Welcome to the second anniversary of The Everyday Innovator™ — another 52 episodes of discussions with skilled product managers and savvy insiders. In this year in review I share highlights from several of the discussions – emphasizing concepts and tools product managers and innovators should know. Just like my 2015 Year in review, there are a lot of key concepts shared in these episodes.
Also, I’ve added an index to all the interviews I have done over the last two years and the index is updated each time I add a new episode. The index is organized by subject to make it easy for you to find the information you need. Check out the index here.
The review of interviews below is organized into 6 topics:
- why product managers should become leaders of organizations,
- the skills that correlate to 25% higher pay for product managers,
- examples of product management in action at companies,
- Design Thinking and its applications,
- tips for interviewing for a product management role, and
- specific innovation approaches & tools.
And, the review concludes with a few of my favorite quotes from guests.
Why product managers should become leaders of organizations
TEI061: Product managers are uniquely prepared to transform organizations for greater success – with John Latham, PhD
This interview is connected with the Product Mastery Roadmap. The end of the roadmap — after product managers have become product masters — is to move from creating products to creating the organization. Product managers are uniquely suited for senior leadership roles and especially for improving the organization because we have worked across the various functions of the organization, developing our professional network and influence. In the process, we can better see the organization more as a system than individual functions. We discuss these topics and how product managers can help design better organizations.
The skills that correlate to 25% higher pay for product managers
TEI 073: The pulse of product management and 4 skills that match a 25% increase in pay – with Rebecca Kalogeris
Results of the Product Management and Marketing Survey found four skills stand out in an important way – they were correlated with a 25% increase in earnings and those who had them were twice as likely to be an executive. The four skills are:
- Pitch artist – the ability to present and sell your ideas and conclusions.
- Exec debater — being the president of the product and standing up for what is needed and challenging executive teams.
- Inspire others — great products are built by great teams but these aren’t necessarily teams that product managers personally manage. Instead, product managers need to inspire them and share the vision of the product.
- Truth to power – being good at raising inconvenient truths and not running away from an unpopular message.
Micahel shared three principles for effective storytelling for innovators who have ideas to share:
- emotion, and
- The nature of limiting beliefs,
- assumptions and interpretations and how to change these for our benefit, and
- how to have more energy.
This was the most listened to interview of 2016. Caroline shares:
- What it means to speak with gravitas.
- Why anyone can learn to speak more persuasively.
- How to speak truth to power – in a way that influences senior managers and leaders.
What are the skills for moving your agenda forward? The capacities to anticipate, mobilize, negotiate, and sustain momentum are needed. You are trying to get someone to shift their priorities and, at least in some capacity, to align them with your priorities. Essentially, Professor Bacharach shared what to do when you’re trying to get someone to shift their resources to support what you’re trying to do. And, it will happen if you are methodical and deeply understand the perspectives and needs of those you want to influence.
Chris, a pitch artist master shared,
- when pitches are important,
- why product managers must be good pitch artists, and
- how to give a good pitch.
Bob addressed several topics related to the discipline of project management, including:
- the value of project management,
- three key project management skills product managers must have,
- what intelligent disobedience is, and
- how product managers can exercise intelligent disobedience.
Nancy is well-known for teaching people how to create engaging presentations and using tools like PowerPoint and Keynote in compelling ways. She shared how product managers can effectively communicate ideas and influence others to support their ideas. She takes us on a journey through storytelling, movies, and tribal traditions, sharing what it means to be an idea Torchbearer through five stages:
- climb, and
Lee is the author of The Art of Explanation – Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand. In the interview, Lee shares the 3-step approach to explaining any product idea – the 3Ps of…
- packaging, and
TEI 052: The Simple Approach for all Product Managers and Innovators to be Effective Communicators – with Curtis Fletcher
Curtis shared the SCORRE system for effective communicating. The details of the system are in the book titled The Secrets of Dynamic Communication. SCORRE is an acronym for each step in the system…
- S = Subject
- C = Central Theme
- O = Objective
- R = Rationale
- R = Resources
- E = Evaluation
Examples of product management in action at companies
Bill shares the product development process used at his multi-billion dollar company:
- identifying customer needs,
- using Voice of the Customer research to uncover and prioritize needs,
- navigating the Lean cycle of Build, Measure, and Learn, and
- launching successfully.
Michael helped his company, Ingersoll Rand, rank #9 for Innovation in Fortune’s Most Admired Companies 2015. In addition to the five steps he shares in the interview, he also shared to have a culture of innovation, you need three things:
- Your leadership must aggressively promote the expectation that you should identify new ideas.
- Resources actually get prioritized for taking action on groundbreaking ideas.
- Your employees prefer to join the teams that are working on those game-changing kind of topics.
Steve shared what drives innovation, including…
- Three questions to increase organizational innovation
- What is innovation? We learned there was no common definition or process in place.
- Do we have a culture of innovation? Instead of a culture of innovation we had a culture of continuous improvement.
- Why or why not? We had a culture that feared failure and was unsure what would happen if an employee failed.
- How “Hatch” – the Chick-fil-A innovation lab – is used
- Design Thinking influences at Chick-fil-A
Design Thinking and its applications
Chuck shared an example of a public library using Design Thinking to better serve their community. The steps of design thinking are empathy, definition, ideation, prototype, and testing. He also shares the steps for applying Action Learning. There are five steps, which are generally completed in one group session that is two to three hours long:
- First: The problem-owner describes the challenge or problem in 3-5 minutes.
- Second: This is the framing step and is the most challenging of all the steps. The objective is to get people focused on the desired future state. Consider what is going on in today’s reality, what the external forces are, what underlying assumptions are being made, and what is the core challenge to address.
- Third: Next is solutioning, which is a problem-solving step. With the problem now clearly understood, solutioning usually comes naturally.
