We had an exciting few days of product learning and knowledge sharing at our Growing Strong Product Makers mini-conference (September 22-24). Whether you had time to catch all three days or just a bit, below you’ll find a recap below on each of the sessions, links to the recordings if you want to watch again or share with others, and links to our post-event topics for more Q&A.
In our first session,@lisamowagner kicked things off with a great talk on the importance of soft skills in our product career and that we don’t build products in a silo — we do it with others. In short “we cannot direct the wind, but we can set the sails” and soft skills are those sails. The talk touched on how to communicate; what we need to communicate to effectively create alignment and provide context to those we work with; the importance of working through and establishing your team’s norms and values; and the strategic and tactical skills we need to build to move from good to great as product managers and leaders. Long story short, Product Management is a people position and we need to balance our skills to be the best in our roles.
For our second session,@TheHonorableAt helped us understand how our cognitive biases (touching on three of them: confirmation, recency, and availability bias) show up in our work and meetings and also how these biases can impact our work as product folks and lead us to build the wrong products. By addressing our biases we can ensure that our outputs and outcomes aren’t disconnected or misinformed by bias and can help us make better choices. A great takeaway from Adam’s session was the value of a simple trust-building phrase as well that all PMs can master — “I don’t know”.
In our third session,@mattlemay shared a personal story from his own career 10 years ago when he was working as a product manager, and how taking a defensive posture and focussing our efforts on defending our contributions can lead us down a wrong path and distract us from our actual goals and objectives. Matt highlighted that some of the worst days we have in product are often largely of our own making — especially when we dig in and defend rather than open up and listen. And while defensiveness makes everything worse, there are some tools and techniques that can help us open up and break this cycle. Matt shared three tips including presenting multiple options and avoiding yes/no conversations and decisions; the power of initial reactions like “OK, great! And...then” to avoid head-to-head battles and find common ground with others; and the value of a 24-hour buffer for actions where we may be defensive or reactive.
For our last session on Day 1,@DanOlsen took us through a whirlwind walkthrough on how to define a winning product strategy. As a key part of our product roles, figuring out product strategy is critical to our products finding product-market fit and growing successfully. Dan shared his product-market fit pyramid that looks at the target customer, their underserved needs, and what we’ll go to market with as a value proposition, feature set, and UX to address those needs, create value, and be better than our competitors. Dan laid out great examples and an actionable framework — the product strategy grid -- that teams can use to shape our understanding of both the problem space and the solution space, our competitors, and the benefits our products offer. And how having that clear product strategy can help teams get clarity and build products that delight and drive growth.
After a fun and exciting Day 1, Day 2 kicked off with four new speakers that kept our attendees engaged and continued to build on our theme of strong product makers.
@eileenwang started the day with a great session on nurturing cross-functional partners when building products. Coming from a diverse background as an artist and engineer, Eileen shared some great techniques and approaches that have helped teams build products that deliver value. From getting stakeholders aligned on the problem to be solved; digging deeper into the problem as a group to uncover questions and shape the strategy and next steps; and the value of prototypes and creating tight feedback loops to deliver products both quickly and efficiently. A big standout from this talk “when you invite your partners into your decision-making process, your actions send a message that you value their point of view. And when people feel valued, they invest in your product, your problem, and the goal. Our job, in the end, is to make everyone feel like homeowners, not tenants.
Our second speaker,@PriyaBhatia0210 dove into the topic of product-led growth (PLG), why it matters, and how product teams can transform to leverage PLG. The session gave a great overview for those new to PLG while also walking us through the tactics and techniques we can use to create alignment across all teams around the product as the largest source of sustainable growth. The session was a great reminder that PLG is a journey and not something that happens overnight, but also needs to be supported by the processes, effort, and commitment of everyone involved. Priya covered the importance of understanding your growth model, running experiments to gain valuable product learnings and shape your product bets and prioritization choices.
Kicking off our third session,@Gotothepark touched on his journey as a product leader growing from “getting by” to six product teams in twenty-four months and how growing intentionally in the right way, developing your people and your product is hard work. Moving past the philosophical, Michael shared some practical nuggets including the importance of investing in your organizational structure and team makeup; sorting out the power dynamics and getting the team as close as possible to the customer problems and needs; and how to continue to shape and get better at what and how we’re building product — all of which is a human game.
Lastly,@neeraj closed out the second day with a talk on how product and design teams can best collaborate. It was a great reminder that building products is not a solo endeavour but one that takes a team where we each have contributions to make and roles to play in successfully building products that matter. Product and design teams are best when working in a partnership, one that requires us to engage early and often, play to our strengths, and built on empathy and an understanding of each other’s perspectives. Like Batman and Robin, we’re a dynamic duo that together can partner, leverage our strengths, and help each other create great products.
Our final speaker of our mini-conference was@ProductFaculty, who helped us see the importance of psychological principles when building products and how we can leverage the instinctual, emotional, and rational side of psychology to help our customers accomplish what they want to do and what we need them to do. Moe touched on details for each of the principles and helped us understand how best to approach these considerations with a mix of helpful real-life examples from various products. A super-informative perspective on how we can all make sure we’re solving real needs, building great products, and positioning them in a way that the brain understands and leads to great outcomes.
Recordings, slides, and continued conversation
You’ll find everything you need in the following links:
🎥 Recordings - check out the videos from each session
👉 Slides and continued conversation - head over to our event page and select the specific talk for any of the sessions. You’ll find slides and a spot to chat with our speakers and ask any questions you have.
What did you think of our mini-conference?
We’d love to hear your feedback in our post-event survey.