Filter Bubbles

On the subject of how we subconsciously filter the information that we see, from the article, How Filter Bubbles Distort Reality: Everything You Need to Know,

The term “filter bubble” refers to the results of the algorithms that dictate what we encounter online. According to Eli Pariser, those algorithms create “a unique universe of information for each of us … which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information..

…One of the great problems with filters is our human tendency to think that what we see is all there is, without realizing that what we see is being filtered.

via Farnam Street

Worth the Read July 2017

A few articles that I have been thinking about as of late. Hope some are useful for you.

  1. People Don’t Buy Products, They Buy Better Versions of Themselves“A feature is what your product does; a benefit is what the customer can do with your product.”
  2. Ten Year Futures “Now that mobile is maturing and its growth is slowing, everyone in tech turns to thinking about what the Next Big Thing will be. It’s easy to say that ‘machine learning is the new mobile’ (and everyone does), but there are other things going on too.”
  3. Artificial Intelligence: The Promise and the Playbook“We’ve met with hundreds of Fortune 500/ Global 2000 companies, startups, and government agencies asking: “How do I get started with artificial intelligence?” and “What can I do with AI in my own product or company?”
  4. The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything “Loewy believed that consumers are torn between a curiosity about new things and a fear of anything too new.”
  5. Crafting The First Mile Of Product“To make matters worse, the first mile of a product experience is increasingly neglected over time despite becoming more important over time. “

Thinking Without a Box

On the topic of problem solving,

“My own thinking on this subject has been deeply influenced by Lin Wells, who teaches strategy at the National Defense University. According to Wells, it is fanciful to suppose that you can opine about or explain this world by clinging to the inside or outside of any one rigid explanatory box or any single disciplinary silo. Wells describes three ways of thinking about a problem: “inside the box,” “outside the box,” and “where there is no box.” The only sustainable approach to thinking today about problems, he argues, “is thinking without a box.”

From the book Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman.

Ensure the Business Outcome

Wonderful article from Marty Cagan illustrating how good product teams and cultures deliver great products.

One of my favorite quotes from the article:

The Product Manager needs to ensure a business outcome, not just ensure a product gets defined. This requires a good understanding of the many inter-related parts and constraints of the business – financial, marketing, sales, legal, partnership, service, the customer environment, the technical capabilities, the user’s experience, and figure out a solution that works for the customers as well as the business.

Also great to get hear the back story of some great products like Word, Netflix, and iTunes.

Read the full article – Behind Every Great Product.

 

 

Read This –> Shoe Dog

You should read this book.

Phil Knight’s memoir will not disappoint. The book was engaging, full of suspense, and very inspiring. And all based on his life creating the company Nike. It is part business book, part adventure tale, and full of entrepreneurial spirit.

You should read this book.

Here are a few quotes worth sharing from the book that will hopefully peak your interest:

I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves.

I refused to even consider ordering less inventory. Grow or die, that’s what I believed, no matter the situation.

Supply and demand is always the root problem in business. It’s been true since Phoenician traders raced to bring Rome the coveted purple dye that colored the clothing of royals and rich people; there was never enough purple to go around. It’s hard enough to invent and manufacture and market a product, but then the logistics, the mechanics, the hydraulics of getting it to the people who want it, when they want it — this is how companies die, how ulcers are born.

Fear of failure, I thought, will never be our downfall as a company. Not that any of us thought we wouldn’t fail; in fact we had every expectation that we would. But when we did fail, we had faith that we’d do it fast, learn from it, and be better for it.

It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.

 

You should read this book.

Recommended Reading – Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction


A quick note on book recommendations:

I’ve been working on reading a book a week this year (see more here) and thinking how best to share the really good ones. Usually by the time I find the book, there are plenty of reviews out there so I don’t think that another one offers much value.

That being said, I think a short recommendation could be useful and serve as a good reminder to myself of some the ideas captured in the book. My plan is to focus on a few concepts/quotes that I found inspirational and that would hopefully serve as a proxy of why the book is worth investing some of your time in.

With that, here comes my first recommendation for the year – Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.


Thinking about the future? Trying to figure out what will happen next?

The book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction should be on your reading list. Philip Tetlock covers the topic of how we form theories and why some of us are significantly better than others when it comes to predicting what will happen in the future.

