Top 5 Lessons From Mind The Product

Yikes Andy Ayim

As you all know I am a part-time Entrepreneur and do workshops and seminars outside my 9–5. Fortunate for me my job aligns quite nicely with that as I am a Product Manager. One of the communities that benefits both my working life and my hustle is the Product Tank community. I eagerly anticipated attending the yearly summit Mind the Product Conference put on for people passionate about product and it did not disappoint.

I wanted to disseminate and distill just 5 of the many takeaways from the conference, because freebies and networking aside there were great lessons shared relevant for aspiring entrepreneurs.

1: Software is eating the world at an increasingly fast rate

This was he famous quote by Marc Andreessen in his famous essay 5 years ago. This point was really hammered when comparing the Top 5 companies on the S&P index in 2006 vs 2016.

S&P 500 in 2006 vs 2016
Top 5 in 2006
Top 6 in 2016

2: Do the right thing for the customer

Behind every great product is a great product manager, yet they go as the unsung heroes often as most people associate the product success solely with the founder.

Great case studies were shared about companies such as Netflix, Apple’s i-Tunes, Microsoft Word, BBC, Google AdWords and Adobe Creative Cloud.

Great talk by Marty Cagan

Well worth reading the full article Behind Every Great Product by Marty Cagan.

3: Solving problems with unexpected solutions

Along with some great book recommendations and sharing the Silicon Valley Hierarchy of Needs, Simon Cross from Facebook took the audience on a journey of unorthodox problem solving at Facebook. At its core, the talk was about learning by studying customer behaviour. Facebook of course has tons of data which at times must be challenging to swim through when identifying trends and patterns.

Notes by Josh Hillier

However when you do obsess about customers and what they do even if it goes against the grain of what you expected them to do, magic things can happen. For example, Facebook Messengers team’s guiding principles are “Understand, Identify and Execute.” Today the service has over 1,000,000,000 (yes a billion) monthly active users, however the pivotal moment where this growth was spurred from occurred in 2013. When studying the data the team found out that users were not really using Messenger as much as they had hoped because they had no indication when messages were delivered. The problem was that if you had Messenger on your smartphone, it was likely you would respond to messages instantly. However if you accessed it via chat on a desktop users could wait hours for a response. Even worse, some users waited days for a response as messages were delivered for some via email.

To resolve this issue the Messenger team introduced once small feature that had a huge impact, the lightening bolt. This indicated to users whether the person they were messaging had a smartphone or not. Therefore it managed user expectation of when they were likely to hear a response by.

4: Continuous Research and Learning

Jeff Gothelf’s talk was all about the challenges of scaling lean, but still at the heart of it there were 4 pillars that hold true from the start of your entrepreneurial journey’s.

  • Customer Value = Business Value
  • Value learning over delivery
  • Radical transparency
  • Humility in all things

Like the previous story from Facebook, a common principle to adhere to is “Be willing to change your mind in the face of evidence.”

Ship, Sense, Respond
“If you’re in the business to scale, in the 21st century, you’re a software business”

5: Ikigai

At Amazon, Jeff Bezos went to the fulfillment centre one day to walk around and observe operations. All of a sudden all the machines stopped, which meant no orders were being sent out to customers. Sakichi Toyoda is the Godfather of the 5 Whys technique for getting to the root problem. For Jeff it would have gone something like this:

Order Fulfillment Has Stalled

  • Why? An employee pushed the emergency stop
  • Why? Someone has been hurt
  • Why? An employee cut his finger on the conveyor belt
  • Why? He was taking his bag of the belt
  • Why? Because there was no where else to put his belongings

The solution in this instance was to simply provide lockers for employees to store their belongings rather than sack them. Ask the 5 Whys in a post-mortem to combat our bias to blame people (fundamental attribution error).

One habit I have picked up and will challenge myself to reflect on every morning:

Sense of Purpose

Ikigai is Japanese for “Why do I get up in the morning, what is my sense of being.” This resonated with me and clearly many others as there was deafening silence in the audience. Hope it resonates with you too.

Many people have been reaching out for advice and support on turning ideas into reality, validating ideas and establishing cost effective strategies. I have decided to host a Weekend Only Startup School for 10 participants only, if you are interested then register HERE >>

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