40 / How A Well-Told Story ‘Weaves In Your Why’


The simple act of telling a story well helps the audience believe that the story is actually happening to them. Whether you’re pitching a product idea to a group of users or to your team, the well-told story resonates. It identifies the key players. It describes the conflict. And as the plot unfolds, it delivers the  narrative and dialogue that best describes their journeys. And at the story’s climax, it reveals how the conflict is resolved.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul catch up with Mark Cruth, part-time storyteller and full-time Enterprise Solutions Architect at Atlassian. When product managers weave just the right narrative, Mark says, we help our teams connect the dots between themselves and the experience they’re creating for users. We help them understand who they are, who their users are, what their mission is, and how they add value to the organization’s larger ambitions. In other words, we Weave in their Why.

Tune in to the pod as Mark weaves his own engaging narrative about the power of storytelling.

[02:17] The difference between user stories and storytelling.

[03:29] Knowing your persona(s).

[03:55] Anti-patterns – e.g., does our product serve only one persona?

[06:57] Storytelling is how we talk to people, how we sell them on our ideas.

[07:53] Oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol.

[10:25] Use the backlog to tell the story of your product’s evolution.

[11:26] Value stream mapping the product backlog to describe your user’s journey as a narrative.

[12:29] How the story plays out in product, we can build a better experience.

[14:59] Integrate a team of teams to weave the story together.

[17:06] Rapid prototyping to potential users.

[18:21] Build advocacy by sharing the product story with users and the product team; both benefit by knowing what the next stage will be.

[20:54] Communicating value. “Hey, we contribute to this part of the journey.”

[21:45] Product Manager tip #1: Ask your teams to create their own canvas; talk about who they are, who their customers are, what their mission is, how they add value.

[24:47] Product Manager tip #2. Ask yourself: When we implement this, what do we expect to happen? Make it a quantitative metric…and then measure it over time.

[30:20] Connect the dots from the organization’s strategic level down to each individual user story.

[31:36] What’s the why? Stories have a way of helping organizations discover their why and communicating it to their teams.

[33:11] Innovation. Innovation is something that we do all the time. It’s allowing ourselves to let go of our preconceived notions and think differently. Thinking differently, that’s innovation.

Mark’s Recommended Reading

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, by Chris Voss.

Long Story Short, The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Margot Leitman.

About Mark

Mark Cruth is an Enterprise Solutions Architect with Atlassian, working with organizations around the world to improve the connection between the work being done and the goals being pursued with the help of Jira Align.

An Agile advocate since 2009, Mark has made it his mission to inject the values and principles of Agile into everything he does. His deep knowledge in Agile product development and team dynamics stem from his diverse experience supporting transformation and value delivery as an Agile Coach, Scrum Master, and Product Owner across several different industries, including Manufacturing, eCommerce, Big Data, and FinTech.

When not heads-down in the latest book on self-management or deep in conversation with a leadership team, Mark can be found reading one of his favorite sci-fi novels (specifically anything by Brandon Sanderson) or playing with Legos with his kids.

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39 / Behavioral Science and Product Design


As product builders, we use data science and behavioral science to help us design software solutions that line up with our users’ initial intent. Data science helps us understand who’s likely to take some action. Behavioral science looks at the factors that drive us to take action in the first place. With so many inputs influencing our decision-making process, it’s hard to know where to start.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Nate Andorsky, CEO of Creative Science and author of Decoding The Why. His many contributions to our space appear at the intersection of human behavior and the ways in which it can improve human outcomes.

Nate recommends taking a behavior-first approach to solving product design challenges. “Zero in on the behavior you’re trying to change and work backward from there,” he says. “Oftentimes when we build products, we get into this habit of thinking solution first.”

We collect all sorts of information about users from focus groups, surveys, and in-person interviews. Much of it lands in two big buckets: what people say and what people do. All that is great. But too often the say and the do don’t line up. So as product leaders we need to continue our discovery process to better understand the “Why?”

Tune in to the pod as Nate shares insights around his concept of “say data, do data, and why data.” The why data explains the subconscious factors that are actually driving user behavior, the types of things your users aren’t even aware of themselves.

Once you understand that, Nate adds, you have a foundation and a decision-making framework to create amazing products that make a positive impact in the lives of others.

[02:28] Behavioral science vs. Data science. Behavioral science looks at what factors drive us to take action? Data science looks at who’s likely to do what.

[03:06] The $64,000 Question. How do product builders get people to do that thing. That’s where behavioral science layers back in.

[03:47] How to institute change in a product ecosystem. Zero in on the behavior that you’re trying to change and then work backward from there.

[05:09] Say data. Do data. Why data. Decode the WHY to understand the subconscious behaviors that drive user behavior.

[06:36] The 15-year delay. Academic research precedes implementation by about 15 years.

