Lesley-Betts

46 / Whether Building Software or Snowboards

Description

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.


About Lesley

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.

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Transcript

Sean [00:00:18] Hi, welcome to the Product Momentum podcast, a podcast about how to use technology to solve challenging technology problems for your organization.

Paul [00:00:28] Hey, Sean, how are you today?

Sean [00:00:30] I’m doing quite well, Paul.

Paul [00:00:31] Excellent. This is an inspiring conversation. I left, I think, with a newfound perspective on what product even means.

Sean [00:00:40] There’s a lot of parallels to building a physical product like a Burton snowboard and to the software products that we build.

Paul [00:00:48] Yeah. Lesley Betts, I think she had a really challenging look at what the intersection of culture and hardware and market all look like when they align.

Sean [00:00:59] Yeah, I love how she defined innovation as anything that leads to a better day on the snow.

Paul [00:01:04] For one person.

Sean [00:01:06] Right.

Paul [00:01:06] Just such a human look, I’m so excited for our listeners to dig into this one.

Sean [00:01:11] All right, let’s get after it.

Paul [00:01:12] Let’s get after it.

Paul [00:01:16] Well, hello and welcome to the show. Today we are excited to be joined by Lesley Betts. She’s the senior product line merchandiser for the snowboards category at Burton Snowboards. She brings to life the best snowboards in the world. Lesley’s focus has always been to bring her job the same energy, excitement, and passion that she shares for snowboarding. When she’s not snowboarding, Lesley has a goal of petting every dog she sees. Lesley, we’re so excited to have you. Thanks for joining us.

Lesley [00:01:40] Of course. Thank you guys for having me.

Paul [00:01:42] Awesome. So when we were chatting before the show, it struck me that one of the overarching themes that you bring to the vision at Burton is this concept of rider-driven. We talked about ability, style, and influence. We talked a lot about what makes Burton tick, but I’m curious if you could just share, what is rider-driven? Is it something that you do a lot of focus groups and bring a data-driven scientific approach, or is it more intuition about who people are and what makes them tick?

Lesley [00:02:13] I would say it’s a combination of those things, but rider-driven is really at the heart of Burton. When Jake started the company, he’s always been honest about this in past interviews and whatnot, but he kind of thought it was gonna be a get-rich-quick scheme. He was under this impression that he had discovered something and could commercialize it and it was going to go great. And it wasn’t until he started really listening to the people that were buying into the product and understanding their hurdles and some of the pain points that they were having, mainly one being that no resorts would allow snowboarding on the mountains, that he realized that he had to do more than just make the product. He had to listen to riders. He had to be an advocate for the sport. And that’s sort of where that rider-driven mentality comes from. For us on the product development side, it has a lot to do with listening to our team riders. But back to your point about intuition, it has a lot to do with listening to ourselves as well. And when you also include our customers, I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all snowboarders that, you know, we’re talking to, especially on the [inaudible] aide. And it’s kind of a combination of getting all of that data and all of that qualitative thought and putting it together to be able to create the correct product.

Lesley [00:03:24] We actually have our rider, we call it the rider roundtables. This was a big thing for Jake and Donna. As they started the company, they would annually gather all of the team riders together, sit down, walk through every product in the line and be able to give feedback of where they, even, you know, like small little details. Like, “oh the sleeve on his jacket is just a little too long,” or, you know, “this pocket doesn’t work for the needs that I have; I would like to see this board have more sidecut,” et cetera, et cetera. And so Jake was adamant about us getting together. And we actually have a rider roundtable coming up. It’s our first virtual rider roundtable. So Jake has been adamant about that over the years. And with his passing, like, it’s something that we really want to make sure that keeps going on.

Paul [00:04:06] Very touching. I think, you know, a lot of things jump out at me that I want to dig into. But let’s back up for just a second and talk about your role specifically. So senior product line merchandiser. You had a couple of iterations on your title. Can you talk about what product means at Burton and where you are in that world?

