The Everyday Innovator Podcast for Product Managers
Summary: The Everyday Innovator is a weekly podcast dedicated to your success as a product manager and innovator. Join me, Chad McAllister, for interviews with product professionals, discussing their successes, failures, and lessons-learned to help you excel in your career and create products your customers will love. Every organization must have products that provide value to their customers. People like you who know how to create that value are the ones with real influence. The topics are relevant to product and innovation management, and include: creating a culture of innovation, managing product development, validating the viability of product concepts, conducting market research, selecting a product innovation methodology, generating product ideas, working well with teams and cross-functionally, and much more.
Listen Now to the Interview Ok, I admit it, value is my most overused word. It’s because I love the word. What do product managers and innovators create for customers? Value! How about organizations? They create value. What do customers want? The products they purchase must provide value — more value for them than other product options provide. How do product managers want to be seen by those that they work with? As someone who is valuable –again, creating value. Yes, value is central to product management and innovation. It’s also an important term to my guest who has explored various models of value. He is the author of the weekly Pivot Product Hits, a newsletter for product managers on digital product strategy. He has been a Product Manager, creating digital products and services, for over 15 years, and is currently the Managing Director of Castle in the UK. His name is Paul Jackson. In the discussion, you will learn: * What is important about creating value. * The Almquist model of value. * How to discover what customers’ value. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators Summary of some questions discussed: * How did the Pivot Product Hits newsletter come about? The name came about as I was looking for a Twitter handle around the time that the Lean Startup book was published. The notion of a pivot caught my attention and the handle was available. At the time, I had worked for 10 years as a user experience designer and for a few years as a product manager. I sensed that product management was going to become a significant discipline in the future. At the time there were few British bloggers writing about product management. I wanted to be one of them and write about my observations. My early posts were about bringing lean practices to corporate settings. While that is rather standard now, at the time is was a very new concept for rigid corporate environments. * Frame the concept of value for us. Value is extremely relevant in product management conversations. It is at the heart of challenges product managers face. Consumer choice and the decisions involved when making product purchases are not rational. We make decisions based on a subjective view of gains and losses. The constitution of value is grounded in these irrational decisions but refracted through the lens of gains and losses. In the world of digital applications, there are far too many choices available to consumers. The ability to understand what informs consumer choice is a ninja skill for product managers to make their products stand out from competitors and appeal to users. * What are the elements of value? There are many value models to consider, from Alan Klement’s Job Story to Alex Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas. One of the most exciting contributions to this topic is from Eric Almquist and team at Bain. Extending Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they represent the elements of value as a pyramid stacked in four layers (shown below). All together, they identified 30 elements of value. The four layers, starting at the bottom are: Functional Elements, Emotional Elements, Life Changing Elements, and Social Impact Elements. Many products directly compete on functional elements of value. However, Almquist’s research shows the opportunity to find Blue Oceans and increase profit margins is by competing on emotional elements of value. Apple is a good example that does this well. An interesting finding is that the best companies in a category are only better than their competitors on around 8-9 value elements. Consequently, success does not mean excelling in all 30 elements of value. Parity on most elements while excelling in 5-8 elements important to consumers is a good starting point.
Listen to the Interview As you know from my Product Mastery Roadmap, product masters are the product leaders who have influence throughout an organization to launch awesome products customers love and to build successful product teams. And, this is exactly the topic I discuss with my guest. Richard Banfield has co-authored an exciting new book for product managers along with Martin Eriksson, the founder of ProductTank, and Nate Walkingshaw, Chief Experience Officer at Pluralsight. The title of the book is Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams. It is available for pre-order on Amazon and at http://productleadershipbook.com/. The pre-publication version I was able to read was excellent and I’m looking forward to getting the final version when it is released in May. This discussion with Richard will give you a preview and valuable insights for becoming a product leader. Richard is the CEO of Fresh Tilled Soil, where he leads strategic vision. He’s also a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week. Whether you are a new product manager or one with 10+ years of experience, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this interview. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators * How do you contrast product managers from product leaders? Many product managers don’t think of themselves as leaders. As product managers become more influential in delivering value to customers their role becomes more oriented towards leadership. Further, to guide, drive, and help the product team deliver value, you need to exhibit leadership qualities. We address the questions of what does it mean to be a good manager and what does it mean to be a good leader. Beyond a leader’s style, a key question is what are you connecting – are you connecting the product vision to the roles of team members, influencing the progress of the organization, etc. * How did the book come about? The motivation for the book was curiosity. All three of the authors have a lot of experience creating products. My company alone has developed over 700 products, which has resulted in a massive knowledge. However, I began wondering if my experience was similar to others and what I was missing. I started asking others about their product development and management experiences – what they saw working and what didn’t work. Those conversations were the start of the book. The book is a reflection of what questions the profession is asking. It addresses the questions you’ll hear at a product conference or meetup. * What does it take to be a great product leader? The process for becoming a successful product leader will vary from person to person but there are some patterns of good product leaders. First, they are team players. They are good with human beings and bringing the best out of them. Next, you have to be a life-long learner. You also have to “embrace the suck.” There will be challenging times getting a product to market. Sometimes the work just sucks and you have to persevere. Leaders embrace these moments and working with the team to solve the challenges. They act and think team-first. Further, depending on the stage of the organization, they will have multiple hats (roles) to wear – they help where help is needed. The softer skills are also vital – writing, communicating, managing your time, negotiating, selling, persuading others with your ideas. Another key quality is “grace under fire” and being able to manage yourself well while leading others. * My preview of the book included a checklist for becoming a great produc...