[07:17] The need for sophisticated individuals. It takes a sophisticated individual to understand how to convert academic theory into product solutions.

[09:16] Hyperbolic discounting and present bias. How we think about our products doesn’t always align with how our users feel in the moment.

[13:39] The ethics of product design. Use your powers for good; that is, design product solutions in ways that line up with users’ initial intent.

[16:06] How do product managers discover the delta between say-do data and extrapolate the why?

[18:25] Top 2 behavioral economics heuristics. The identifiable victim/beneficiary effect and the power of storytelling.

[20:24] Personalities and behaviors. Behavior might not be driven by one’s personality, but even more so by one’s environment.

[21:34] Digital experiences as motivators and organizers of behavior. Hopefully, behaviors we want to see in the world.

[22:35] The value of personas. They’re definitely informative. But they’re neither industry specific nor individual specific. They’re human specific.

[25:22] Advice to generate new ideas. It comes with experience and getting your hands dirty.

[25:56] The biggest breakthroughs come with a new intervention or a new design that is pieced together from four or five different things that we’ve seen work.

[26:51] Add fuel, remove friction. Avoid swimming against the current. Share a path with your users that matches the narrative they want for themselves.

[27:59] Innovation. It’s the cross-discipline of different studies and ideas. Innovation is when you start to break down the silos that separate these disciplines and understand how they all fit together.

Nate’s Recommended Reading

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson.

Decoding the Why: How Behavioral Science is Driving the Next Generation of Product Design, by Nate Andorsky.

About Nate

Nate Andorsky is an entrepreneur who uses behavioral science to build digital strategies and technology for today’s most innovative companies and nonprofits. He believes the key to unlocking the potential of technology lies within our understanding of the psychological factors that drive human decision-making. By combining scientific findings with outside-of-the-box thinking, he helps turn human understanding into business advantages.

As the CEO of Creative Science, he leads a team focused on this mission. He is a frequent international speaker, has been featured in Forbes, INC Magazine, and Huffington Post and his team’s work has earned accolades from Fast Company and Prior to Creative Science, he was a team member at the Startup America Partnership, a nonprofit led by Steve Case to help build entrepreneurial communities throughout the US. He geeks out about the intersection of human behavior and the ways in which it can improve human outcomes.




38 / How To Recapture Lost Innovation ROI


Investment in innovation will bring business energy, they say, and will enable new revenue growth. Investment in innovation will lead to more efficient business operation and will deepen your brand’s hold on existing clients while attracting more prospects. Investment in innovation will help level up your team’s skill set. 

Innovation is powerful. Investment in it is a necessary condition for any growing, visionary organization. But investment in ITD (innovation, transformation, and digital) is a means to an end. Growth remains the objective. According to Mark Zawacki, it’s a difficult lesson many have learned the hard way. 

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Mark joins Sean and Paul to closely examine true impact of investment in innovation on organizations large and small. As Founder and CEO of 650 Labs, Mark is intimately aware of the challenges confronting today’s businesses. And the news is troubling.

“We’re experiencing a real crisis in corporate innovation,” Mark says. “Tens of billions of dollars invested every year, and it doesn’t appear things are coming out the other side. We’re finding it difficult to see the relationship between investment in innovation and ROI.”

Much of Mark’s analysis stems from his work with large multinational organizations, but he makes clear that the same issues scale to the business unit and team levels too. “When you unpack it, we see the same issues appearing in five key areas: Structural, Organizational, Methodology, Cultural/Political, and Advisorial.”

Here’s a quick look at the root causes of what Mark refers to as poor ITD performance:

  • Structural. Large organizations are built for stability, reliability, and predictability with executive compensation aligned with near-term results. This is hardly the environment for nurturing innovation and a new way of doing things.
  • Organizational. Digital leaders in larger organizations are rarely on the fast track to the C-suite. This suggests that they are more interested in securing the incremental innovations that come along and not the big, strategic shifts that innovative organizations pursue.
  • Methodology. The traditional companies, the incumbents, follow a pretty standard playbook. But they’re aren’t showing results for a variety of reasons – mostly because their playbook has become obsolete.
  • Behavioral/Cultural/Political. So many organizations are filled with smart but risk-averse people who tend to hire in their own image. Organizational politics is the result of individuals acting in their own self-interests. Progress grinds slowly in that environment, and radical ideas are ridiculed.
  • Advisorial. These issues arise when your incentive/compensation system is misaligned with actual problem solving.

So, how do we break through these big, hairy challenges to build an environment where innovation and risk-taking are not only welcome, but encouraged?

The answer lies in creating a new “edge” business that operates separately, but in parallel, from the company’s “core” business. Where the core is focused on delivering short-term results with incremental innovations, the edge business is built for flexibility, uncertainty, and long-term growth opportunities.