Lesley [00:04:23] Yeah. Originally we were called product managers. You know, I was an assistant product manager, then a product manager, then a senior product manager. That’s just time over time. But as we dug into what was happening outside of the industry, we wanted to make sure that we were aligned with that role actually was. Product manager, as you guys know, is definitely a little bit more on the software side of things. And in Vermont, we call it our little maple curtain and sometimes we’re stuck behind it. And especially at Burton, especially in snowboarding, I don’t think we were thinking outside of our industry and what we do. So we adjusted that to be product line merchandiser, essentially, the best way to sum it up is that I’m the hub of the wheel when it comes to snowboards, as far as identifying problems, working with the creative team, working with our team riders, marketing, sales, customers… So I always say, you know, the hub of the wheel, all the spokes, it’s kind of like the old bikes that have the little, I wouldn’t even know what to call those, the decorations that slide up and down as the wheel turns. That’s very dating to how old I remember bikes being. But, yeah, just every single one of those touchpoints always has to come back to the hub. And, you know, the goal is, like I said before, identifying the problem, figuring out what insights we need to be able to critically define the requirements for innovation projects, for creative projects, even touching the product all the way down to the website. So making sure that we’re speaking about the product and a benefit-based way that can allow people to understand what snowboard is right for them.

Sean [00:05:54] Awesome. So at Burton, I’m a snowboarder, by the way. So…

Lesley [00:05:57] I love that. I love that.

Sean [00:05:59] So one of my favorite brands on the planet. So thank you for doing what you do. But the question here I have is, you have this rider-centered approach to everything and it’s really a brand that I think has done a great job of understanding who its advocates are and what its advocates look like and really driving your products based on people that exhibit those behaviors. And you give a great example in the kickoff here talking about your rider roundtables. And I’d like to pull on that a little bit more because I think there’s a lot of parallels between what you guys do and how you manage what your community needs to what we need in software products, except the life cycles are different, right?

Lesley [00:06:37] Yes.

Sean [00:06:38] You have to go through a very waterfall-ish, like, you’re manufacturing a physical product versus a digital product where we have the power to iterate much faster.

Lesley [00:06:46] Yes.

Sean [00:06:46] So I’d like to know how you manage those rider roundtables and some of the things that you do to kind of get out, what are the problems you’re going to solve or what are the things you’re going to be building into your next round of products?

Lesley [00:06:58] Well, to your point on sort of timeline, just from today, at this moment, we just kicked off our Twenty-three product season, so this stuff will not be in the market for two more years from today. So in manufacturing the product, we just definitely can’t be as quick. We’re working on that. That’s something we always want to do. You know, right now, when we do these rider roundtables, we are talking about future plans for things that we haven’t even thought of yet with the riders. You know, what are their insights? What do they see from other people? Where is the product failing? But we’re also doing a recap on where the product landed for the previous season. So the past season, working on W 22 product, which will land in the market next year, and it’s also exciting because W 21 product is landing in the stores right now. And you know, it’s the calendar year 2020, so it’s very hard in my world to understand what year it is. Thank God we don’t write checks anymore because there would be no possible way for me to understand what year I’m in.

Lesley [00:07:55] But yeah, it’s definitely challenging with the riders because they can’t just think in the market. They have to be thinking two to three seasons out. But, you know, Jake always used to say that they are the masters of their profession and they should be leading the way. We should be listening to them. They have intuition about their style, about where the sport is going. And we need to lean into that. And if I was, you know, better at snowboarding, I could be the person leading that. But really, I just need to trust and lean into those guys.

Sean [00:08:23] So what are some tricks? Like, during the round tables, what are the things that you guys do? Are there like procedures or things that you do to try to get at those features that you’re going to be building for two years out?

Lesley [00:08:32] We’ve done some, like, empathy exercises. Trying to have them, you know, interview each other, interview a customer, just to understand their pain points, and go through some rapid prototyping, like just concepts and ideas that would enhance that experience either for themselves or for a customer or, you know, a family member. So we’ve gone through some empathy exercises there. We generally kind of let them steer it. It tends to be that, you know, we want to stick to a schedule and we want to talk about like, “we’re gonna focus on splitboards right here,” but they’re going to tell us what they want to tell us and we need to just be open to listening to that. That really comes from Craig Kelly, who is the heart and soul of snowboarding. But he was also an engineer by trade. So, you know, he knew exactly what he wanted and we needed to lean in and trust that.

Paul [00:09:22] I want to jump into something that really has stood out to me since we chatted before about the overall mantra of how you view the culture that’s being built around this idea and you called it standing sideways. And full disclosure, I’m not a snowboarder.

