Colour and Meaning

The best names use metaphor to allow both colour and meaning.

Choosing a product name is hard. There are two schools of thought:

  1. Spend time finding the right name, it should be memorable, unique and descriptive. Your URL should be easy to remember.
  2. Name isn’t important. Your brand builds its own meaning over time. Choose the first random words that come to mind. Any domain will do.

I’d suggest that these are both right.

Your name is important. Your brand does build its own meaning over time. Your name should be memorable, but only needs to be unique in your niche. Finding a good URL can be helpful, but isn’t that important.

Should your brand be descriptive, like Meetup.com, GitHub, or iPhone?

Or, should your brand be random, like Gimlet, Apple, or Drupal?

I believe the best names are a mix of both. They use metaphor to allow both colour and meaning. Consider:

  • Google – A googol is a huge number, a metaphor for the amount of results.
  • Amazon – The largest river in the world, just like the online store.
  • Basecamp – An area used for staging a long climb, or your project.

Find a metaphor for your product, and from that, find a word which is short and memorable. You’ll figure out a domain name that works.

A Smile, and Nod

Creating community within our Products doesn’t need to be a fully fledged social chat. All you need is a smile.

One of my favourite ways to start the day is with a quick dip in the surf.

Every morning I’m on the beach I see the same people. We don’t really talk much, nothing more than a smile and a knowing nod, but seeing them there helps me feel like I’m part of a small community of early-morning beachgoers.

Likewise, creating communities for our Products doesn’t need to be a fully fledged forum or social chat. All it needs is a smile and a nod.

This might take the form of a high score list, featuring profile pictures in appropriate places, or simple emoji reactions.

How can you enable your users to cross paths?

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

It may, on the surface, seem a little unacademic, but I’ve found the expression to be very useful.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if…” is a phrase I hear myself saying quite a lot.

It may, on the surface, seem a little unacademic, but I’ve found the expression to be very useful.

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

… sets people at ease
… invites collaboration
… invites exploration
… encourages new thoughts and ideas
… is a starting point for User Stories

Wouldn’t it be cool if,
as <persona>,
I could <do something>,
so that <reason>.

How can you structure your user feedback into Wouldn’t It Be Cool Ifs?

When you do that, feedback like “Your Product needs an external service integration” becomes “Wouldn’t it be cool if your Product integrated with an external service?

Now you have a new idea which is exciting, explorable, and actionable.

Create a Café Culture

The secret to a great cup of coffee isn’t the tamp, the pressure, or the timing. It’s community.

I love coffee, and I adore my barista, Silas. He is a world championship winning barista, and runs one of the most celebrated boutique cafés in Australia.

Silas knows the secret to a great cup of coffee. He knows that it’s about more than the tamp, the pressure, the timing, or the latte art. The secret ingredient is community.

What makes Silas’ coffee so good isn’t the coffee itself, but the conversations that happen around every sip. Everything inside his café is setup just for you: So you can be inspired, laugh with friends, and create treasured memories.

Because what matters isn’t the product itself, but the experience that the product creates.

How can we create a cafe culture within our products?

What would a community sprint, rather than a development sprint, look like?

What if our people came for the community, instead of the product?

Shh…

Silence can be hard, but with a change in attitude, energy, identity, it’s easy.

Silence can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s like meeting new people, or pulling a bandaid, or writing. At first, it seems tough, daunting even. You (your lizard brain) questions whether or not you can actually do it. But, with a change in attitude, energy, identity, it’s easy.

Sound expert and conscious listening instructor, Julian Treasure, recommends spending just 10 minutes each day sitting in silence. Listening, and noticing the quiet.

Meditation helps you practice silence. It allows you to cultivate the skill to let thoughts and feelings bypass your brain. It teaches you how to regenerate and self heal.

Sabbath helps you practice silence. It doesn’t have to be religious, just one day a week set aside. No work, no habits, no phone, no internet. For an extra challenge: no writing. Just allow thoughts to germinate, settle, and maybe disappear. Just let them go.

We’re so busy continually sowing and harvesting, sowing and harvesting, that we never leave time for our thoughts to rest. They never have an opportunity to grow wild and drop their fruit and renew the soil, without being harvested.