The key, Mark says, is to make sure you keep separate the core and edge pieces of your organization. Historically, we’ve tried to create the edge business within the core – and that’s where it’s not working. The edge business is designed and operated to ultimately replace the core business’ declining revenue. Why bring a high-growth asset into a low-growth environment?

Tune in to the Product Momentum Podcast to hear more of Mark Zawacki’s insights into the core/edge organizational model and how to bring transformative innovation and ROI to your organization.

[02:06] A crisis in corporate innovation. Tens of billions of dollars invested every year, and it appears there’s nothing coming out the other side.

[05:35] The relationship between investment in innovation and ROI. At a macro level, we’re finding it difficult to find one.

[06:36] At the micro-level, are companies working on the big things to replace declining revenue? If so, where? That’s when the conversation gets a little difficult.

[07:10] What’s going wrong on the inside of these companies? There are five buckets, or problem areas, where large organizations are having difficulty.

[07:32] Structural issues. Large organizations focus on the short term. They’re built for stability, reliability, and predictability. That’s the reverse of innovation and the reverse of doing new things.

[09:15] Organizational issues. The company’s digital leaders are rarely on the fast track to the C-suite. This tells me the business isn’t really thinking about big strategic change.

[10:15] Methodology issues. Start-ups don’t always play nice with corporates. They don’t make an appointment and say, “Hey, how do we partner together?” They break into your house at 3:00 in the morning and steal your stuff.

[12:05] Behavioral, political, cultural issues. These are the issues that slow innovation. Failure is a bad word that translates to “no real risk-taking.”

[12:50] Don’t confuse new ideas and great ideas. A great team with an average idea always beats an average team with a great idea.

[13:28] Advisorial issues. The vast majority of advisors are fee-based; when you have a fee-based model, your incentives are misaligned with solving problems.

[15:22] The hard stuff is easy. Hard stuff doesn’t mean difficult, but “hard” as in more scientific.

[16:18] The soft stuff is hard. The people skills, knowing talent, applying leadership and management models. How do you go about upskilling? How do we build great teams? That’s hard.

[18:43] Recipe for success. Small team, big goal. Get out of the way and they’ll figure it out.

[20:27] Dunbar’s number. Overwhelming evidence that teams of 150 – ideally under 100 – are more high performing than monolithic teams of thousands working on a goal.

[22:15] Merge the core business and the edge organization? No, never. Why bring a high-growth asset into a low-growth environment?

[29:16] “Burn the ships.” Here’s how to test a person’s intrapreneurial spirit. Few people have the risk profile to forego pay for equity, to forego comfort today for opportunity tomorrow. It’s an example the reality that we’re in.

[31:14] Pooh-poohing incremental innovation? Not at all. It’s necessary but insufficient. We are hurtling toward the technological singularity. We know in 10 years AI eats the world.

[34:13] Three horizons of innovation. Incremental, the horizon three, and transformative.

[37:11] Innovation theatre. You get all the buzz words, all the excitement. But when you push on it, when you look down the pipe to see what’s coming out the other side…that’s when results are disappointing.

Mark’s Recommended Reading

Fightback: How to win in the digital economy with platforms, ventures and entrepreneurs, by Felix Staeritz.

Dual Transformation: How To Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future, by Scott D. Anthony, Clark Gilbert, and Mark W. Johnson.

About Mark

Mark Zawacki is a business strategist and Board advisor, management researcher, author, keynote speaker, and investor.  Since 2001, he has led or supervised engagement teams on more than 400 clients globally, working through myriad revenue-related initiatives including growth, corporate strategy, disruptive innovation, business and corporate development, organisational change/transformation, and variety of people issues (leadership development, organisational design, talent strategy, corporate culture, etc.)

To date, he has worked in more than 80 countries. His clients span a wide variety of sectors, most notably financial services, mobile/telco, retail, media, automotive, healthcare, technology, and energy.  He has also provided strategic counsel on growth and innovation to the European Union and the governments of The Netherlands, France, Turkey, Singapore, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and others.

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37 / Validate and Verify the Customer Voice


Whatever we think we know about our users doesn’t always hold true when we release our products into the wild. Faced with compressed cycle times and pressure to release something, product managers sometimes fall in love with a product only later to discover we were among the few who did. Our mistake isn’t being passionate about the feature or solution; our mistake is failing to first measure our users’ response to it.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Ash Maurya, founder and CEO of LEANSTACK and creator of Lean Canvas, a popular business modeling tool. “It’s about bringing in the customer voice,” Ash says, “and gathering the right qualitative and quantitative metrics – starting with qualitative.”

It’s the easier place to start, Ash continues. “With qualitative, we get to see patterns and learn the big themes – what I call ‘the signals and the noise.’ Validate qualitatively, but then verify quantitatively because otherwise you can get a lot of false positives.”