Listen to the Interview I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing guests with incredible insights for us product managers and innovators and today’s guest cuts through a lot of noise and presents clear principles for creating more successful products. My guest is the Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President of Innovation for Snap-on, the leading global innovator, manufacturer and marketer of tools, diagnostics and equipment solutions for professional users. His role is to drive innovative products, solutions and processes that fundamentally change the markets Snap-on serves and enhance customer perception of its brands. He has helped to create, support and institutionalize a culture at Snap-on that embraces creativity, risk, change and fearless innovation. As you hear in the interview, prior to joining Snap-on, he spent 4 years in Marketing at PepsiCo, most recently as the Director of Innovation for the Frito-Lay Convenience Foods division. Before joining PepsiCo, he was Marketing Director of New Products at Kraft Foods. He has over 20 years of experience focused on new product development, marketing and innovation. His name is Ben Brenton and I expect you’ll find what he shared to be as valuable as I did. We had to conduct the interview by phone, so the audio quality is a little different than normal, but not distracting. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators * Tell us about your move from the food and beverage industry to SnapOn. I had earned a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition. I ended up at Kraft Foods in biotechnology doing basic research. After a couple of years, I moved to being a manager in product development. About nine years into my career, I made another move, which was to marketing. I continued to work on a number of products. A few years later I had the opportunity to join PepsiCo. Four years into my career there, I was contacted by SnapOn, who was seeking a role that was new to me – Chief Innovation Officer. I was hired to create a culture of fearless innovation constructed around customer insights. This might seem to be a weird transition as I didn’t know anything about metallurgy or the products. However, the essence of my work is putting innovation processes in place that can be used across any industry and keeping the customer at the center of innovation. That work is not unique to a specific industry. It’s also important to note that we’re not only a tool company for professionals – 40% of our business is software development. * What are the key parts to the product development and management process you use? One of the first things I did was to make sure all of our product groups had a basic Stage-Gate process. This provided each group a product development process. After this, there were three guidelines that were put in place: * All product work needed to be based on customer insights. This means product teams are out talking to end-users and watching them do their work. This creates an understanding of specific needs. * We would check in with customers throughout the development process. Products used to be developed internally and then only shown to customers for feedback after functional prototypes that were ready for manufacturing were developed. Now we use rapid prototyping tools throughout the development process and get customer feedback early and more frequently. * After launch, we circle back with marketing and sales people and assess and improve the delivery of messages appropriate for a product and the needs of customers. * Do you have a story of a product’s journey you can share? One that reflects the need of observing customers (end users) involves an examination of the wind power industry. Technicians at times have to climb out of the generator housing and onto th...
Are you like other product managers and innovators? Do you spend your time like most do? Are the challenges you encounter different from other product managers? These types of questions are explored each year in the Annual Product Management and Marketing Survey. I explored the results of last year’s survey on The Everyday Innovator, and it is time to do it again for the 2017 survey. My guest is returning for a second time to tell us about the pulse of product management as indicated by the survey. She is Rebecca Kalogeris, Vice President of Marketing for Pragmatic Marketing. Before joining Pragmatic Marketing, Rebecca managed product management and marketing teams at a variety of software companies. Among her marketing responsibilities is pouring through the survey results of the annual study, so she is the perfect person to discuss the state of product management with. In the interview, you’ll discover: - Who do product managers tend to report to, - How many product managers organizations generally have, - The key challenges product managers face, and - What would make product managers more effective.
