This time my guest is John Cutler. He is the hardest working man in product business. At least he is the hardest and most writing man in product business. since ages he writes, thinks and muses about things he observes and wonders about in what we see as our jobs in product work.
John might actually really be one of the hardest working men in our business. On top of writing on a nearly daily basis, he has a plain normal day job. Well, what’s normal. He is Senior Product Manager for Search and Relevance at Zendesk.
Asked how he gets all of this done, he says he needs it. He says, he accepts mediocrity in his writing to get anything done. That’s close to the things Denise said in the last podcast.
What I really love about what John writes is his (in the best sense of the word) pragmatic and un-ideological view. I see this in many people who still have a day job. Not being connected to and being reliant on consulting and methods and marketing sometimes helps bring things to the point.
Not only does John write a lot, he writes good stuff as well. A couple of months ago he wrote a blog post on feature factories, places where we don’t feel the impact of what we are doing. Listen to how that came about and how we take that topic to more interesting insights on how innovation in product might soon occur in unexpected places.
And now, please join our chat! Have fun!
"I am a pattern matcher .. I go through my pattern library"
"The first thing I had to do was to accept I wouldn't get it right every time"
"It starts with an emotion in lots of cases"
"I like to ask why! when I was in school, I was part of a performance and my costume was a question mark on the top of my head."
"I think as product professionals one of our core skills is understanding the fitness landscape."
"When I think of hiring, the no. 1 thing I look for is 'does the person display a strong ability for sense making and understands systems thinking and how things are fitting together'?."
"You know, systems thinking can be a bit of a curse, too … there's the 'why-askers' and there's the 'shut-up-and get-this-shit-done-people' and you need this balance between those things."
"When we put up a large portfolio board, all the frontline engineers immediately loved it, as they could see what's coming down the line. When the first executives saw it, they resisted, they actually wanted it to be taken down."
"You have to be yourself. Because if you're trying to not be yourself - unless you're really good at that - you gonna be less than yourself."
"I like all the crazy diverse engineers that I work with, the UX folks I work with, I like the hackers, I like the problem solvers, I like the designers. And if there's one theme - I guess I have a point of view - I think we make better products that way."
"It was actually a satire on how people can act like they let their team participate while they're not. Like: tell your team that you build an MVP to iterate on it and then don't iterate on it. And you'll steal their soul. Or take credit all the time without mentioning the team. Or: organise a hackney for one day so that everybody feels great for one day and then get back to work."
"It's a service ecology. And when I say that I like that, because I think products may be like touch points. But if you think about it, I think that this might bring back the idea of craftsmanship. The idea of being people again and again. … And I think that many designers … there is something beautiful about delivering the thing … and I value this idea. But what I also love is to see this thing evolve."
"And often designers and other people see agile development as a curse. They think that this is antithetical to delivering a wonderful experience. And meanwhile I see it as an amazing opportunity. The problem is not to reduce the complexity in your product, not to make it a Frankenproduct. But it doesn't need to be that way."
00:26:50 The huge story of the Feature Factory
"No everybody wants to take the adventure the same way"
"I think we do junior product people and people working in this a little bit of a disservice by training them on the highly transactional type of work in exclusion of some of the systems thinking stuff."
"A feature factory is an environment is optimised for output. -and which is optimised for output over understanding if those things work."
"It is optimised for output but on a human level you're not sensing the impact, you're only sensing the cost."
"An interesting problem is rapid growth. Let's say the problem you're trying to solve requires 160 people to work on your particular problem. … If you want to copy Spotify, what you should copy is to get Agile coaches in. … What I love about Spotify is that they say they are bad at big projects."
"We've moved past custom and genesis type efforts. We're in the product/commodity era. And so the innovation might come in other dimensions to do that. And, again, it always comes at a cost.
Oops, the ending sounds like more and it seems we have to explore a little bit more at some time on how different stages of genesis, custom, product and commodity require different vectors of innovation. So, let's see and hope that there will be more on this in the future!
This chat really was a fun experience and incredibly easy to edit. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And I hope this also made you a little bit hungry for more!
And I also hope that - if you didn't know John before - what I meant with pragmatic and un-ideological. But I also see these statements as so so including and inviting.