Throughout the pod, Ash shares insights about how product teams can close the gap between pre-launch conjecture and post-launch reality. By bringing the customer into a Discovery phase conversation where probing and listening are front and center, we’re able to sharpen our focus, test theories through experimentation, and create new experiences based on what we’ve learned.

Product leaders come to understand their customers in a deeper context. When we engage them beyond the functional nature of their challenge, we’re more likely to understand the problem they’re trying to solve at a truly emotional level. With that depth of appreciation, we can create impactful product design.

Be sure to catch the entire podcast conversation to hear Ash share the following:

[01:44] A big movement putting product at the center. In some ways, it’s always been there, there’s just a new awareness of it.

[03:40] The first order of business. Are we building something that gets used? Are customers engaging with this? That’s where I like to start; everything else layers on top.

[04:04] Qualitative metrics. Qualitative can give you a very strong signal one way or the other that you may be onto something. It’s very effective in finding problems.

[05:39] Validation and verification. An interesting distinction in light of the role qualitative and quantitative research plays.

[07:44] Jobs to be Done (and other frameworks). At first, I’m fascinated. But the thing that always troubles me is that it feels a bit like a magic trick. I see the result, but I don’t know how they got to it.

[08:19] Hiring and firing products. Even as I look across disruptive products, for every product that you build, there’s already a product, an existing alternative, that you are replacing.

[09:00] The bigger context. With every product, there’s the functional job, and there’s the emotional job.

[09:00] The drill bit example. Why are you drilling the hole in the first place?

[11:39] Understanding irrationality. How behavioral economics helps the marketer, innovator, and entrepreneur.

[12:59] Quantitative metrics. The quantitative is where the data proves the thing working at scale.

[12:59] Insight generation. That’s where all the interviewing and the qualitative learning comes into play.

[14:15] New products are fundamentally about some kind of behavior change.

[16:32] Habit loops and reward loops. As product folks, we sometimes have to add some kind of feedback loop that this product is working.

[17:35] “Using a lean canvas does not a lean startup make.” The difference between a team following process because they were forced to – not using the tool for its intended purpose.

[23:27] MVP and MVA. Build something smaller and then iterate and refine. The challenge is that today customers have no patience. Rightly so, because they have so many choices.

[25:50] The strategy of preeminence. If you can articulate user problems better than they can, they transfer expertise to you and that starts a conversation.

[27:40] The innovator’s bias. I want to build something cool and different and I don’t want to solve the obvious problems.

[27:40] The secret about new problems. They come from old solutions.

[29:38] The speed of learning. The only true, unfair advantage that you have.

[32:42] Innovation. I contrast innovation and invention. I look at invention as a new way of doing things, and I look at innovation as taking that new way, technology, method to market.

Ash’s Recommended Reading

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.

The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, 2nd ed., by Jeffrey K. Liker.

To learn more about the tools and content discussed on the podcast, check out LEANSTACK.

About Ash

Ash Maurya is the author of two best-selling books – Running Lean and Scaling Lean. He is also the creator of the highly popular one-page business modeling tool, Lean Canvas.

Ash is praised for offering some of the best and most practical advice for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs all over the world. Driven by the search for better and faster ways of building successful products, Ash has developed a systematic methodology for raising the odds of success built upon Lean Startup, Customer Development, and Bootstrapping techniques.

Ash is also a leading business blogger; his posts and advice have been featured in Inc. magazine, Forbes, and Fortune. He regularly hosts sold-out workshops around the world and serves as a mentor to several accelerators, including TechStars, MaRS, and Capital Factory. He guest lectures at several universities, including MIT, Harvard, and the University of Texas at Austin.



36 / Shaping the Product Manager’s Prime Directive


What is the product manager’s prime directive? Most would argue we’re here to make the world a better place through the software products we create. But what do we do when we see product decisions being made that conflict with that directive, that cause us to manipulate users to our benefit instead of inspire them for the benefit of others?

It’s the sort of question that makes you take a “look in the mirror.” And one that Product Momentum Podcast guest Michael Sacca posed in response to a deceptively simple one that Sean and Paul ask every guest: What’s a book that you recommend to others, one that has shaped your career or current thinking?

We could not have anticipated Michael’s response: The Social History of the Machine Gun.  The John Ellis book describes how as a society we arrived at the machine gun as a form of deadly warfare. At every step in its evolution, Michael explained, product decisions were made to devise something that was more lethal than before.

As VP of Product at Dribbble, Michael describes the work of product managers as having to make thousands of similar decisions every day of our professional lives. Though the context of our work is vastly different from weapons of warfare, we too define scope, select new features, and satisfy requirements as part of our daily routine. But do we ever consider whether any of it is really necessary. Is our work helping to serve the prime directive – to make the world a better place?