Listen to the Interview I call listeners to this podcast Everyday Innovators. That means something. We are wired in such a way that makes us curious about problems people have, but we don’t stop there. Our real curiosity is how can we develop a product, or enhance a product, that solves a problem and creates value for customers. This is the world of product managers and innovators. And, as an Everyday Innovator, you are part of this world. Some Everyday Innovators have emailed me asking to discuss tools for product managers. There are a lot of ways to think about tools, such as the innovation tools Evan Shellshear talked about in episode 113. A common request is software tools for product managers and this is the episode for that topic. To help me, I found a company that maintains a list of software tools they use in their own work. They also add to the list other tools that could be used. In all, the list contains 87 tools. To discuss what is on this list, I spoke with Shah Ahmed, a project manager at the company, which is Indicative, a behavioral data analytics company. Shah works on developing products and manages implementations of their platform. Previously, he was a management consultant for Deloitte, focusing on large-scale technology changes for Fortune 500 companies. His interest in building product started when he worked at a startup incubator at Cornell University during his undergrad. If you have been wanting to hear about product management software tools, now is the time. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators The discussion is based on the blog post, “87 Most Essential Tools for Data-Driven Product Management.” We discussed tools in 11 categories: * Mindmapping * Flowcharts & Diagrams * User Research * Roadmapping * Wireframing * Prototyping * Usability Testing * Agile Project Management * A/B Testing * Heatmapping * Analytics Listen to the interview for the discussion and refer to the original blog post for the tools in each category. Useful links for product managers: * Indicative’s list of product management software tools * Shah’s LinkedIn profile * Indicative — Analytics that tell you how to grow your business Innovation Quote “There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.” -Enrico Ferm Thanks! 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.
Listen to the Interview I took notice when Pitney Bowes created a Product Management Council, and I wanted to learn what they are doing with this council. Anytime an organization puts a focus on their product development and management capability, I expect good things to come of it. That’s because products are the revenue engine of organizations and the better job we as product managers and innovators can do creating products that provide customers value, the better it is for our organization. To find out about this focus that Pitney Bowes has placed on product, I spoke with Felicia Anderson. She is the Senior Director of the Product Management Council and Launch Management at Pitney Bowes. She helps product managers build their skills to increase product launch success and deliver greater business impact. In our discussion, you’ll learn: * tips for improving the product management capability of your organization, * how to construct a vision of the product management team, and * a simple way to get started through lunch-and-learn meetings. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators * Let’s start with some context — what is the business of Pitney Bowes? At Pitney, we help our clients combine both physical technologies and digital technologies to conduct commerce. So as we like to say, we’re the craftsmen of commerce. * What is the charter/purpose of the Product Management Council? Our vision is to help our product managers increase their capabilities so that they can have a greater business impact. We believe product management is essential to fueling the growth of the company and increasing the innovation that we’re able to bring to market. At Pitney and in other companies, product management is often distributed throughout the organization and what we’re trying to do with the Product Management Council initiative is to bring that together so that we see each other as a community and we have a place to have a voice jointly. * What were the events that led to the creation of a Product Management Council? Last Spring, which was before I had joined, our CEO was talking to his executive team and he asked the question, “Who’s responsible for the care and feeding of the product managers?” Because they are distributed in the business units and even in the lines of business within the business units, there wasn’t really a single person or a single set of people who were responsible for the development of product management. As a result of those discussions came this idea of establishing a product management council. * How is the Council structured? There are two pieces to the product management council initiative. One is the product management leadership team. That’s our executive sponsors and the leaders of each of our five business units. That size of that team is 22 people. We meet monthly and discuss the issues that are at top of mind regarding product management. The second piece, of course, is the broader community itself. It’s the 225 people throughout the organization that comprises the product management community. Most of them are product managers, that’s product managers and their management, and also related stakeholders. We have 30 or 35 people from marketing as well. Some other key stakeholders, like learning and development in HR, also are in that community. * What activities have you done? Each year or each period we agree at the top level what are our focus areas. So we have different components occurring regularly. The gemstone activity is our annual summit. Once a year we get all of our product managers, in fact, everybody in the product management community, in person, face to face, for a two-day meeting. We just happened to have that PM summit last week.