The book covers research that Tetlock and his team performed over a 20-year period to determine if there were people out there that could forecast the future with a better success that others. The results were fascinating and determined that there were ‘superforecasters‘ that could repeatedly beat the experts year over year.

A few highlights from the book:

Foresight isn’t a mysterious gift bestowed at birth. It is the product of particular ways of thinking, of gathering information, of updating beliefs.

For superforecasters, beliefs are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be guarded.

Forecasters who practice get better at distinguishing finer degrees of uncertainty, just as artists get better at distinguishing subtler shades of gray.

This is not complicated stuff. But it’s easy to misinterpret randomness. We don’t have an intuitive feel for it. Randomness is invisible from the tip-of-your-nose perspective. We can only see it if we step outside ourselves.

Superforecasting isn’t a paint-by-numbers method but superforecasters often tackle questions in a roughly similar way—one that any of us can follow: Unpack the question into components. Distinguish as sharply as you can between the known and unknown and leave no assumptions unscrutinized.

The advice on how to improve your forecasting skills was enough for me to recommend this book on its own, but it was the research on teams that I found the most fascinating and applicable. Tetlock found that if a team followed a path of ‘constructive confrontation‘ and avoided perils like groupthink, their ability to forecast the future was dramatically improved. I also really enjoyed the example of the how the JFK administration adapted its decision-making process after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion (HRB has a good summary on how JFK changed decision-making).

Tetlock writes on the benefit of teamwork,

On average, when a forecaster did well enough in year 1 to become a superforecaster, and was put on a superforecaster team in year 2, that person became 50% more accurate. An analysis in year 3 got the same result. Given that these were collections of strangers tenuously connected in cyberspace, we found that result startling.

Hopefully, by this point I have peaked your interests enough to want to read the book (if you are looking for a longer review, check out the Economist’s post). I think you will find it a good investment of your time.

Let me know what you think!

Product Management Resources Worth Paying For

The start of the new year is a great time to reassess what’s working and what’s not. I’m reviewing all my monthly subscriptions that I pay for, for the purpose of helping to improve my business and product skill set.

I’m cutting the ones that are not consistently delivering value and am looking for new ones to add.

Here’s what I have on my keep list. Have something else to add that’s worth paying for? Let me know!

  1. Harvard Business Review – this is the last physical magazine that I subscribe to. I have been a subscriber off and on for several years and have come to the conclusion that there is no better resource for keeping up and learning new business skills. The articles are diverse and cover different domains and can help you become a better manager, leader, marketer, and product manager.
  2. WSJ – a great way to keep up with what is happening in the world of business and the macro economic trends. I think the Economist is also a good resource but I have stuck with the WSJ for many years. They have recently improved their mobile apps making it very easy to keep up with the world of business with a quick scan of the app.
  3. Texture – an almost too good to be true monthly magazine service that gives you access to Business Week, Wired, Fast Company, Fortune and many more magazines. You might not read all the articles but the service will highlight the best articles of the week/month making it easy to find helpful reads.
  4. Stratechery – a daily email on technology with a specific focus on strategy and business. The analysis of the industry is fantastic and the writing style is sharp and to the point – check out the 2015 year in review post for an example of what to expect.

What’s on your list?

Why Product Austin

If you are in a marketing, product, or tech position, there is a meetup just about every night in Austin. There are so many great (and usually free) talks that it can be hard to keep up with them all. The key ingredient you are looking for is a high quality to noise ratio.

I am biased as one of the co-organizers of the group, but I think in its first year, Product Austin is off to an amazing start. From Jared Spool, to Nir Eyal, to Andrew Allison, Product Austin has been able to bring some very knowledgable speakers to share their wisdom and best practices. The topics have ranged from getting traction with customers, to designing culture, to UX strategy – 100% on point for anyone interested in learning about building and growing a product business.

If you haven’t been able to join Product Austin this year, the good news is that it isn’t too late. The majority of the talks have been recorded, thanks to the sponsorship of the Capital Factory, and there is one more final event left in 2015.

Join us to hear the founder of Growth Hackers, Sean Ellis, talk about the overlap between product and growth. You can also view several of the past talks recorded below.