Michael’s assessment of Ellis’ machine gun example serves as a jarring reminder that the choices we make can have significant impact on the world around us. It’s also a reminder of how a product manager’s leadership and influence can shape the experience for our customers and their users.

Michael put his own spin on the Shaping methodology (inspired by Ryan Singer’s book Shape Up) as a way to deliver impactful results for Dribbble. Listen in to hear more about how Shaping can help your team and organization to fulfill their prime directive.

[03:21] Ship more meaningful work, faster. Start to time box the other way. Rather than requiring the team to tell me how long something’s going to take, we just gave them six weeks to figure out how to ship something meaningful.

[04:26] Moving away from Agile, sort of. We’re not doing the usual Agile. We’re not going to stop and do a retro after 2 weeks. We’re not going to do grooming meetings. We’re not going to do any of that usual Agile stuff, because it didn’t give the team context.

[04:48] Shaping the work to build a happier, more productive team.

[06:18] The importance of building context. Our teams had a ticket, but they didn’t really know why we were doing what we were doing. Now all we do is give them a shaping document and they finalize the scope.

[07:16] Before, everyone was scared to cut scope. Now we’ve been able to refine the process to where we’re always building the most important thing and not wasting time on features that probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

[08:46] How to lose 70% of your team’s capability.

[09:41] What goes into the shaping artifact.

[11:43] “Inspiration is for amateurs.” – Chuck Close.

[13:03] The Dribbblization of Design. I think it is a very human and natural concept to collaborate together, and I think what we do is collect that trending information and give it back to the design community.

[14:58] Transforming product management from a cottage industry into a career that people now aspire to.

[15:21] Product manager as the “CEO of the product”? I don’t think we ever really fulfilled that.

[18:17] The constant evolution of product design. As humans, I think we’re always looking for something new. And that’s never going to change.

[20:35] The art and science of working together, separately.

[22:25] Shaping the space with 400 episodes of What we’re trying to do is better understand the world around us as product managers.

[25:49] The most common cause of product failure. Interestingly, when done well, it’s also the most common cause of product success.

[27:41] Be aware of the influence we have as product managers.

[28:42] What is Innovation. Put simply, it’s a milestone in evolutionary progress.

[30:33] The book I always recommend to product people. The Social History of the Machine Gun, by John Ellis. It exemplifies what we have control of as product managers.

Michael’s Recommended Reading

The Social History of the Machine Gun, by John Ellis.

About Michael

Michael Sacca is the VP of Product at Dribbble. He started his career 15 years ago as a Product Designer, eventually founding a cutting-edge product agency that built applications for Scholastic, GE, Nike, Siemens, and more. He founded the design asset management software, Brandisty, which was acquired in 2014 and is now owned by InVision.

Michael was the President at Crew, the freelance design and development marketplace, and former parent company of Unsplash, the popular stock photo website. At Crew, he secured key partnerships with Squarespace and the BDC before leading the company through its acquisition by Dribbble in 2017.

His writing has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, and his popular product management podcast ( has been written about in Inc, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur, respectively.

Michael served on the board of AIGA in Las Vegas and taught web design as a Professor at the Art Institute.

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35 / Building the Solutions the World Needs


In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Christopher O’Donnell, Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. Their conversation kicks off with a discussion of Trust, closes with Christopher’s definition of Innovation, and checks nearly every box in the product manager playbook along the way.

In a lively give-and-take that combines big ideas and “boots on the ground” pragmatism, Christopher explains how a product mindset, with clearly articulated goals and guardrails, brings a level of team autonomy that delivers product solutions and “delightful surprises.” Autonomous teams, he says, find better ways to solve problems than if leadership had simply given them their marching orders.

“Creativity comes from the constraints,” Christopher adds. When we give people products to build and problems to solve – along with those goals and guardrails – we not only get better solutions; we get empowered, autonomous teams.

“Let’s be clear. Autonomy is not chaos,” Christopher adds. “Autonomy is not doing whatever you want and optimizing for yourself or your team above the customer. Autonomy is the ability to make high-quality decisions without consulting a lot of people. But you don’t get that without the guardrails.”

Above it all, Christopher reminds us of the human story attached to our work. “I don’t care what you build; every day and every interaction involve users of our software. They’re real people, with real people problems.”

The ultimate goal of every product manager, he says, is to build the solution the world needs.

Listen in to hear Christopher’s thoughts on these topics:

[02:34] The Impact of Trust.  When you have organizational trust, you can attract really great people. You can retain really great people, and they will accomplish bigger, better things than what you could have told them to do.

[03:40] Product ≠ Project. We don’t give people projects. We give people products, with clearly defined goals and guardrails. And they own the successes and failures along the way.

[04:30] The Shift into Problems. Even better than giving people products is giving them problems.