Lesley [00:09:40] OK, we’ll get you.

Paul [00:09:41] I hate the feeling of flying down a mountain out of control. It just [makes me nervous]. I like things where I’m more in control. I’ll give it another shot. It sounds very fun. But standing sideways, the way of being on the board and sort of this almost cultural statement, it sounded to me like a mantra. And we use that as a way of positioning products both within teams internally as they’re being built, but also in a marketing sense. So how things react in the world and I think the concept of standing sideways just, it stuck with me. It’s very cool. It’s very immediate. You know exactly what it means when you hear it. How did this emerge and what does it mean to the Burton teams day-to-day?

Lesley [00:10:26] I think it was, maybe about twelve years ago, and I think that our senior team had noticed that we actually didn’t have a mantra. We didn’t have a rallying cry that would pull everything back together and so they worked to come up with that. Although it seems simple, I think it took them a while to find the right words to make that happen. We call it the stance; that’s sort of like, it’s the stance of what we believe and what we do. But standing sideways, as you mentioned, it’s an obvious nod to snowboarding. Unlike skiing, skiing you’re facing forward downhills, but while you’re snowboarding, you’re always standing sideways, whether goofy or regular. But I think it picked up, to your point, more of a cultural feeling of doing things outside of the norm and doing things that don’t necessarily make sense: pushing outside of your own boundaries, seeing things from a different angle and a different way. It leads throughout the building. I mean, I think that’s the reason why people come to Burton is because it feels different and it feels like you’re part of something bigger.

Sean [00:11:20] That’s great.

Paul [00:11:21] Yeah, I love it.

Sean [00:11:22] Having a rallying cry like that that just unifies the team to constantly be pushing on their own creativity, I think is quite powerful. I want to keep pulling on this advocacy thing. So you mentioned Craig Kelly. You said he was an engineer, but he’s also the center of the sport. I mean, he’s heart and soul living it.

Lesley [00:11:41] Heart and soul.

Sean [00:11:42] So even in our world, like, really understanding and having that, you know, we call them personas in our world, like this kind of ideal demographic of the people we’re trying to build these products for and solve these problems for. I think it’s really important to have those people in your circle. You know, and again, this concept of advocacy, like knowing who these people are and having a good pulse on what they want and where they’re going. I think it’s really, really important. It sounds like you guys have really captured that.

Lesley [00:12:11] We spent a season, this was about five or six years ago, where I challenged everybody on our team to, every time they rode the lift, don’t ride the lift with your friends. Sit down with somebody you don’t know. It’s a, let’s say, seven-minute ride, and just have a conversation. Why are you riding that product? Why are you riding here? Like, what brought you here? Where did you get your product? You know, you can learn so much just from a few moments with a person and understanding, you know, if they bought the product on sale. Like, is that the value that made them pick that? Snowboarding, winter sports, they’re expensive. We get that. And so understanding where we can break down those barriers and create a benefit for people, whether it’s in a technology or in a belief in a brand.

Lesley [00:12:53] I’ve had a lot of great conversations on chairlifts. I’ve also had a lot of bad conversations on chairlifts. I’ve met people who are very quick to not agree with Burton or, you know, that philosophy. It’s tough to be the big guy in your industry. It’s tough to be the brand that has been around the longest. But I think by breaking down those barriers, even for me, it sounds silly, but like even if one customer that I sat on the chairlift with can go back and remember that they had an honest, authentic conversation with somebody at Burton who really cared about them and their experience snowboarding, I did it, you know, like I realize there’s a lot of snowboarders out there and I should strive to go more than just one person. But the best thing I ever heard was that people don’t trust brands. They trust people. And so I guess I’ve always marched through my job as being a brand ambassador day in, day out. Obviously, I lead the product and live for it. But I need to be authentically me and I need to show them that I’m part of this bigger… But just for myself, not necessarily because I’m being paid to.

Sean [00:13:52] I think the fact that you’re a snowboarder yourself, you know, in the role that you’re in, is incredibly powerful. And here’s another thing: in our space, we often say you gotta get out of the room and go talk to customers. It’s easy for you, obviously, because if you’re in the space and you use this product, you can go out there. I love the concept of sitting on a chairlift with somebody that you don’t know that’s not your friend and asking the hard questions and sparking up those conversations because that’s like real, authentic, in the weeds, you know market research. It’s powerful.