- Fourth: Then we commit to action based on the solution chosen.
- Fifth: The final step is reflection on the entire process and assessing how the group did and what could be done better next time.
Karel shared how Design Thinking is applied at IBM. They do this by focusing on three different areas: (1) people, (2) places, and (3) practices – the 3 P’s of IBM design. For people, they are increasing the number of designers on staff, hiring over 500 in the last couple years with around 1100 in the company now. Places are studios designed to accelerate Design Thinking and experiential learning among a small team, such as two products managers, two designers, and two engineers. They now have 26 studios around the world. The practices piece is all about the IBM Design Thinking framework, which is grounded in having empathy for the user.
Tips for interviewing for a product management role
- what your first response should be to any scenario question,
- how to respond to any general question,
- three steps for the perfect answer to estimation questions, and
- five steps for the perfect answer to product vision questions, which are:
- Explore the problem. Discuss with the interviewer the characteristics of the customers and the problem they wish to solve. Don’t dive into a solution without clearly understanding the problem from the customer’s perspective.
- Design solutions. Discuss solutions that are appropriate for the customer, for example a calculator with big buttons that a child easily can use.
- Consider improvements. Discuss how a minimal viable product (MVP) may be designed as well as future versions, recognizing the product needs to get to the market quickly and future versions are likely.
- Analyze trade-offs. Discuss pros and cons of specific features and the benefits they create for the customer. Astute product managers recognize that not all features create the same value and sometimes value is increased by removing features.
- Get creative. After a thoughtful analysis, now is the time to show your creativity by exploring wild ideas.
Specific innovation approaches & tools
I received the most emails about this episode, many sharing they are implementing the VOC approach Gerry described or will be trying it in the future. Gerry discussed:
- what VOC is and is not,
- the 4-step approach for using VOC, and
- tips for conducting VOC interviews.
Brad shares his 3 C’s to keep innovation simple:
- Control: You start with a mission, move on to culture, then to strategy, and then portfolio management.
- Creation: Creation has three pieces. They are the voice of the customer, the mental game of innovation, and ideation.
- Conversion: Conversion consists of how teams, project management, and metrics are used.
TEI 062: Stage-Gate, agile Stage-Gate, and innovation tools used by 80% of the Fortune 1000 – with Mitch Kemp of Stage-Gate International
- who uses Stage-Gate and why,
- framework basics, and
- adding agility to Stage-Gate.
The three primary stages are:
- Scoping: We begin with a scoping stage that is two to four-weeks in duration. This involves preliminary market and customer research to understand a problem and its needs. Also, technical feasibility of a solution is investigated.
- Business case: A business case is developed to assess and justify pursuing the product concept. The business case is used to determine if the project deserves further investment.
- Develop: This is the stage where the product concept is developed into an actual product – physical goods or intangible service.
Chris shared an example of using Jobs to be Done. One of the first applications was for the Snickers candy bar. The Snickers bar was competing head-to-head with Milky Way. Both were Mars’ products, similar to each other, and one was going to be retired. Bob Moesta was asked to help the Snickers’ product team. Bob ended up talking with people who purchased Snickers and people who purchased Milky Ways, asking them about the purchase and why they chose the bar they did. He heard very different stories. Those buying Snickers were looking for something filling that would give them energy. Those buying Milky Ways were looking for an indulgence during a short break. That led the Snickers’ product team to reformulate the bar to be more food-like and change the advertising to be “Snicker Satisfies.” After that, Snickers became the highest-selling candy bar of all time.
Peter’s five steps include:
- Cataloging. Every idea is placed into an Excel spreadsheet
- Sizing. This involves noting all the assumptions made, including specifics related to the purpose of the idea, an estimating the work required.
- Prioritizing. A key question is what is the capability of the organization to manage change – the capacity to accomplish projects. Consequently, the highest priority ideas need to be identified and balanced against the needs of the organization, considering the short term and the longer term objectives, and the availability of resources.
- Selecting. The highest priority ideas are evaluated by a team. Those selected enter a flexible stage-gate development process. Ideas that enter development are managed as a portfolio organized into one of 3 buckets: (1) revenue-generating, (2) expense saving, or (3) client-satisfaction improving.
- Managing. A product team is created for each project.
Ash addressed three topics:
- Using metrics
- Prioritizing waste
- Practices to achieve success
The metrics he applies are heavily influenced by Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics [AARRR]. These are the acquisition, activation, referral, revenue and retention.
Waste is any human activity that consumes resources but doesn’t add value, and value is in the context of customer value. We have to be looking at everything we’re building, our product, our marketing, our sales, and trying to be efficient, trying to remove inefficiencies, and not doing needless busy work.
When we see problems, the most important thing is to ask why. If we can get to the why’s, we sometimes have to devise these incremental experiments to allow us to test our hypotheses for why these things are happening and only double down on the ones where we see those leading signals of things now moving in the right direction.
Tristan shared concepts from Lean, including:
- prioritizing product features,
- tools to validate product concepts, and
- what customers value.
This is a good episode to learn about Conjoint Analysis, including:
- the types of information Conjoint Analysis can provide, such as pricing specifics,
- when to use Conjoint, and
- the specific steps for using Conjoint.
Trends can make or break the success of a product and Max helps us understand how to discover trends.
A few of my favorite quotes shared by guests
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.” – Steve Jobs
“There are three core skills at the heart of successful innovation: powerful questions, deep listening, and the ability to empathize.” -Chuck Appleby
“There’s nothing more wasteful than brilliantly engineering a product that doesn’t sell, or a project that doesn’t matter.” – Rich Mironov
“Do the right projects, do projects right.” – Bob Cooper
“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.” –Larry Ellison
“Love the problem, not the solution.” –Ash Maurya
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