Video: Going from Meh to Awesome by Shiva Rajaraman

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Shiva Rajaraman has a long record building amazing products across YouTube, Google and now Spotify and joined us at Mind the Product in London to share some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Relish the random

Every product out there has been hacked, extended, or reused by its users in some way, and it’s important to embrace these random uses as they are a strong signal that your community of users is truly passionate about the product. As a product manager you need dive into this community of users, know how your product is being used and encourage these emergent behaviours.

Every now and then break things

As soon as a product or company is even remotely successful, it’s common to get stuck in the status quo and worry about breaking what’s already working. But sometimes it’s necessary to break through that status quo in order to build something truly exceptional and as product managers we need to have the courage to break things occasionally in the pursuit of that goal.

Your country is not the world

This is primarily an issue in the US and Silicon Valley, but all too often companies focus just on what they know – their own country or market. It’s critical, however, to be able to back out and take a global perspective on your product and your market. Embracing the diversity of your audience or market offers different perspectives and lenses with which to view your product.

Hack the full stack

Modern software development processes put the product manager as the glue in the middle, but it’s important not just to think about what you can build through product and engineering but through content or your ecosystem too. There may well be ways to delight your users without building anything new at all.

Platform

It’s too easy to focus on continuously adding new features, but it’s important to step back and think about whether what you’re building can serve as a platform for many use cases. Even on a small scale it’s can be useful to think about how your product fits into your users’ ecosystem.

Embrace old tropes

Although we all love and embrace new technology, it can be even more powerful when served or packaged up in old tropes that your users are familiar with. Familiar tropes like scheduled programmes can be great ways to deliver new technology.

Innovation is the fruit of failure

This is a corollary of breaking things but whenever you have a forgiving audience it’s important to embrace that and test new features and ideas even if they’re not 100% perfect because sometimes you can only learn by failing.

Change lives

Increasingly a lot of our products or ecosystems have the potential to improve people’s lives, and it’s important to understand how your product is affecting all the users of your product even if they’re not your primary user. Ask yourself if there are new careers, new economies, new businesses that exist because of your product – or figure out how to make that happen. It’s important to involve your users in this goal too, as they become fans when they feel aligned with your mission and feel like they have impact.

Watch the video for an entertaining list of examples from Shiva’s career illustrating all of these lessons.

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  • Valerie Coulton

    Great talk! Inspiring examples and exciting presentation.

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