[05:29] Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation. Hire their hearts and their minds.

[07:23] Titles do not matter. If it were totally up to me and I could start from scratch, everybody on our team would just have the title “Product.”

[07:38] As a resource, there’s no limit to intrinsic motivation.    

[11:07] Creativity comes from the constraints. In the same way that necessity is the mother of invention, creativity is borne from constraints.

[12:52] Mainsail. Invoking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

[15:26] A playbook, but not a process. It’s the mindset that things are not fixed in time, that we’re always here to adapt and learn.

[16:16] Autonomy. What it is; what it is not. The autonomy is real. Teams are actually making decisions for themselves.

[18:55] Size (of your release) matters. From a quality perspective, the larger your releases are, the harder they are to do in a really quality way. Smaller releases bring higher quality.

[21:02] Demo in production, or it didn’t happen.

[22:49] The problems Scrum solves. One is not being able to get to production and getting in front of customers. The second is getting hassled by everybody else at your company. Scrum is going to help you there.

[29:09] Scrum is a valuable set of guardrails.

[30:04] Building real empathy for your customers. Just how important is it?

[31:40] Relax; all the front-line product managers are faking it. Product management is a game of incomplete information.

[32:53] There’s always a human story. Users of software are people. And they have people problems. I don’t care what you build, there is a human story.

[34:37] What skill set(s) product managers need to be successful.  Curiosity and truth-seeking, absolutely.

[37:29] If the engineers lose faith, there is nothing I can do for you. If none of the teams is excited to work with you, you’re done.

[38:36] It all boils down to interpersonal effectiveness. The growth mindset. Intrinsic motivation. Double down on that, and you can’t go wrong, whatever you work on.

[38:51] Innovation. I think it’s one of two things. It’s either solving a problem that hasn’t been solved. Or solving a problem in a very different way.

Christopher’s Recommended Reading

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business, by Clayton M. Christensen

Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

About Christopher

Christopher O’Donnell is the Chief Product Officer at HubSpot, where he drives product management, design, and user experience for HubSpot’s suite of products.

Prior to this role, Christopher led the product team building the HubSpot CRM and HubSpot Sales Pro. Upon joining HubSpot, Christopher led the re-write of the HubSpot Marketing product, culminating in HubSpot Contacts and the release of HubSpot3 in 2012. Previously, Christopher was Director of Product at Performable before it was acquired by HubSpot in 2011. He has also been a startup founder, advisor, and product/UX leader.

In his free time, Christopher pursues his decades-long passions for building technology products, producing music, and playing guitar. Christopher graduated from Brown University with a BA in Computers and Music.




34 / Product Managers ‘Change the World’


Change the world. It’s a pretty tall order, even for today’s modern product leaders. But that’s precisely what product managers do, according to Adrienne Tan, who joins Sean and Paul in this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast.

Co-founder and CEO of Brainmates, Adrienne is a pioneer in the world of modern product management. Her impact on the product management community has been felt and appreciated both at home in Australia and around the world.

“Product Managers are the key part of the business – the engine that drives the business forward,” Adrienne says. “They are the people who make the products and the people who change the world. That’s what product managers do.”

Changing the world is a lot like eating an elephant. Trying either in one colossal bite will lead to certain failure – and a fair bit of indigestion.  But do it “one bite at a time,” like product managers do, and you may just have a chance.

For Adrienne, bringing products to market that people love requires an approach that goes way beyond a series of sprints, ceremonies, and releases. Over the years, so many different kinds of tools and templates have emerged in response to trying to do better product management. Adrienne prefers to operate on first principles – foremost among them, putting the customer front and center.

“I think when you start with the customer, that makes for a better product,” she adds. “The things that we put in the market are to serve our customers, so we need to be empathetic to who they are and empathetic to the people who build our products for us. Because if we aren’t and we don’t, it shows up in the product.”

Adrienne’s insightful nuggets cover a broad range of topics, each focused on giving voice to product managers and leaders and guiding us on how to level up our technical and adaptive skills, build great product culture, and hire thinkers not doers.

She brings to the pod the same high level of energy that she and her Brainmates team bring to their product management conference. Going all digital in its 6th year, Leading the Product 2020 is designed for the product people and by the product people, bringing together some of the best minds in the product space.


[02:01] I wish there were a secret sauce. I think we all do. But that’s part of our problem. We’re all searching for some secret sauce.

[02:57] Making sure we’re not ‘the tall poppy.’ Maybe it’s a cultural thing; Australians don’t want to be sliced down by others and that could be part of the way that we operate.

[05:05] Avoiding tools, templates, and flash-in-the-pan gimmicks. I prefer to operate on first principles. But my favorite tool is definitely the customer journey map. It puts the customer front and center.

