This week, 1,775 product people from across the globe came together for #mtpcon London 2019. Proceedings kicked off with workshops and leadership discussions on Thursday, followed by the conference itself at London’s famous Barbican Centre. Here’s a quick look at what we learned:
Since we started ProductTank 9 years ago, product has become a lot less lonely. And what we’ve learned as the community has grown is that we all face the same challenges, wherever we are. To kick-start a day of listening and learning, we began by asking ourselves the most important question of all – are we building the right thing?
Reduce the Gap Between Makers and Users
With this question in our minds, we settled in for the first of our keynote speakers, Henrik Kniberg. Henrik reminded us that if we want to create products people love (like Lego, Mincecraft and Spotify) then we need to reduce the gap between makers and users. We can do this, he explained, by limiting handoffs, using lots of different data sources, building empowered autonomous teams, committing to radical transparency and focussing on curiosity rather than pride.
Change up your decision making
Next up, Andy Ayim showed us how mental models can help us make different types of decisions. By using specific frameworks, Andy discussed how we can focus on solutions that aren’t immediately obvious. First principles, he told us, get you to think about the individual components of a situation. Second order thinking looks at the unintended consequences of our actions and finally, Inversion gets you to think backwards through a problem.
Ask the Right Questions
C Todd Lombardo reminded us that all product managers make bad decisions and, to minimise the number we make, we need to spend more time doing effective product research – a combination of user research, market research, and product analytics. He explained that by getting more curious about your data and asking the right questions, you can inspire action with insight. And, to be really effective you’ll need to build habits around your organisation so that this happens constantly.
Reflect the Diversity of Your Users
Kriti Sharma gave a personal account of how all around the world, robots are starting to make decisions for us that have real human impacts. The result of which, if we don’t think about the consequences of our decisions, will be the creation of a less fair society as these products start to scale. The best way to tackle this issue, Kriti explained, is to ensure that our teams reflect the diversity of the users they serve.
Preparing for a Data-Driven Future
Just before lunch, Kate O’Neill carried on the theme of AI and explained how we need to prepare society for an increasingly tech and data-driven future. She showed us that to do this, we must build products that create meaningful human experiences now and in the future. To avoid the unintended consequences of our decisions, we must ask ourselves difficult questions throughout the product design process.
Focus on Continuous Learning
Jonny Schneider came all the way from Melbourne to show us that by using all of design thinking, agile, and lean we can make better products. Jonny explained that when you are comfortable with all of them, you can focus on continuous learning, designing the right experiments, measuring things that contribute to decisions and solve for next order problems.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Kate Leto pushed us all to realise that emotional intelligence is more important than any of the technical skills we use in our roles. If we want to build our product teams to be better at it, we need to design our hiring processes to look for it. To achieve that, we must be better with our role descriptions, use behavioural interview questions and never stop learning about the people we hire.
Expose Bad Ideas
Lindsey Jayne succinctly explained how there’s too much noise in our working lives. She showed how we’re bombarded by words and thoughts which are difficult to understand. By being clearer in our writing we can bring more people with us and expose bad ideas before they cause harm. If we combine this with sharing our thoughts early and often, we will collaborate more, make braver decisions, and diversify our thinking.
Respect the craft of product
Ezinne Udezue explained how, as product managers, we have to create the conditions for our teams to be successful. We can do this by valuing people, relentlessly focussing on impact, develop continuous empathy for your customers, and respect the craft of product management.
Using Universal Themes to Connect
Finally artist and designer Brendan Dawes blew our minds open at the end of the day with his talk about the spaces between analog and digital. He showed us how we should be using universal themes to connect with people and how we can boil, simmer, and reduce to get the best out of our products and ideas.
In the coming weeks, you’ll be able to watch each of these individual talks in full but for now, remember to go out and use what you’ve learned from this #mtpcon snapshot (or the conference itself if you were there!) to move intentionally and build great products.