Triceratops costume — who wouldn’t want to be a dinosaur…?
Triceratops costume — who wouldn’t want to be a dinosaur…?
©Jacob Barss-Bailey

Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut… or a dinosaur. I think I got closer to being a dinosaur, I certainly did more practice! As an adult, if I could trade careers overnight I’d quite like to be an actor. The challenge of authentically playing different characters in different situations appeals to me, but I know it’s much harder than it appears. It was only after director and screenwriter James Gunn sent out this tweet that I realised the same can be said of product management:

It’s worth reading his whole thread but essentially his point is that…

Ron Porter

When I lived in British Columbia, Canada, I used to go running in the forests behind our house. My housemate (appalled at the idea) insisted that I run with his dog to keep the grizzly bears away. At the end of one run I was chatting with a neighbour, a retired Canadian mountain guide with a huge grin and a beard to match: “Ain’t no point runnin’ with a hound,” he drawled. “Too fast. Yeh need a buddy slower‘an you are. Let the bear deal with him and you keep on runnin’!”

I never came face to face with a…

How Much Should I Understand?

A friend, who’s recently become a product manager, asked me that recently. She’d inherited a technical product where the engineers already had a view of the direction and deliverables required. Even though it had been broken into phases, each phase was large in scope and involved a number of unconscious assumptions. During planning workshops the engineers were mentioning a lot of tools, methods, processes and concepts that were unfamiliar to her. Lizzie found herself reading a lot of detailed, technical material and wondering how much she really needed to understand. As a product manager, what should her role on the…

Fourteen billion years ago the universe was immensely hot, dense plasma. Then, as the universe expanded after the Big Bang, the gases within it cooled. When these gases reached a temperature of around 2,700°C (billions of years before galaxies existed) protons and electrons were able to combine into hydrogen atoms, releasing energy in all directions in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

A remnant of the Big Bang: a map of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation across the whole celestial sphere, as measured by the COBE satellite in 1992. The colours represent minute temperature variations smaller than 1 part in 10,000 (average temperature of -270°C).

Pigeon poop

Fast forward to 1963, when researchers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were studying the microwaves emanating from the Milky Way galaxy. They kept detecting background noise, which at first they thought was caused by pigeon droppings on the large…

Prioritisation on the Front Line

Job stories, backlog items, workshop ideas, roadmap features… it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of potential directions you can take a product in. And it’s natural to want order in this chaos. Prioritisation is a core part of Product Management, and it’s the topic I most commonly get asked about by other Product Managers. But it can also cause a lot of stress - while prioritisation is important, too much emphasis is put on it.

I believe you should keep the prioritisation process fast and flexible. …

A few months ago we ran a controversial experiment. Skyscanner is predominantly known for flights search. However, it also has a very good hotels product. To increase awareness of this, returning users were shown the hotels homepage instead of the flights one on their next visit.

This triggered an interesting (and passionate!) internal debate.

Those in favour of keeping the change claimed it benefited the user, who could now book a hotel and a flight at the same time. Hotel bookings increased with almost no decrease in flights bookings. Plus, retention for the hotels product increased.

However, 90% of the…

Benedict Evans made this observation in his latest technology newsletter:

“More than half of US shoppers start online with Amazon rather than Google, apparently. Amazon IS Google for products, but neither Amazon nor Google does discovery.” [Reference article by Bloomberg]

This has an interesting parallel in the travel metasearch world. A world where Google is the natural starting point for holiday research. A world increasingly under threat from non-organic search results. Under threat from Google’s own ambitions in the travel market.

Over the last few months travel companies with strong organic search rankings have seen their advantage gradually diminish. Adverts…

Why you should focus on Riskiest Assumption Tests and forget about MVPs.

There is a flaw at the heart of the term Minimum Viable Product: it’s not a product. It’s a way of testing whether you’ve found a problem worth solving. A way to reduce risk and quickly test your biggest assumption. Instead of building an MVP identify your Riskiest Assumption and Test it. Replacing your MVP with a RAT will save you a lot of pain.

MVP is used so much it’s lost its original meaning. It’s often mistakenly applied to the first release of a rudimentary product. …

Photo by Andreas Nadler

There’s no doubt metrics and KPIs are an essential part of building a successful internet economy business. When chosen wisely they can help guide you towards your strategic objectives. They enable you to measure the impact you’re having, draw conclusions from experiments, and gain insights into people’s behaviours.

Metrics are vital but they are also seductive. It’s easier to say we need to improve a certain rate than to communicate a complicated goal. Easier to make an important metric the objective than to define a vision. …

You failed.

Doesn’t feel great to hear that, does it? So why should we use it to describe our experiments?

Failed is an emotionally loaded word. It also sounds very terminal. Implying a sense of finality (and shame) from which there’s no return. However, one of the joys of working in the internet economy is the never-ending opportunity to improve, iterate, tweak, or completely reinvent your product. All thanks to the stream of insights you get from “failed” features and experiments.

The other side of the coin, success, is not much better. It may be emotionally positive but it’s still a problematic…

Rik Higham

Principal Product Manager @ Skyscanner. A/B testing @ Also likes hanging off rocks, shredding the gnar, and pedaling quickly.

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