate for the little things too. We can’t always be solving the big things. It takes a special kind of mindset to maintain this concept of innovation within the day-to-day culture.
[23:05] The power of why. We learned more about ourselves in the white room process about how we need to work together as a team. By sharing your why with the team, you’re just going to get the best results.
[24:48] Innovation. If I can change something for someone. I know that seems very simple, but innovation is making something better for someone. Who that is, I don’t know. But if you take something and create an enhancement or a better experience – a better day on the snow – then I feel like we’ve done our job.
Lesley’s Recommended Reading
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown.
Lesley Betts is the Senior Product Line Merchandiser for the Snowboards Category at Burton Snowboards, where she brings to life the best snowboards in the world. Lesley’s focus has always been to bring to her job the same amount of energy, excitement, and passion that she shares for snowboarding. When she’s not snowboarding, Lesley’s goal is to pet every dog she sees.