Where did your team go on their first big outing?
For the recently-formed group-wide product team at Tes, our first major excursion as a group was to MTP 2017 – Europe’s largest gathering of product managers with more than 1,500 attendees. It was a total blast with a healthy mix of learning, networking and partying.
Tes has published news for educators for over 100 years (formerly as The Times Educational Supplement) but is today better known globally as the site where millions of teachers around the world find lesson materials and jobs. We love to support learning, so it was unsurprising that many of the product team wondered how we might share our key takeaways with the wider product community?
So we reached out to our friends at Mind the Product, who were happy to share honest feedback from real product managers. We immediately fired up Google Docs to collaborate on what we had learned that will make us better product managers. I hope our conference takeaways help you too.
All Problems are old
“There were so many takeaways from each of the amazing speakers at MTP 2017 but something Scott Berkun said really stuck with me:
Every product is designed to solve a problem and all problems are old – albeit sometimes presented in a different way.
Based on this, my note to self is to adopt a pragmatic approach when solving problems by first determining if similar problems had solutions in the past. And, where applicable, understanding how these present a learning opportunity before deep diving into new and creative product solutions.”
– Funmi Alassan, Senior Product Manager (@falassan)
Learn to let go
“A topic a few speakers at MTP 2017 touched on, including Teresa Torres, is the danger when you ‘fall in love’ with your initial ideas. I think Jane Austin had the best line about the importance of being able to make a powerful case for an idea but then being able to let go quickly when the group finds a better approach, or a quick test shows your idea doesn’t have the effect you wanted. She used the quote:
Have strong ideas… lightly held
Grit is indeed an important trait in product managers, but so is a touch of intellectual promiscuity to make you happy moving on fast to new ideas.”
– Michael Shaw, Product Director (@mrmichaelshaw)
Love Your Squishy Bits (Soft Skills)
“The opening slide of the conference reminded us that product managers are people managers; Lea Hickman from SVPG urged to hire product people based on personality above all else; Barry O’Reilly described how people learn through stories. We live in an environment of detailed data and structured code but filled with imperfect people – and one of my takeaways is to value the role of soft skills in the product management role. Those soft skills were evident on the stage throughout the day as each of the product people on the stage charmed us with their warmth, humour and storytelling powers.”
– Jobina Hardy, Senior Product Manager (@iamjobina)
Great Ideas Often Look Weird (at First)
“This was my first time attending MTP and I am already looking forward to the next one. Having the opportunity to listen and learn from leaders in the industry is invaluable. I particularly liked the quote from Scott Berkun
Great ideas often look weird (at first)
User testing and learning from users also came through strongly, and I look forward to trying out new ways of working to get the best out my team and the product.”
– Shaun Brown, Product Manager
Not all Problems Should be Solved With Tech
“I had a fantastic day listening to all the inspiring speakers. As a newer product manager it was an excellent opportunity to learn from the pros. The comment that ‘not all problems should be solved with tech’ was a really penetrating remark for me as I embark on building something completely uncharted for my industry.”
– Ben, Product Manager
The Opportunity Tree Framework
“Being new to product management, my biggest takeaway was the importance of having lots of ideas and learning fast. Teresa Torres presented her Opportunity Tree Framework which helps to visualise all ideas being considered, and starkly highlights when ideas are thin on the ground. A great reminder that the more ideas you try, the higher your chance of success.”
– Diane, Product Manager
Anti Patterns for Designers
“As always, mtpcon 2017 was a great day of learning. My team really benefited from attending; a worthwhile investment. Within one week I can already see learning improving our product efforts, including design sprints, opportunity trees and problem statements. One of many takeaways for me is the anti patterns for designers that Jane Austin shared. The too-commonly used anti pattern I see is ‘I am the expert’, which is an excuse to skip user testing and dictate a personal opinion.”
– Dave Martin, VP Product @product_warrior