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I met my guest at a Product Camp and learned that we shared a perspective about innovation and product management processes. He sums up this perspective as being “anti-dogma.” There is a good deal of dogma around processes and too often processes are applied blindly without knowing the details required to use the process wisely in a specific situation and culture.
In this interview, we discuss the issue of process dogma as well as a toolbox approach to the work a product manager does.
My guest is Chris Spagnuolo. Chris is a product management and innovation consultant who works with organizations of all sizes to deeply understand their portfolio and product challenges and help them design opportunities to improve. He has led cross-functional, collaborative, agile product teams at organizations of all sizes and successfully founded three startups. He avoids dogma and instead focuses on generating insights through deep understanding of the organizations that he works with to identify a sustainable, adaptable journey for them to achieve their goals.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators
Summary of some concepts discussed:
- What does it mean to be anti-dogma? A lot of product management and innovation methodologies are available. When an organization has a problem, they may choose one that worked for another organization. The problem is that no two organizations are the same and what worked for one may not work for the other. Even for those that look similar, each has unique characteristics and cultural aspects that need to be taken into consideration when applying a methodology. Too often a methodology is lifted up as the great solution to a problem – the silver bullet – and the processes enforced to the point that they become dogma. The emphasis is placed on following the processes and not understanding the underlying reasons for the processes. Those underlying reasons need to be considered for each organization.
- What is the anti-dogma approach? It is exactly what good product managers do – they create an empathetic relationship with the customer, deeply understanding the problem and what they value. The same is needed with organizations, with a focus first on understanding the problem and framing it in the right context. This requires honesty, clear communication, and experimentation. It requires a toolbox of many product management and innovation tools and knowledge. This allows you to be framework agnostic, using tools best for a given situation.
- What are a few useful tools? Persona creation to understand the ideal customer. Customer journey maps to understand a customer’s experience. Customer interviews with a Validation Board to discover needs and test assumptions. Design Thinking to explore customers’ wants and needs and evolving your understanding with quick prototypes. Behavior studies, observations, and the Mom Test to also understand customers. Three Horizons for developing strategy. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to communicate strategy and set goals that are well aligned.
- Chris’ Product Camp presentation on Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
- Chris’ website, EdgeHopper
- Find Chris on Twitter
Resources mentioned during the interview:
- Rob Fitzpatrick’s book The Mom Test
- Christina Wodtke’s excellent blog with loads of OKR info
- Marty Cagan’s OKR post on SVPG
- Trevor Owens’ Validation Board
- Ed Catmull’s (Pixar) amazing book Creativity Inc.
Related TEI Interviews:
- Lean Canvas — TEI 010: Using Lean to Run Experiments and Deliver Customer Value-with Ash Maurya
- Design Thinking — TEI 019: Applying the 5 Steps of Design Thinking – with Entrepreneur and Vango Founder Ethan Appleby
- Customer Interviews — TEI 120: Product development and management at Snap-on – with Ben Brenton, PhD
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough” – Elon Musk
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.