Launching a brand new event is never easy, and launching one amidst a pandemic sure comes with some unique challenges but I think I speak for the whole team at Mind the Product when I say – #mtpcon Digital…what a blast!
Of course, we love meeting up with the product community at our ‘normal’ #mtpcons and were sad not to be able to do this in San Francisco this month. Instead, we made the decision to take #mtpcon to digital format and we hope, if you attended, that you loved it as much as we did.
Our keynote speakers were outstanding, our breakout sessions speakers inspiring, our sponsors were hugely supportive and you – our attendees – were simply awesome! Let’s take a quick look at the highlights from our final day.
April Dunford opened day three with her highly anticipated keynote – ‘Positioning Jujitsu’ – and by answering the key question: “How do we beat our competitors?” “In my opinion, the biggest thing that you’ve got to do, is you’ve got to make sure that you’re fighting a battle you can win,” she said.
April went on to emphasise the importance of product positioning, laying out a battleplan-like methodology, she unpacked profiles of The Hordes, The Giant and The Ghost, showing how to fight fights you can win, turn competitor strengths to weaknesses, and justify why your product is the priority. She even walked us through tasty cake example to make one of her key points and we could all get on board with that!
“I have a positioning methodology for doing this stuff,” she said, “and the way it works is that we start by looking at if the customer couldn’t use you, what would they do? That’s figuring out who your real competition is and once you understand that then you can move to these are the unique attributes, this is what we got that you don’t have, or that the alternative doesn’t have.”
Our second keynote of the day came from Jimena Almendares, Product Executive at Facebook, who got us ‘thinking outside the product box’! Jimena illustrated through business insights and data how there’s no such thing as a “normal” user.
“I want to give you a bit of a framework, on how to think about building inclusive products,” she said, and she explained that just as products have different market dynamics, we need to recognise how complex our users are, analysing their unique needs. Furthermore, as product people, we should actively create inclusive spaces and look to serve under-represented minorities. When we do this, the outcome will be better products for everyone.
Between the keynotes, attendees joined our breakout speakers for a selection of interactive sessions.
Product in Highly Regulated Industries
Amber Kearney drew on her own experience to explain how to successfully build products in regulated industries. She explored the concept of “responsible innovation” through a familiar design thinking and product development framework: Discover, Design, Develop/Test, and Deploy.
On discovery, she noted how you have to truly understand your regulator persona because the experience is very different to that of building a product and to the startup world. “Regulators are driven by compliance,” she said. “They want to make sure that we’re compliant, that standards are met and that requirements are met.” Your job, she continued, is to ensure that what you’re building, and what they’re responsible for, is meeting those needs and requirements every step of the way.
Dual-Track Development Demystified
In this session, Jeff Patton facilitated a masterful tour through the essentials (and misconceptions!) of dual-track development, and how to do discovery and delivery in parallel.
“Dual-track delivery refers to two kinds of work that need to happen – not two teams,” he said. “You should not have a discovery team feeding a delivery team.”
Jeff covered how to make sense of large amounts of unstructured data – essential work needed to expose problems and insights to the whole team. By visualising all the things you’re discovering in the open, he explained, you make it easy to capture ideas, insights, and questions/hypotheses. And, when conducting this discovery work, he advised that you should always be asking yourself: “What have we confirmed? What were we right about?” But equally important is to ask: “What were we wrong about? What were assumptions or beliefs that we had, that turned out not to be true?”
Using Psychology to Supercharge Your Product
For Joe Leech, an interest in psychology came about early but got off to a bumpy start when he attempted to use ‘insights’ from a body language book on his mum’s shelf to strut his stuff at a school disco, it didn’t go to plan. Fortunately, his expertise in the area of psychology has grown significantly over the past three decades and now he’s here to leverage that knowledge to create UX.
In his session, he covered how to help businesses to do the things in the right order for the right reasons, focusing on how to use psychology to supercharge your UI. For example, big changes that upset existing users’ procedural flow always go wrong, he told us. ” Incremental small change will be much less painful, but if you must do something in a big update you need to warn everyone in your organisation that the next few weeks are going to be hard.”