Lesley [00:14:22] It was uncomfortable at first, but then I just got used to it. The goal is for me personally to hit one hundred. I wanted to talk to one hundred different people. Luckily, I have the opportunity and the privilege to travel, or else, you know, being in Vermont, I literally have already talked to those hundred people. I’ve talked to everybody in Vermont. But to your point about being a snowboarder and developing the product, sometimes we can actually get in our own way because we know the product so well and we’re users of the product. I think that that’s where we have to challenge ourselves to do things that are outside of the norm. And I know this isn’t the case for every industry, but it’s so interesting to be a user of the product, but not really just the product but the lifestyle. Like, snowboarding is who I am. It’s defined every decision that I’ve made from the college that I picked, the friends that I picked in college, you know, how I sought out the career that I was going to do. And that’s more of a lifestyle than it is just building a product. And so it’s wonderful, but it obviously also can be a challenge to get out of our own way and not necessarily say “I just know this because I’m a snowboarder.” We have to challenge ourselves to listen and be mindful.

Paul [00:15:32] One of the ways that you talked about getting into this problem space in a unique way is this place called the white room. And it seems like there’s something special that happens there where, you know, the most senior or sort of the most inside, info-privileged people are given access to this think tank. And I’m really curious because there’s a ton of crossover analogy that goes into workshops and innovation sessions and design sprints that are becoming more widely used than even just in the software space. But what is it about the white room and the process that happens there that just makes the magic happen? What goes on there?

Lesley [00:16:16] So the white room started in, I think it was 2012. I mean, it was actually a physical space. They had taken a part of the building at Burton and closed it off. They put a lock on the door and they took three engineers, two, I think it was I.D. designers, and one product person or product [inaudible] person and put them in that room. They obviously were allowed to leave. They were allowed to go home, but they were taken away all their other responsibilities and allowed the time, six months, to really focus on this one problem that we had and come out with a couple of different prototypes. And we try, I mean, you guys probably understand that every day we try to make time for the big things. But, you know, we get bogged down by the little quick actions that have to happen. And so this was just something huge for us to really strip away the day-to-day. They didn’t have to work on inline projects. They were just allowed to think, prototype, do whatever they wanted. And the goal was to come out of that room with something that we could start to put under people’s feet and see how it was going to react. So what came out of the original white room was the Step On project, which, like I said, 2012 was when they went in the white room. They came out in 2013. They had some prototypes. We worked on that for five years after just, you know, we had a problem statement. We had a way to fix it, but we had to perfect it. And so we went through thousands of iterations and testing, I think it was 300 plus hours on snow of all these different types of ways that we were going to connect a boot to a binding and build a convenience-based system for snowboarders.

Lesley [00:17:51] One of the big goals in there was that we had to learn from the mistakes of the past. There was the old SI system, the Step In system, and it had some mistakes. People had a lot of baggage coming from that back in the early ’90s. It was clunky, it was heavy, it got icy. Sure, it was really easy to get into your bindings and just go snowboarding really fast, but we had to get over that system. We had to do things that were authentic to us and all the development and all the progression that we’ve made since then. As far as, like, how products should interact, comfort levels. I think the boots have come a long way since the early ’90s in snowboarding. And we also just had to have something that was going to be up to the performance level. Because I feel like when you talk about a convenience level, you’re really just talking about the bottom of the barrel. You just want it to be easy, easy and quick. But that’s not who we are as a brand. We strive to be the top. We don’t want just beginners to be riding this product. We want our team riders to be riding this product. We want to make sure that it elevates to that performance that Craig would expect from us.

Paul [00:18:53] You know, that is I think really getting at something that I’m picking up on a theme in many of the conversations that I’m having. You know, the way that you just talked about that problem being solved, the baggage, quality, and one comment that stands out is you wish we could think about the big things all the time. And it is a struggle, I think, to maintain this concept of innovation within the culture and keep it at the team-level in the day-to-day. But it does take a special kind of mindset to come apart and make that a part of the process. So in your opinion, do you think it’s possible to bring that white room problem-solving process into the day-to-day? Or does it need to be separate?