Big thanks to Prabhakar Gopalan for his excellent job recruiting such an amazing lineup of speakers and getting them to come to Austin!

Hope to see you there in December or at a future meetup!


Designing Culture: Applying Design Principles to Hiring and Building a Culture with Andrew Allison, CEO of Main Street Hub:

Finding Your Product Distribution Channel with Justin Mares, author of Traction, A Startup Guide to Getting Customers:

Building a Growth Machine with  Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot:

Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products with Nir Eyal, best selling author of the book, Hooked:  How To Build Habit Forming Products:

UX Strategy Means Business by Jared Spool, the founder of User Interface Engineering:

Strategies for Growth with Kenneth Berger, Slack’s First Product Manager.

 

The Curious Leader

Continuing on the topic of curiosity, HBR has a recent post worth sharing, “Why Curious People Are Destined for the C-Suite”.

The article brings up a great point about the challenge of being a leader and remaining curious. When you are in a leadership position, it can become dangerous if you believe you are suppose to have all the answers. It can lead you to make false assumptions and avoid exploring potential issues.

From the HBR article,

In many cases, managers and top executives have risen through the ranks by providing fixes and solutions, not by asking questions. And once they’ve attained a position of leadership, they may feel the need to project confident expertise. To acknowledge uncertainty by wondering aloud and asking deep questions carries a risk: the leader may be perceived as lacking knowledge.

Leaders need to ask questions and be diligent about searching for new information that can help decode where the business needs to go in the future.

Another great point from the article was on the topic of getting out of the building. While often used in the context of visiting customers, the authors stress the importance of getting exposed to new thoughts and information. New inputs increase the number of opportunities to ask questions and discover new insights. From the post,

Leslie notes that curiosity seems to bubble up when we are exposed to new information and then find ourselves wanting to know more. Hence, the would-be curious leader should endeavor to get “out of the bubble” when possible; to seek out new influences, ideas, and experiences that may fire up the desire to learn more and dig deeper.

Read the rest on HBR at, https://hbr.org/2015/09/why-curious-people-are-destined-for-the-c-suite

 

Curiosity and Product

Last week, I attended a conference hoping to connect with as many business managers as possible to discuss a new product.

One of the gentlemen I spoke with was just a few years out of college and was more of project implementer than a project executive. I politely asked him a couple of questions about his job as I scouted for someone else to speak with. What happened next completely surprised me.

He had a fresh set of eyes on some of the challenges in our market and his perspective  unique compared to the feedback we usually hear. He provided a context that a more seasoned customer would not even realize was part of the problem. The conversation left me with several new ideas to take back to our team.

It was an insightful conversation that almost didn’t happen because of my assumptions and lack of interest.

When you ask what qualities you should look for in a product manager, you will hear results like:

  • determined
  • detail-oriented
  • communicator
  • problem-solver
  • empathetic
  • confident

This list goes on and while are all very important, you hardly ever hear that a product manager should be curious.

Curiosity is what drives discovery. Curiosity is what enables you to fill gaps. Curiosity is what allows you to discover something you didn’t even know you were looking for. Curiosity is what enables you to take an idea to the next level.

You might be thinking, what about being creative or innovative? In his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brian Grazer has a great response to this question. Grazer writes,

But as indispensable as they are, “creativity” and “innovation” are hard to measure and almost impossible to teach. (Have you ever met someone who once lacked the ability to be creative or innovative, took a course, and became creative and innovative?) In fact, we often don’t agree on what constitutes an idea that is “creative” or “innovative.”

Grazer continues to make the following points on the value of being curious,

With the iPhone, the cup holder, the easy-to-use dishwasher, the engineer has done something simple but often overlooked: he or she has asked questions. Who is going to use this product? What’s going to be happening while they are using it? How is that person different from me? Successful business people imagine themselves in their customers’ shoes…. But the truth is much broader: curiosity doesn’t just spark stories; it sparks inspiration in whatever work you do. You can always be curious. And curiosity can pull you along until you find a great idea.

And one more final bit of inspiration from Grazer on why you should never stop being curious:

“We are all trapped in our own way of thinking, trapped in our own way of relating to people. We get so used to seeing the world our way that we come to think that the world is the way we see it.”

BTW – highly recommend getting a copy of A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. It is a great read and excellent motivational reminder to stay curious.