If you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, please recommend us, send us feedback on any of the channels we are available and give us that review on iTunes and whatever helps us to reach out! I hope you listen again in a couple of weeks, when it's time for episode 12!
This episode is on doing your best work and how creativity supports that. Really!
My guest today is Denise Jacobs.
Denise has her roots in Project Management and Software Development. Denise’ first book was a bestseller on CSS and she made a speaking career out that profession. But then, something happened, she got bored and was looking for a new challenge.
Denise decided to become a public speaker and a „real“ book author on the topic of creativity. Until then, Denise spent years in teaching creativity techniques and exercises as well as giving keynotes on the topic. She discovered that there is an enemy to creativity in all of us: The inner critic.
Following that insight, she focused on that topic and now, in June 2017, after years of research and practise, her new book will be published: „Banish your inner critic - Silence the Voice of Self-Doubt to unleash Creativity and do your best Work“
What I found extraordinary in this book is that it is not about some tree hugging might work fantasies, but that it is grounded in brain research and psychology. A book full of stories, exercises (creative doses and insights that will help you do your best work.
0:00 Intro and the book will be published
9:09: „The matter of the fact is that nobody is going to be able to say what you have to say. … Nobody in the world has your experience, … your knowledge, your combination of experience and knowledge. … You are a unique confluence and expression of life. Past, present and future: Say it. Say what you gotta say!“
13:15 „It’s better for something to be done and exist and to be something that you can put in front of people and take on a life of its own than to have something that is always in the state of you trying to make it perfect.“
14:00 On the value of early feedback on imperfect work
„I got to a point where I would share drafts that were like 55% with my editor, which was something I was extremely uncomfortable with. I didn’t even know you could do that“. „In many ways it was like a validation of my ideas. … It also helped me to see which parts were irrelevant and which parts were relevant.“
22:56 Turning fear into curiosity to be more creative
„Maybe there is a way that you can reframe it (feeling unprotected, feeling exposed) so that it’s more like curiosity.“
„I still think that if you can take it to a place where you’re doing something and you’re not attached to the outcome, you’re more curious about how you can make it better … and it’s more like a discovery process than a testimony of who you are or your skills and capabilities.“
25:30 Creativity as a vehicle
„Creativity is really just the vehicle, but the outcome is getting to that place where you really feel empowered in you work and other areas.“
„It’s about how to become a better contributor, a better collaborator and a better leader.“
31:00 Researched foundations of the book
„I don’t say you should practice mindfulness because mindfulness is a good idea. Mindfulness is a good idea, because all these studies have shown that mindfulness treats conditions like depression, it treats conditions like compulsive obsessive disorder and it actually helps people rewire their brains …“
38:20 „I need more. I needed to know why this works. I knew this works. But I needed to go deeper. I needed to know why.“
43:00 Ideas revealing themselves & Creative Doses
„Good ideas fade into view“ -Steven Johnson, author of „Where good ideas come from“
On the importance of repetition of creative doses (creativity exercises): „Those thought patterns that for the inner critic, you have though them over and over and over again. And to change them, you have to practice.“
„The point of this book is for people to work better“
„And the porter interesting thing is that (in business) people try to act like business relationships and personal relationships are completely different“.
„And I’m like: You are talking about people and you are talking about thoughts and you are talking about emotions and you are talking about people interacting. I don’t care what the context is. This is about people and relationships. Period.“
1:04:50 Becoming Denise Johnson
„Actually, it wasn’t ok!“
„And then I read „The Artists Way“ and that lead me to making soap. and then a coworker came and bought a bar of soap from me and I thought „I guess I’m selling soap“. And then people started asking me „how do you make soap?“ … and so I had a group of five people over at may house to show them how to make soap. and I did that a couple of times and I thought „What about when I teach 20 people how to make soap?“
„And after that (first soap workshop) I felt like 3 feet off the ground. It was THE BEST THREE HOURS!“
Getting there: Going through the experience of self doubt for years … and then a night of flow! „It was the first time I didn’t think this isn’t good enough. … It was the first time I just did it. …. and this was when I was thinking: it was because I didn’t have these thoughts that I was in this flow! And that was when I had the realisation that I want to help other people feeling like this.“