Lesley [00:19:34] I mean, I think that we had a problem statement, which was nice. So we knew that we needed to spend time on that problem because it was a big problem. Day-to-day, I don’t know. I think quarterly maybe would be the best way I could consider that. We still host white rooms. They’re just on shorter terms, probably because the problem statement isn’t as big. We host these white rooms maybe two to three a year, people are pulled out for maybe two months just to focus in on this one. But, you know, we’ve tried to host like single-day white rooms where you just pull people out and you give them a chance to just, like, breathe and really think in on this one. I think in order to make that huge innovation impact, like something that’s going to alter your industry, you really do need to give it that full amount of time.

Paul [00:20:19] Yeah, I agree. I think the things that I’m seeing, I’ve facilitated design sprints, I’ve run innovation workshops, and it does take that separateness from your day-to-day. You do need to be out of your normal surroundings and even in front of people in the organization that maybe you’ve never met before. But, you know, talking to Carol in finance or Bob in marketing and, you know, getting two people in the organization together who’ve never talked, you generate these ideas that are impossible without that interaction. So I really agree. I think that that’s a really great honesty, you know, that authenticity of being able to say, “we’d like to think about the big things all the time; we’d like to be able to say we’re innovative all the time, but we’re not, you know, innovation superheroes, we need that human space to be a little bit messy and have that room to bump into each other and make those problems real.” So that’s a really great piece of culture that I think is very cool that you’ve embraced.

Lesley [00:21:15] And you made such a good point about Bob from marketing and Carol from finance. I mean, the white room, the initial white room for Step On was all engineers and industrial designers, and that was a product problem. But when we got out of that white room, it was actually one of the first times that we had taken a team of marketing, sales, creative, and product, once we had the product, and sat down and said, “this has to be much bigger than our annual, like, ‘here’s the line, sell it in, have a great time snowboarding.'” I mean, we had to go big. I think we did four different launch events on every different continent. Not every different continent, I guess, but in all of our major snowboard continents, so, you know, we did launch events where we invited media, team riders, customers to come try the system for the first time. We actually were set to launch it in 2017, and that team, like two weeks before our winter sales meeting, pulled the plug. We were like, “we are not ready.” And that was heartbreaking to us in product who had been working on it for a while, but it was the right move because we needed it to be perfect, especially talking about, you know, looking back at your mistakes and understanding where you failed, and we just, we couldn’t fail again on this one.

Sean [00:22:27] Yeah, I want to pull on one of the things you said about, you had a problem statement so you went into the white room to solve this one problem. If you’ve been a snowboarder long enough, you know how much of a pain in the rear it is to have to sit down and buckle in on your board, but you want to be tightly bound to your board. And this is where you’re going with this, I think, you can solve that problem, but if you don’t also continue to solve all of the other problems… There’s no single problem that if you solve that by itself, an isolated situation, you’re going to be successful.

Lesley [00:22:54] Exactly.

Sean [00:22:55] Like you have to solve that problem in the real context of the market and your consumers’ needs and engineering, and finance, because you need to be able to afford to bring that feature to market.

Lesley [00:23:05] It’s a bigger picture thing. And we learned, I think, more about ourselves in the white room process and what came after that about how we need to work together as a team. I’ve done some design thinking, sort of one day sessions with people, and you always joke that once you’re done with your idea and your prototype, you know, you just hand that whole thing over to a marketing department and you hope that they’re going to tell your story correctly. But, you know, if you bring them in at the beginning of the process and tell them why you’re developing it this way and why you see it this way, you’re just going to continue to get the best results. And to your point, we have to think about the whole story. And we also have to keep prototyping. I mean, you can’t stop just because you created a cool system that works and tightly keeps you into your bindings. I mean, we have to continue to, you know, what’s the performance piece of it? Where’s that next level, that high end tier? And where’s the rental variation of it just so you can start to get snowboarders who are just trying the sport out, but they don’t have the money to start the sport? So how do you get them there, too? So we’re constantly continuing to prototype and continuing to think about different ways where Step On can come into play. I mean, we had a joke the other day where we were like, “what’s the Step On of our outerwear program?” And it’s like, “jump in! We’re gonna jump into our outerwear.” It’s not going to catch on, but I think that having the mentality of like, what’s something that’s going to completely disrupt your industry, and how much time do you need to put to it to make it happen?