One of the questions I am asked by listeners is how do you become a product manager. For example, Melissa emailed me and said: "I’d like to hear more about transitioning to a product management role in software – getting yourself up to speed on the technical aspects that product managers needs to know to interact with developers." This came up more recently when I opened my IDEA Framework eCourse that teaches the essential base of knowledge for becoming a product leader and doubling your product success. Many people asked if this would help them get into product management and I told them that while they need the skills it teaches to be successful as a product manager, it is for existing product managers -- ones with at least a year of experience, not ones transitioning or who are brand new to the role. So, I contacted someone who specializes in helping people become product managers and to get grounded as a new product manager. He has trained thousands of people on these topics, including leading workshops at General Assembly, Stanford, and for other schools. He also worked as a software product manager at NASA, Apple, Ticketmaster, and Live Nation. And, if you regularly listen to The Everyday Innovator, you’ll recognize him as a returning guest, having shared specific tips for how to prepare for a product management interview back in episode 67. His name is Charles Du and this is a discussion you will enjoy and find valuable if: - you want to be a product manager, or - are brand new to the role of product management, or - you wish to do a better job mentoring product managers.
Product managers and product teams have the challenge of creating market-winning products — those are products that customers love and that create value for customers and the organization. Some product managers are not as effective as they could be, or they have actually become less effective over time. According to my guest, an effective product manager has six types of expertise. We’ll explore each in just a minute. This interview also gives me the opportunity to interview a legend in product management, along with providing you a glimpse at a side of him you may not know — as singer and songwriter. He has been working within the high-tech arena since 1979 with experience in technical, sales, and marketing positions at companies specializing in enterprise and desktop hardware and software. His market and technical savvy allowed him to rise through the ranks from Product Manager to Chief Marketing Officer. He has launched dozens of product offerings. Before founding Under10, his product management consulting company, he was a Pragmatic Marketing instructor for over 15 years. His name is Steve Johnson. In the interview you will learn the six areas of expertise that effective product managers need: * Technology, * Operations, * Process, * Domain, * Market, and * Business. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators Summary of some questions discussed: * What is the Umbrella Song about? Steve is not only a product management legend, he is also a singer and songwriter. Listen to the interview to hear a portion of the Umbrella song or visit his music on iTunes. * What do product managers want their executive team to know about product management? One thing product managers want executives to know is that a sentence from a senior leader about what they want can be months of work for a product team. On the other hand, executives want their product managers to be more strategic – to be more business savvy. * What expertise does a product manager need to be effective? First up is Technology expertise. I see a lot of “purple squirrel” job posts for product managers. Purple squirrels are the perfect candidate who can start tomorrow and hit the street running and is willing to work for peanuts. Many purple squirrel job posts have a strong preference for technology expertise. There seems to be a feeling that you need to have a deep technical understanding or you can’t play the game. Product managers need to be technical enough to understand the questions from development. But in a lot of cases, a strong technical expertise ends up meaning you basically are part of the development team and not really part of product management. The development team has to have technical expertise for the types of products developed. * Next is Operations expertise. Operations cover different contexts depending on the product. I’ve been working on a software system for product managers and am finding myself more involved with operational questions. Examples include how much storage space will each customer need as part of a SaaS solution. I’m thinking about operation-related factors, such as performance requirements, capacity requirements, etc. * Then Process expertise. Many organizations have a lot of process around development, but not other places. I find that really good product managers tend to see things as a process. I have a simple example. I took my parents to dinner earlier this week and I walked up to the salad bar. The plates for the salad bar were on the far left and the big bowl of lettuce was on the far right and all the toppings were in the middle. I immediately thought the plates are on the wrong side. I wanted to reconfigure the whole salad bar based on proce...