[07:03] Agile: friend or foe? Agile and lean practices are enormously beneficial tools and methods, but we sometimes get so far down in the weeds that we forget what we’re trying to achieve.

[07:54] The 7 Ps of Product. Problem, Purpose, Position, Performance, Price, Promotion, and Practice.

[09:10] What’s old is new again. I’m looking back at the tools that were designed in the 60s and 70s to really reframe and rethink a modern way of doing product.

[09:43] Technical Skills + Adaptive Skills. The connective tissue that brings together what we do on a day-to-day basis with our vision and strategy – where we want to take our products.

[10:52] The Palm Model. The Brainmates product management framework addresses an over-emphasis on the technical aspects of the product manager role.

[12:32] Hiring for product managers. We want and need their technical skills. But do they know how to show up? Do they bring empathy to their work?

[13:59] Develop thinkers, not doers.

[14:40] Empathy. If we are not empathetic to our customers, or to our people, it shows up in the product.  

[16:48] Be yourself; you cannot succeed as somebody else. You cannot be another company. If you try, well then, you’ve already lost your secret sauce.

[17:33] What’s your competitive advantage. People is our competitive advantage. Culture is our competitive advantage. If you want to adopt somebody else’s culture, what is your competitive advantage?

[18:58] A step-by-step guide to building great product culture.

[21:25] Leading the Product 2020. Going all digital in its 6th year, Australia’s favorite product conference is designed for the product people, by the product people, bringing together some of the best minds in the product space.

[23:40] Helping product managers find their voice. I’ve always believed product managers to be the key part, the engine that drives the business.

[24:10] A purpose in life. It may look like we sell training and consulting and a conference, but if you strip it all back what we sell is belonging. We all want to belong at some level.

[26:03] Innovation. It’s great product management. I don’t see innovation as separate to what we do…

About Adrienne

Adrienne Tan is the co-founder and CEO of Brainmates, based in Sydney, Australia. She is a highly experienced senior product and business leader with more than 20 years’ experience across multiple industries. Adrienne brings broad expertise across various aspects of business, including product strategy and product planning, business stakeholder management, and product design and development. She is experienced in managing, coaching, and nurturing teams of product managers, senior product managers, and tech leads.

Adrienne has a comprehensive track record developing a growing and profitable consulting, training, and conference business that boasts a global reach. Over the past 16 years, she has raised the product management profession in Australia through community events and coaching sessions.

When she is not speaking at conferences and numerous product events in Australia and Europe, she is an avid gym lover who also enjoys drinking wine.

Adrienne holds a Bachelor or Arts degree in Industrial Relations and a Master of Economics degree (Social Science) from the University of Sydney.




33 / Learn Fast, Learn Well With Experimentation


Experimentation is not about right or wrong. It’s about learning things that you genuinely didn’t know. The secret is to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and to make room for your own sense of  vulnerability. When you’re able to embrace not knowing something, or have experiments come back that disprove your hypotheses, you’re going to discover amazing insights that benefit you, your team, and your organization.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Holly Hester-Reilly, Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science. In this dynamic and fast-paced conversation, Holly discusses her approach to the product science method, one that focuses on using science and empathy to manage risk while building high-growth products and teams.

“Our job as product people is to manage the risk of product failure,” Holly says. “Part of that risk is to avoid looking bad in front of our teams, peers, and managers. We have to shift the mindset and the conversation away from right or wrong so that we can begin to pride ourselves on learning new things.”

Product leaders have an enormous role to play here, Holly adds. “The only way for us to make that mindset shift is for us to be the example by calling out when the people around us learn something new and saying, ‘that’s what we want to see more of!’”

Listen in to catch more from Holly:

[02:16] The product science method. It’s really about the difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do.

[02:58] Design experiments around past behaviors, not abstracts and hypotheticals.

[04:51] The role of data and metrics. The cool thing about software is we can actually measure how users behave. The right metrics …that’s the best possible predictor of future behavior.

[07:42] Why smart companies with reams of data still make flawed product launches. They’re too comfortable.

[08:25] The Emperor’s New Clothes. Do we have the willingness to be uncomfortable, to be the person who will stand up and say to the boss, “here are the reasons why your pet project is going to fail.”?

[10:12] Confirmation bias. Channeling Richard Feynman, “you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

[10:45] Rapid research. You have to be super-focused on the most important thing to learn and let go of the idea that you might not learn the other things.

[12:38] Exposure therapy. The more times that you’re exposed to something, the more comfortable you become with it.

[15:05] Optimism bias. Gets in the way of making good business decisions like so, so much.

[16:14] How long does it take to change somebody’s mind about their pet project?

[17:49] The role of experimentation. It’s not about being right. It’s about learning things we don’t already know.

[21:19] Premortem risk assessment. Put yourself in a place where risk is already assumed to be real.

