In this ProductTank London talk, Brant Cooper, CEO and Founder of Moves the Needle gives some guidelines for dealing with uncertainty, no matter the size of a company, and reveals what soft skills can help product managers.
Watch the video to see Brant’s talk in full. Or read on for an overview of his key points:
- Lean innovation
Established companies are good at executing and focusing on ways to improve their product offerings because they already have a blueprint. On the other hand, startups are constantly in learning mode in an attempt to figure out their own blueprint. This creates uncertainty on both sides as established companies need to also find a way to learn and startups need to find a way to execute. Executing and learning form a continuous scale no matter the company. Product managers need to learn how to act differently when faced with uncertainty and adapt to different situations. They need to focus on the 3E’s of lean innovation, empathy, experiments and evidence, and the soft skills required for each.
In an established company, it is likely that customers are already known but this isn’t the case for a startup. Empathy means being able to understand the customer. However, this doesn’t mean just asking them what product features they like or don’t like. Instead, product people need to try to understand their overall needs and desires.
Product managers are already constantly running tests. Brant advocates for running bigger and bolder experiments and incorporating them into sprints. Some of these experiments could include going into the world and observing users. Most experiments fail but a critical soft skill for a product manager is making it ok to fail. Failing small with experiments reduces the risk of failing big in the long run. Product managers need to admit when they don’t know something, create hypotheses and then run experiments to aid in making decisions.
For product managers, admitting you were wrong is a great soft skill to have. Sometimes after running experiments, you may find that the result doesn’t match your hypothesis. This allows you to cut through biases and focus on the data, or to back up suggestions with experiments and evidence. The key takeaway from this talk is that once you understand a person’s needs then it becomes harder for them to poke holes in your ideas. Instead, you get a better idea about what you need to achieve before they buy-in.