Behavioral Design: How Behavioral Scientists Build Products
So often, we make products only to discover that they’re not what our customers really wanted – despite customer research. In her session, Kristen Berman discussed why, so often, there’s a big gap between intention and action in our users, and how this presents in our research.
“When you’re asking a customer questions about the future,” she says, “they’re thinking about their ideal self. They’re thinking about the perfect person who has a lot of time, who makes decisions in line with their intentions – they’re answering on behalf of that ideal self.”
As a result, we often get answers that simply don’t reflect reality. “If you just ask your customers questions about their past behaviour, about their future predictions or about why they’re doing something, you’ll likely be misled.”
Kristen then explained to her audience how they can avoid this issue and really narrow in on what users need, set missions in order to hit deadlines, and use a process to deliver consistently.
User Research for Product Managers
Steve Portigal explored the many and varied factors that might be enabling or blocking good research. He started by asking the audience: “What are the factors that enable or disable research?” and, of course, there are many but he touched on a few key aspects.
Check your methodological biases: Steve suggested that if your research team, or your organisational culture, skew you towards specific tools and research methods, you’ll find the quality of your research suffers. Not every question you have will be best explored with your single, chosen tool!
What’s your organisation’s Research Maturity?: As your research practices become more nuanced and mature, he continued, you’ll naturally find that the quality of your research improves. Steve shared several possible mental models that you could use to assess your “research maturity”, and gauge how that might be affecting your user research practices in an aligned, objective way.
Your own skills, he told us, are also a factor in research, but this is also one of the easiest factors to adjust. There are a lot of books, blogs, and courses available to help you level-up your own research skills.
As the talk progressed, Steve walked through discussions about organisational culture, more nuances and meaningful understanding of what “influence” really is, and exploring a model for understanding the context of change.
Building the Right Thing and Hitting Deadlines Every Time
Muddling along and getting generally positive but non-committal responses from your customers can be a frustrating place to be. Often you find yourself unsure about what course to be taking. In this session, Maggie Crowley laid out the frameworks she uses to gain clarity on her customers, her mission, and how to build a repeatable process so you can always build things to delight your customers.
“The more clearly you understand your customer, the more certain you can be what to build next,” she said. “This is a gamble every time and the more customer discovery you do, the more you decrease that risk, repeat that and you reduce it further.”
Our amazing sponsors have been just as busy as us this week! They’ve been getting to know new people in the community, putting on demos and hosting coffee mornings and more.
For starters, our Gold Sponsor Miro ran Breakout Sessions on remote product management, applying a growth mindset to your career, and even on how their own team uses Miro. They also ensured that our speakers had their own Miro boards throughout the event AND held visual Happy Hours!
We also enjoyed ‘Unwind the Mind’ yoga with Split, a special Meet and Greet with the lovely team at InVision, Hero Talent Community Coffees with Delivery Hero and a fab demo by User Testing’s own product management team on they get the most out of their own tool as product managers. There were prizes to be won too including a Nintendo Switch, Bose Headphones, a standing desk, an Echo, vouchers and more!
Watch it all Again
As a Mind the Product member, you’ll be able to access all of the incredible keynote talk videos this coming Friday (July 17th) on your membership dashboard. We’ll also release the Breakout Session videos (weekly) in groups, starting next Wednesday (July 22)! Not yet a member? Get in on the action – join today!
(If you’re a new member and haven’t accessed your account yet, check your inbox for your access instructions – we’ll be sending them soon!)
Time to Celebrate!
Now, with our incredible talks and sessions complete, we’re going to round off #mtpcon Digital with a few more socials! Martin Eriksson is back for another cocktail masterclass, MTP’s Will and Shaun return for some more beer chat, and we’re holding our final mtpcon Digital Product Quiz Night – all to the soundtrack of our live DJ, The Beatifikation!
Until next time 👋