[22:34] Our job as product people is to manage the risk of product failure.

[24:02] The difference between good and fantastic product research.

[25:46] Take a snapshot. Make sure that your team is situating who your customer is within the strategy of the product.

[27:22]  Practicing discovery. As a product leader, you should have a strategy that is a series of product-market fits.

[28:27] Measuring the value of research. Two parts: quantify the value of research and know when you’ve done enough of it.

[32:10] “Faster horses.” At least you know what outcome your users want.

[33:48] Innovation. Innovation drives a significant change. It doesn’t just increase the amount of something you’re selling: the revenue, the number of users. It changes the rate of that.

Holly’s Recommended Reading

Indistractable, by Nir Eyal.

Check out more of Holly’s insights by catching her H2R Product Science articles and podcast.

About Holly

Holly Hester-Reilly is the Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science, a product management coaching and consulting firm that teaches the science of high-growth product development. Holly is a former Columbia University research scientist and has led over a dozen successful digital product initiatives at startups, high-growth companies, and enterprises like MediaMath, Shutterstock, Lean Startup Co., and WeightWatchers. With those experiences, she has developed the Product Science Method, a framework to discover the strongest product opportunities and lay the foundations for high-growth products, teams, and businesses. 

Her team at H2R Product Science partners with startup founders and product leaders to share this framework, helping them to figure out which product growth opportunities they should pursue and build the product management skill to deliver on their goals. 

Holly also teaches public and private workshops and has spoken about building high-growth products for events such as Lean Startup Summit Europe, growth equity firm General Atlantic’s CIO summit, top boutique design and development agency Thoughtbot’s employee summit, ProductTankNYC, Parsons School of Design, and the Product School.

Be sure to tune in as Holly hosts The Product Science Podcast.

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32 / Take An Objective Approach to Prioritization


A lot of times product managers take a overly narrow view of prioritization without giving full consideration to the impact of decisions we make. Whether to add another new feature to our backlog – and which one? Is there a new market segment we should explore? Do we need a new vision for our product? For the organization?

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul catch up with Jeff Lash – Vice President of Product Management Research at Forrester. Too often, Jeff says, stakeholders see the viability of an opportunity but not its feasibility (and vice versa). We take an overly subjective approach to prioritization and lose sight of the vision we set for the product and organization.

Listen in as Jeff describes his approach to prioritization. By applying a more objective standard – in fact, Jeff recommends establishing a prioritization framework – product teams act with confidence guided by a vision and strategy that are both clearly articulated and widely communicated across the organization.

Product managers, he believes, need to be general managers of their “commercially minded enterprise, so we need to act like the business owner, running our products like a business.”

Here’s more:

[02:51]  Why the product manager role is so misunderstood. Has anyone ever taken the time to explain, “this is what we expect of you.”?

[03:39]  Vision and strategy. Do product managers understand that this is part of their role?

[05:11]  Balancing the tactical and strategic. It’s about mindset, understanding all the responsibilities.

[07:03]  Product management in a remote environment. The more distant you are from your team, the more you need to document and communicate.

[08:40]  What’s your horizon? If your vision and strategy hold true for the long term, avoid dramatic shifts.

[10:21]  3 levels of prioritization. Sprint, Release, Organization.

[11:36]  Is there such a thing as the perfect formula?

[13:12]  Decision making in the absence of strategy and vision. Good luck.

[15:07]  Frameworks. Help the process along by making it as objective as possible.

[18:53] The definition of product management.

[20:32] Which personas need your attention most? Understand (and balance) the broad range of user personas as well as buyer personas.

[21:41] Incremental revenue vs. Retention effect. One addresses why people buy, the other why people stay.

[26:30]  Guiding principles. Does this feature help one of our guiding principles? If yes, add it to the backlog. If not,.…

[28:44] Fly your banner. Discipline in the face of initial challenges.

[29:29] Decision making is not about yes and no. It’s about understanding the impact of both.

[31:32] Hidden treasures. If you want to find those hidden treasures, the unmet needs, you have to apply different techniques.

[33:10] Citing Margaret Mead. “What people say, what people do, and what people say they will do are entirely different things.”

[35:15] Innovation. How do you take an idea and make it a reality? How do you take an idea and turn it into something that is actually in the market?

Jeff’s Recommended Reading

Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne.

Want more Jeff? Check out his blog, How To Be A Good Product Manager.

About Jeff

Jeff Lash is a recognized thought leader in product management, with 15+ years experience in the development of Web-based products and SaaS. His product management career includes both new product introductions and major turnarounds of existing product lines, as well as introduction of the product management role into organizations.

In his current role as VP, Group Director, Product Management Research at Forrester, Jeff and his team help product management leaders create world-class organizations and elevate the abilities and expertise of their teams to drive measurable and repeatable product success and business growth.

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