Sean [00:24:28] Outstanding. All right, well this has been great, Lesley. Thank you for giving us all of this time and energy. I see Burton as one of the most innovative companies in the world, and I could be biased because I love the sport of snowboarding. I’ve been doing it for so many years. But how do you define the word innovation? We ask all of our guests this question so I’m curious what your answer is.

Lesley [00:24:48] Man, I didn’t prep myself for this one. I mean, I think it goes back to my simple comment about if I can change something for someone. I know that 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. And innovation can be small. You know, we’re working currently right now on removing gender from the way that we build our snowboards. I mean, in the past, it’s like “this is the women’s line; this is the men’s line.” And the reality is, is that snowboards have no idea what gender you are. They don’t even know if you subscribe to a gender. We don’t have, you know, the ability to have that snowboard understand that and so removing that barrier, while it’s not, you know, the white room innovation, it doesn’t have a lot of mechanical engineering that’s being added to it, it’s social innovation and really considering that at the heart of this, you’re a snowboarder. And the product shouldn’t define you. You should get to decide where that’s going to go. And so enhancing an experience for somebody is what innovation, I guess, means to me.

Paul [00:25:59] You know, the reason I love asking that question at the end and catching people off guard is because you get such a range of answers. You know, we’ve had the answers that are scientific, some that are prescriptive, but that is just such an authentic answer. I think that stands out as one of the most unique… Great, great answer. Last question before we let you go: what is inspiring you these days? What are you reading and what would you say is something that you’d recommend? And, you know, reading can be in the sense of listening or subscribing. What’s inspiring you these days?

Lesley [00:26:29] Two things. When the COVID-19 hit the world and we’re all at home, I was really inspired by the team of people who do our rapid prototyping at work. We had some engineers and the guys who are building sort of our prototypes for our team riders and, you know, all of our new products that we’re working on at our facility, which is titled Craig’s Prototype in Memory of Craig Kelly. Those guys, within a week, had come up with their own mold for creating face shields and without even thinking about it like, “Hey, we can’t build snowboards right now. We’re not supposed to be here,” but they turned on their brains and said, “let’s create something that’s going to help people in this moment.” And I think as things were dragging and we were feeling sort of hopeless in the pandemic, to see the guys that are on my team step up to the challenge and be selfless, that motivated me to get through most of this time. And then as far as reading, I’ve been doing a lot of racial injustice reading lately. I’m reading a book called I’m Still Here by, I think it’s Austin Channing Brown, and I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on how to be a better manager. So really exciting stuff over here happening in Vermont.

Paul [00:27:41] It is exciting. Well, thank you again for sharing your time and your enthusiasm. It’s infectious. Maybe that’s not the best choice of words given the time.

Lesley [00:27:50] Yeah, maybe not.

Paul [00:27:50] It’s inspiring. You know, the conversation that we’ve had is definitely going to challenge me to look at teams that I’m leading differently and reframing problems in a new way. So really, thank you very much.

Lesley [00:28:02] Well, thank you guys for having me. This was fun. It’s a little bit out of my norm, but I’m still talking about snowboarding, so I guess living the dream.

Paul [00:28:08] Awesome.

Lesley [00:28:08] And Sean, I’m going to get you on Step On. We’re gonna make it happen. We’re going to get your feedback on how the system works.

Sean [00:28:15] I’m ready. Anything you want to share about the upcoming product launch?

Lesley [00:28:19] I mean, I can mention a little bit. Our Family Tree line, we’ve removed genders from the boards. And for me, it’s really exciting that we’re focusing on terrain base. So we’ve created a shape that is aligned with, “Hey, like, I want to ride really big mountains, steeps, deeps, quick turns,” and then, “Hey, I want, like, nice floaty pow.” It doesn’t really matter who you are. If where you want to go is the same regardless of your gender or regardless of what you’re doing in your life, we have the tool for you and it’s been really exciting to see that come to life. I think everybody wins when we remove some of that from there.

Paul [00:28:53] Awesome.

Sean [00:28:54] Can’t wait.

Sean [00:28:55] All right. Thanks, Lesley.

Lesley [00:28:55] Yes. Thank you guys so much.

Paul [00:28:57] All right.

Paul [00:29:00] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency in listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get so please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world, just like you’re doing. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next episode.