Getting technology wrong
For the first keynote of the day, Tim Harford, Behavioural economist and columnist at The Financial Times took to the main stage. We learned that despite technology changing around us, we can’t change the world that we operate in without organisational change.
Tim elaborated on revolutionary products like toilet paper, barbed wire, and solar power. “It’s the cheapness that changes the world, not sophistication. The price goes down, and the world changes,” he shared.
Additionally, organisational change is necessary to unlock the maximum capacity of advances. We learned to introduce new processes and build new workforces. Only then, will we be able to harness the full potential of technology.
Focus on the mission
Nilan Peiris, Chief Product Officer at Wise, was the second to lead an illuminating session on scaling products. He walked us through the journey that Wise has embarked on and shared some key lessons learned.
- When looking to scale, the most important question to ask is, ‘What would it take for customers to recommend your product?’.
- To achieve advocacy, your product needs to be 10x better than the alternative. You need to create an experience that your customers didn’t know was possible.
- Create an empowered environment for product managers to add value and drive growth.
However, fundamentally, Nilan said: “Customers don’t care about autonomy, top-down approaches, or empowered teams. They only care about the speed at which you achieve your mission – stay true to that to succeed.
Don’t go climbing someone else’s ladder
After a quick break from a plethora of product insights, Susana Lopes Director of Product at Abatable taught us about dual-track career ladders. We learned that these equally tall tracks can ensure ICs feel empowered and motivated to grow continuously.
Dual-track ladders give product ICs room to try things out even if they don’t manage others. There are many things that IC’s can do to climb this ladder that doesn’t involve managing product people, such as building projects from scratch, coaching teams, improving the launch process, and elevating how product is done, to name a few.
She closed by saying: “Don’t feel stuck climbing someone else’s ladder. We have the power as product people to change the norm.”
Fail in the right way
Next up, Marc Abraham, Product Director at Backbase led a session on failing in the right way. We learned that to fail effectively, we must know all of the risks and problems that our product may bring. Be aware of risk, assess, prioritise, and mitigate it.
When dealing with failure, conclude what happened, what we learned, and what we decided, Marc explained. “Really go into the why to understand why things didn’t go the way as planned. Products won’t fail in vain if we are clear on the ‘why’ when we look at our learnings. Learn early and often.” he said.
Dealing with gremlins
Straight after a pitstop for lunch and speed networking, we returned to the main stage to digest actionable insights from Keji Adedeji, Product Director, Professional at FT. She taught us a lesson on product gremlins, and how to overcome them.
“Product can be hard,” she opened with “we face a lot of gremlins along the way”
The first one is constantly comparing ourselves to peers, which can give us self-doubt. Keji said to create a space to reflect with yourself, learn about patterns, comfort zones, and find out what makes you thrive. Let other people compliment you and figure out what helps you find energy.
Next, we have all had that feeling of being suck in our career. Be intentional, ask for what you need and don’t be constrained by where you are. Think about your vision, values, and goals. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The imbalance gremlin rears its ugly head when burnout and a lack of work-life balance occur. Keji explained how important communities, connections, and relationships with peers are in times of stress.
When dealing with fear, meet your organisation where it’s at, she adds. Focus on the sphere of influence and develop what you can.
Finally, remember that silence can be a gremlin. She said, “Shine a line on the gremlins. It’s common to struggle, so speak openly, and support each other to get through difficult times.
Generative AI class 101
Most of us are new to AI – 80% aren’t confident with using AI, opened Claire Woodcock, Director of Product, ML at Mozilla, in her keynote session.
However, the great thing about AI is how crazy and magical it can become. Despite the plethora of positives, there is a huge pressure to stay ahead, and AI definitely is not perfect, Claire explained.
In a world of AI, the basics stay the same. Claire said: What problem are you trying to solve? Why would the user come to you even if you’re using AI, and is the product worthwhile? Don’t lose sight of the customer, and remember that we’re all human.
Perception is real, even if it’s not reality
Closing out our second set of talks was Randy Silver, Managing Director at Out of Owls. He delved into key principles for collaboration, and dealing with friction when managing change.
He explained that as product people, we are usually hired as change agents in our company. But change is hard because companies can be resistant. However, we can change the narrative and deliver value in our respective organisations, and not just “do product properly.”
To embark on this journey, Randy said to make sure you know what your team is working on. “Are you investing in the right people? Do you have the right processes in place? If you get these things done, you can start shipping value.” he explained.
“The one thing that changes people from good to great is perception. It’s about how other people think you’re doing it.” Randy added. If other teams don’t feel that you’re aiding their needs, then your job isn’t done. Perception is real, even when it’s not reality.
Clarity, communication, and collaboration
On the penultimate talk of the day, the amazing Jane Austin, Chief Product Officer, Juniver gave us an eye-opening #mtpcon keynote talk on key things to consider when dealing with research and collaboration.
One of the key things we learned is to be clear about the vision and the future, and also how you’re going to differentiate from your competitors, so that your team will understand what they’re working on. Additionally, she recommended reframing what the MVP means. “It’s [MVPs] all about doing the least you can do to give yourself the strongest signal that you’re right and ready to take the next step.” Jane said.
Be a villain to make change happen
For the final talk of the day, Randeep Sidhu, Former CPO at Reliance Health, led an engaging session on heroes and villains, looking back on his four lessons from working on the Covid-19 test and trace app in the midst of the global pandemic.
When dealing with business leaders, Randeep learned not to treat people as obstacles and objects. “Product thinking makes us believe that we have the best ideas in the room. It’s important to work with others.” he explained.
In product, we often fall into the trap of forcing users into a process, instead of thinking about their actual issues. Find out what is causing users stress, and find a way to mitigate that, Randeep explained.
Using his superhero analogy, he explained how heroes are comfortable with the world that they reside in, while villains are the ones who want change and challenge the status quo. That’s why creating change is so hard. Villainy can be good.
“When you challenge, you are scapegoated. You’re framed in a negative way. If you’re being silenced, it makes change much harder.” Randeep said. Creating challenges creates discomfort, and real change requires discomfort. However, just challenging the status quo doesn’t always mean you’re right.
And just like that, it’s a wrap!
To all of our #mtpcon London attendees, thank you so much for joining us this year!
As we all return to our work next week, we hope you’ll take some time to reflect on what you heard. Share your learnings with your teams and talk about what you can put into practice. Be sure to look out for full write-ups and videos of all of our amazing keynote speakers on our blog in the coming weeks! Did you learn something that we missed? Join in the conversation and follow along with the action on our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.