3 things I learned about at Mind the Product London 2018

ca. 5 minutes before the MTP conference talks started

Disclaimer: In the next paragraphs, you will probably not find new, mind-blowing ideas; what you will find is a brief summary of my main takeaways.

This week, I took part for the first time in the Mind the Product Conference in London, where 10 product experts took the stage in front of a passionate audience. I learned bits and pieces from each of them and I collected a bunch of thoughts (as indicated also by my 8 pages of notes). The talks were quite varied and they either resonated (or not) with my beliefs and experiences, reminded me of what I knew already, answered some my questions, made me ask even more or triggered a sense of “Oh, I want to do this (more)!”. This article is only a short read about the latter category, summarizing 3 things I learned about, which might sometimes be overlooked and that I am happy to share with other product enthusiasts:

#1 Community

It isn’t accidental that Mind the Product is named the world’s largest product community. The conference in London brought together 1700 product people from more than 50 countries. Although I probably got to talk to only ca. 1–2% of them (which could be considered a pretty bad conversion rate), I strongly felt that sense of belonging. The feeling of knowing that someone has similar questions and especially similar struggles as I do was a relief.

Emily Webber, author of Building Successful Communities of Practice, highlighted in her talk the importance of building a support network either inside or outside one’s organization to create a safe place where failure and success are discussed, knowledge sharing is leveraged and best practices are established.

I will take this as one of my personal goals for the next months, either by trying to strengthen our product community at HelloFresh, participating at more meetups and conferences, opening up the dialogue on product-related topics (like I am trying to do today with my FIRST published article) or creating a new community of practice if there will be the need for one.

#2 Self-reflection

Even before the conference, I was aware that self-reflection is something that I barely do enough. I certainly improved in the last few months and I am hoping it will become a habit as time goes and experience comes, but I am not there yet. In the product world, where ruthless prioritization and the management of multiple stakeholders are just daily routines, making a step back and “getting off the dance floor and going to the balcony” can be beneficial for both team effectiveness and personal well-being.

In her presentation, Janice Fraser, CPO at Bionic, talked about radical acceptance, a term coined by Marsha Linehan in 1993, highlighting the fact that rationalizing about and accepting the full reality, will make one feel better. As product managers, we encounter, every day, things that we can’t control — some might say we are living a life of continuous suffering. This is where Janice’s radical acceptance tool, one of the multiple self-reflection methods, could definitely help and I am planning to start applying it.

Radical Acceptance Tool (Janice Fraser, Mind the Product London 2018)

#3 Values

I tend to consider myself a quite data-driven person, as confirmed by the feedback I am getting not only from work, but also from personal relationships. I seek data, I am curious about it, I trust data (but verify it), it solves a lot of my otherwise potentially long fights — I love data! However, there is a BUT. I am aware the line between manipulating data and being manipulated by it is pretty thin, especially when clear high-level goals don’t exist and values are not used as borderlines.

In her talk, Kim Goodwin, Senior Adviser at PatientsLikeMe, encouraged us not to be data-driven, but rather goals-focused and values-guided, while only informed by data. She advised that “until we learn to measure what we value, we will continue to overvalue what we measure”. As I am advancing on the rocky road of product management, I will take this as a great advice and I will remind myself of her words to make decisions based on data while building and keeping personal, team and organization values as my control variables.

Few words to conclude

Mind the Product London 2018 was both insightful and inspiring and I am looking forward to #mtpcon 2019. Even the fact that it motivated me to finally publish my first article is a pretty good accomplishment (by the way, any feedback is more than welcome). See you there next year — until then, let’s build and take part in communities, do more self-reflection and keep values central to our work!

Georgiana Ciobotaru

Written by

Product @HelloFresh. Former Math & Physics Olympiad girl, supply chain graduate, analyst. Building the right products for the right users at the right time.

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