This is the where product managers learn to be product masters. Product masters are the leaders of products in organizations and this episode is a very special one as I have not one but three guests who are all on their way to becoming product masters. This episode came about with the help of one of my customers — Soren — who is in my IDEA Framework eCourse, which teaches the essential base of skills that lead to being a product master. We were discussing topics for this podcast and he shared how he would love to hear from other millennial product managers. He said that the experts I often interview provide valuable insights for him, but that he would also like to hear from product managers who are younger in their career and still figuring out what it means to be a product manager. I not only thought that was a great idea but knowing Soren, I also thought he would be a great guest to share advice from his experience. He found two other young product managers so we could have a variety of experiences to learn from. They are each in their 20’s and have been working as a product manager for 6 months to about 3 years. Both new and more experienced product managers should listen to this discussion as there is something for all of us. Specifically, younger product managers will learn: * Challenges product managers must deal with, * Tips for improving your effectiveness, and * The one thing each of the guests wish they knew about product management sooner in their careers. For experienced product managers, please listen carefully to what motivates and frustrates these younger product managers and how you could be a mentor to other product managers, also helping them become product masters. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators Summary of some questions discussed – given the richness of the panel discussion, this summary is sparse. The discussion really needs to be listened to. * What was your motivation for working in product management? The opportunity to be creative along with the ability to deliver what you want to create value for customers. The responsibility was appealing. It’s more of an abstract challenge and allows me to be more of a big-picture thinker. The creative freedom drew me in. I enjoy taking an idea from its start and seeing it through to its finish in the form of a product. Being a product manager means never being bored – there are always new things to do and learn. * What frustrates you about the role of product manager? It’s challenging to define my role at times – what am I really? The work can vary a good deal. It’s also difficult to know what I should be spending my time on and knowing what is important from day to day. Finding my place in the organization and gaining the influence I need are other challenges. I have to develop my influence with the executive team. * What is one thing you have learned that has improved your product work? It was important to understand that product descriptions and requirements from various stakeholders are not always accurate and need to be carefully validated. Also, as most products fail to meet their objectives, you can’t fall in love with your product. Instead, love the problem, but not the product. You also have to develop good business knowledge and learn how to manage stakeholders. And maybe most important, get a mentor who can help you with understanding not only product management but also the business. * What would you tell a new product manager that you wish you had known when you started as a product manager? * Protect your time; share your big ideas with others; start small; show rather than tell. * Don’t be shy, ask for feedback; it is a collaborative role and your job is to be the guide.
A frequent question lately has been what tools are used by product managers and innovators. In this episode, we are addressing some tools for innovation. I’ll cover product management tools in a future episode. To discuss innovation tools, I talked to the one person who has literally written the book on innovation tools, which appropriately is also titled, Innovation Tools. My guest and bestselling author is Even Shellshear. Evan’s focus is on industry transforming technologies and methodologies, from software to consulting. His background is in economics and game theory. He is also the founder of Simultek, a company that leverages game theory to elicit people’s true preferences. In our discussion, product managers and innovators will learn: * using crowdsourcing as a catalyst for innovation and avoiding crowd slap, * tools for early prototyping, * using and avoiding problems with behavioral innovation, and * business model innovation. Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators Summary of some questions discussed: * Why did you write Innovation Tools? When people think of innovation, Lean Startup often comes to mind. There is a gap between the theory of Lean Startup and other such methodologies and actual execution. When people express the gap, they understand the methodology but are missing a concrete set of low-risk tools to make innovation a reality. The Lean Startup is really about managing risk. It’s a risk management methodology and framework to help people launch new ideas and companies in a low-risk fashion. What was missing was not just a set of tools to implement that but a set of tools that were centered around low-risk activities and risk-minimizing execution strategies. I set out to fill that gap and help people find risk-minimizing tools out there to help you implement something like Lean Startup. The impetus for the book was many conversations with people saying, “Yeah, look, I get it but I need to do something, to get my hands dirty. What’s out there?” That was the reason why I wrote that book, to help people with this important piece. * Let’s talk through some of the tools. Tell us about Crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is important because it’s been a massive catalyst for driving innovation. We know that the crowd has a huge number of perspectives and great expertise. What you’re doing with crowdsourcing is you’re tapping into that expertise, that desire for people who know something special, to give you that something special. That’s really the challenge and the benefit of crowdsourcing. The other part of crowdsourcing is where you flip it. Instead of reaching out to the crowd and asking for solutions or ideas, you reach out to the crowd and ask for funding to launch a solution to a problem. * What are the pros and cons of Crowdsourcing? There’s a thing called the crowd slap, which is where some companies like Chevrolet have tried to source the crowd for ad campaigns or other ideas and because of the company’s image in society, instead of people taking it seriously, they ridiculed the company. However, the biggest challenge around crowdsourcing is managing the crowd and having the right expectations from the beginning. As an example, in 2006, IBM ran their Innovation Jam. They received 46,000 contributions, which they then reduced down to 31 ideas for further refinement. That’s less than 0.1 % of all ideas contributed. If we say that it took someone five minutes to consider every idea, 160 24-hour days would be required to go through all those ideas, or about 480 work days, or roughly two years of one person’s time. This is the challenge with crowdsourcing. It’s understanding what you’re going to get out of it, what the work requirement is, and what the other options could be for less effort.
TEI 112: Lean marketing for product managers – with Joe Dager
TEI 111: How SPICES help product managers build insanely great products – with David Fradin
TEI 110: How GE’s FirstBuild creates products – with Taylor Dawson
TEI 109: How product managers can design the organization they want – with John Latham, PhD
TEI 108: Communicating design in product management – with Latif Nanji