Month: May 2015

The Friday List at #neato – 2015.05.22

A few interesting articles I’ve bumped into this week, curated from my Pocket and shared for your enjoyment. I read some cool stuff this week around new use cases for the Apple Watch, real-life startup soap operas, and Slack’s product/market fit. Happy Friday!

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“How the Apple Watch is opening up new ways to communicate”

There have lots of back-and-forth commentary on how hard the Apple Watch is to use, how the interface is weird and non-standard, etc. It’s great to see a more expansive look at how wearables will impact different groups of users.

“731 Slack Users Reveal Why It’s So Addictive”

A good look at what users find so compelling about Slack, and a set of analysis that highlights how important product/market fit is.

“Clinkle Implodes As Employees Quit In Protest Of CEO”

I learned about Clinkle and its storied past a few months ago and find the saga super interesting. Massive early funding, unclear product direction and a discerning amount of secrecy have caused this to be what sounds like a terrible experience for their team.

“Workflow Hints At The Future Of The Watch As A Computing Platform”

Another post about the Apple Watch, can you tell I’m getting mine soon? I think it’s fascinating to see lightweight workflow scenarios that could really change how we use mobile and wearable computing. IFTTT changed how I used my Android when I first got it and apps like Workflow could open up similar scenarios for the watch platform.

A Product Manager Should Be The Most Curious Person In The Room

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image (C) Tauntaunwampa

I was talking earlier this week with a new product manager on my team. It was our 1:1 and we were discussing his latest project. It’s the first big product area that this PM has taken on and it’s very important for our next release, so we were using our conversation to make sure everything was on-track. I was peppering him with questions after he shared his update:

“How do you feel the project is going?”
“What challenges have you hit working with your feature team?”
“Is the spec ready for review?”
“Okay, can you show me the diagram for the main use case that you’re stuck on?”
“What about this part of the lookup, can we also double-back with the phone number?”
“I just thought of these two uses cases, have you considered them?”
“What’s left between now and the spec review?”

Later that same day I was in a feature team meeting discussing the status of a new product offering. The lead developer was sharing his detailed update, which included a few specific areas that had risk and ambiguity.

“Why did you choose that implementation path?”
“Will this scale if we 10x the amount of users in a year?”
“Is there a faster way to do it?”
“What if we added more resources?”
“What are the biggest remaining risks?”

Folks who have worked with me before know that I love to ask questions. A lot of questions. 🙂 The questions I asked during the 1:1 with my PM (and their resulting answers) helped me quickly understand the status of the project and where he was blocked. It also set the stage for the type of information I’d want to hear in the next update I get about the project. He and I then spent a few minutes talking about questions, curiosity, and why they’re both so important for Product Managers to be effective in their careers.

Awesome Product Managers have an unrelenting sense of curiosity. They’re equally curious about the latest competitive apps, their own project statuses, industry news, how a piece of backend technology works, the reason a bug occurred, or why a partner team is late on delivering. A great PM should use precision questioning to drill into every conversation and problem to understand what is really going on and what they can do to move things forward. This can reveal gaps in use cases, technical knowledge, or even a partnership agreement that need to be addressed.

Checking for curiosity is critically important when evaluating a PM for a role on your team. Many parts of my PM interview process, from the “What’s your favorite app?” question all the way through the product design case study, are used to see how curious the candidate is. Do they start out the case study by immediately jumping into a solution on the whiteboard based on something they know, or do they open with a set of questions back to me to help understand what they don’t know.

Ultimately your use of precision questioning as a PM must be balanced with the amount of investigation and discovery you do on your own. You will also gain a lot of experience over time simply from being in more and more product cycles.

The simplest way I can frame this advice? Don’t wait if you’re curious about why something is. Get curious and ask the question.

The Friday List at #neato

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A few interesting articles I’ve bumped into this week, curated from my Pocket and shared for your enjoyment. This week was full of good reads on growth strategies, the health benefits of standing desks in elementary schools, and why some men lie about working so much. Happy Friday!

Should Your Kids’ School Have Standing Desks? These CrossFitters Think So

I’ve had a standing desk for eight years and love it. My back, legs, and overall body has felt better compared to when I sat in a chair. Have you ever tried it?

“Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks”

This was a really interesting study. I often feel compelled to work as much as possible (read = I enjoy working), but it needs to be my choice. Corporate cultures that prevent you from making that choice can be really damning to overall employee health and productivity.

Google will reportedly let Android developers A/B test apps on Google Play

At Contactive we tried to test our Google Play descriptions but had to do it manually (and sequentially). This will be really helpful for app developers as they can quickly test pricing or description content.

A Founder of Secret, the Anonymous Social App, Is Shutting It Down

I don’t think it’s wrong that the founders took $3M each and bounced out. Isn’t that better than running a company into the ground?