Day one at #mtpcon Digital Americas was a difficult act to follow. However, today we saw even more inspiring and engaging speakers with topics ranging from product inclusion, product experiment, and developing a collaborative culture. Throughout the day we even had a bit of spare time for yoga and chit-chat in the breakout sessions. Here we share some of the words of wisdom from the day.
1. Think big. Start small
In the opening keynote for day two of #mtpcon Americas Digital, Lenny Rachitsky, former product lead at Airbnb took us through the positive experiences that Airbnb has experienced by thinking big. Lenny explained that in order to think big, we must imagine the ideal product scenario that we want to experience. It’s equally important to set ambitious goals, hear people out, collect the data, run experiments, and get an executive sponsor that believes in the process and goals. However, to hit these big goals, Lenny said to “build small and break down the problem. Work backwards from where you want to land,”
2. Make methods and decisions that matter to drive product decisions
An interactive breakout session, Cris Valerio at Instacart gave us a lesson on the importance of high-level user insights in product decisions. Define your decision, she said. Figure out what the point of your insights are so you can align clear insights to product actions. Methods matter, consider what the goal is and match the methods accordingly. We learned to understand what type of data you have and be sure to ask the right kind of question to your teams to ensure you have all of the answers you need.
3. Asking 5 questions can help to keep bias at bay
Bias creeps into everything we do, even if we don’t realise it, and in his breakout session — Design for Cognitive Bias: Using Mental Shortcuts for Good Instead of Evil — David Dylan Thomas provided real-world examples to identify some particularly harmful biases that frequently lead users to make bad decisions. He explained: “There are content and design choices we can make to help keep some of these biases of bay, or even sometimes leverage them for good.” One of those things is an assumption audit. Something you do right at the start of any project. “The basic idea is to get your whole team in the room before you kick off and ask five key questions.”
These, he said, are the questions to ask:
- What identities does your team represent?
- How might those identities, influence the design of the thing you’re working on?
- Who’s not in the room?
- How might that lack of perspective, compromise the design of the thing you’re working on?
- What might you do to include, honour, and give power to those perspectives in the design process?
David also talks about this in an episode of The Product Experience Podcast: Designing for Cognitive Bias — we’d highly recommend you give it a listen.
4. Sweat through the minor details to unlock the true value of product experimentation
Split product manager Anthony Rindone hooked us in by sharing what he learned through years of product experimentation. He taught us that every change is a feature, and every feature is an opportunity to experiment. Have a clear hypothesis up front to unlock the true value of experimenting with product changes. Focus on the bigger picture…while still sweating the minor details. Be precise and gain a common agreement for a process.
5. Build for accessibility and inclusion in products
Dave Dame, director of accessibility at Microsoft in his keynote session inspired all of us in his talk on product inclusion, innovation, and accessibility. Why is innovation and building for inclusion so hard? Dave explained that mismatches are hard to find, and humans naturally don’t have the ability to compensate for others — when this does occur, solving one problem for one group creates another issue for another population. When you build for accessibility, you make products that are not just better for those with disabilities, but you make them better for everyone. Don’t design products for people with disabilities, design products with them.
We learned that if we can find mismatches between technology and populations, we’ll find problems worth solving and the potential to take those solutions to other markets. By 2030 there will be two billion people in need of assistive technology. “The market and the potential is absolutely there,” he said. If you can see a different world, you will have a different world available to you.
By designing for cognitive inclusivity today, you’re going to extend the life of your product now and in the future, Dave closed.
6. Conversations and collaboration are key to get out of the rut
Audrey Crane, partner at DesignMap provided a lifeline for those stuck in the “Feature Team rut”. She explained to create value where you are and at the top. Collaborating with teams will get product managers past the feature team rut, and instead, develop into an empowered communicative team. It’s impossible to be a product team without regular customer communication. Audrey explained to not just accept the status quo of usability. Test solutions and problems. “Product managers are good because they’re knowledgeable and charismatic. When having a conversation, be only interested in the problem or what you’re unaware of,” she said.
Companies and processes are often difficult things to turn. We learned that small actions while simultaneously driving collaboration and understanding customer needs can massively aid organisations in turning significant corners.
7. Own up to how you’re feeling
In the closing keynote for #mtpcon Digital Americas, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Technically Wrong provided an important lesson on helping teams face their challenges. Product teams are have been plagued with emotional burnout, exhaustion, and trauma in the period. Sara explained that if we want to get back to our best, we need to start healing.
She said to start by healing yourself first. It’s very common to not have a clear picture of how you’re feeling — take some time to think about those thoughts and choose a reaction that’s going to serve you best. While teams may go through collective trauma, our responses are personal, making space for these conversations creates opportunities for healing and growth. “We are going through a traumatic period of time but that doesn’t mean that it has to lead to long-term consequences. It can lead to growth,” she said.
Finally, acknowledge the experiences of others and give them more control. Help them to process their thoughts by providing teams with flexible schedules and work patterns. Sara closed “We repeat what we don’t heal from. I hope teams can use this trauma to bounce back and repair the things that were broken long ago.”
That’s a wrap!
Thank you to everyone who joined us for day two and to our wonderful crew and sponsors for all of their support. Find out what at mindtheproduct.com/digital/apac and, if you’re a Mind the Product member, you’ll be able to access all of the incredible keynote talk and session videos this coming Friday (16th July) on your membership dashboard.
Not yet a member? Join today! Got membership with your #mtpcon Digital ticket? Activate your account today — instructions on how to access your new membership (if included with your event ticket) can be found in any email you receive about the event.