The Illusion of Choice

I love a good card trick. We can apply the illusion of choice to user interactions within our Product.

I love a good card trick.

In one of my favourite trick endings, I’ll lay 6 cards out on the table, facedown. I secretly know the position of your chosen card. Then I’ll ask you to point to 3 of the cards.

If your card is one of the 3 you pointed at, I’ll take away the three you didn’t choose, letting you assume I was asking you which cards to keep. Otherwise, I’ll do the opposite, letting you assume I was asking you which cards to remove.

Repeat this step by pointing at 2 cards, and then again (if required) for the very last card. In the end, you feel like you’ve chosen exactly which card was left on the table.

We can apply this illusion of choice to the user interactions within our Product. We often see this when an app asks us for our review, either “Now”, or “Later”.

This can be implemented in any number of ways to influence the behaviour of our customers.

We just updated our platform with a new feature! Would you like a guided tour of the changes?

We had a problem processing your payment.

We received your request for a quote, but we need more information.

What user behaviour would you like to change? How can you use the illusion of choice, to help them make that change?

Data Means Nothing

Data can mean anything, therefore it means nothing. How, then, can we extract meaning from a dataset?

Two shoe salesmen were sent into “darkest Africa” to feel out the potential  shoe market. The first telegraphed home saying: it’s hopeless stop nobody here wears shoes. The second telegraphed back saying: it’s wonderful stop nobody has any shoes.

As Product Managers, we work with a lot of data. Sometimes we even hire a data scientist to go through our data and tell us what it means.

Framing is the lens through which we view data. Since we all have different brains (and hence different frames) the same data will always represent something different to different analysts. Data can be objective. Recommendations based on that data can never be.

Data can mean anything, therefore it means nothing.

How, then, can we extract meaning from a dataset? One very effective method is to look hidden assumptions.

Suppose your analytics show a temporary downtick in traffic during February. One might assume that this is simply a natural ebb, another may assume that February must be a low month in your industry, a third may assume that there was a technical error has since been resolved.

To extract meaning from these analytics, ask yourself:

What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?

Challenging this assumption will help you learn something new about your product (a competitor launched, an industry event, a political influence), which you can then leverage to your advantage.

Props to Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander for inspiration.

Minimum Viable Marketing

Most marketing campaigns, aim to reach as many eyes as possible. Here’s another approach: Minimum Viable Marketing.

We’ve all heard about lean product development principles: Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), measure its performance, and iterate.

We could apply this same principle to many Product disciplines. Take marketing, for example. Often, a Product team will hire a marketing manager or consultant and launch a campaign, aiming to reach as many eyes as possible.

Here’s another approach: A Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM) campaign.

Define a small campaign targeted only at the early adopters amongst your market segment, using words like Innovative, Pioneer, Breakthrough, Private, Limited, and Now. Choose just one channel to reach them on.

No need to build out every asset for every medium. No need to get the alignment just so. No need for pixel perfection. No need to wordsmith.

Since you’re starting small, take the time to get to know your audience. Talk with them, without any hint of self-promotion. Show them your marketing materials and gauge their thoughts and reactions.

Then iterate.

Be Quiet

We have something new to learn from everyone.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
— Walt Disney

Are you curious?

Curiosity and silence go together.

Curiosity is about searching and discovery. Things that get in the way of that are pride, arrogance, loudness, teaching, and even problem solving.

You can’t sell and be curious at the same time.

You need to be quiet.

Listen. Really listen. Empathise. Be quiet.

We have something new to learn from everyone: the elderly, our children, the arrogant, the meek.

In every conversation: Stop evaluating, and listen for something to learn.

 

Choosing the Right Metrics for Distributed Teams

Office environments have a built-in productivity tracking tool: Visibility. But how do you keep remote teams accountable?

There’s a temptation to burden remote workers with a tonne of metrics.

When managers don’t trust their staff to be productive at home, the staff are often closely scrutinised with daily standups, daily roundups, and to-the-minute time tracking.

Continue reading “Choosing the Right Metrics for Distributed Teams”