Thanks to Roy Sharples, CEO at Unknown Origins for the opportunity to join him on the excellent Podcasts series. The structured and consistent format provides a great way to access insights and ideas from a range of innovative thinkers.
Here are my thoughts on Product Leadership.
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Roy Sharples: 0:09
Hello, I’m Roy Sharples, and welcome to the unknown origins podcast series, the purpose of which is to provide inspirational conversations with creative industry personalities on entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. Today’s focus is product leadership, for which I have the pleasure of chatting with erudite Gary Burt Gary is an eclectic and visionary thought leader who has guided the success of multiple breakthrough products and services, technology companies, such as Microsoft, or to Siemens, Otto’s and blue prism, where he has set the strategy roadmap and feature definition to maximize business value, and drive positive societal impact by being deeply committed, and focused on continuously honing his craft, through quality execution and completeness of the entire product lifecycle with a focus on the design based human centered approach, aesthetic and technical excellence. Hello, and welcome, Gary got to you what inspired and attracted you to product leadership in the first place?
Gary Burt: 1:19
Right, I love this question, not because of the strategy part, but because he used the word product leadership, not Product Manager, which is, you know, the the term we often use for people in this, I think product leader is a father the title of what should be at the core of product development. The reason for this is, and that’s not to dismiss product managers, but product leadership should really be about that. It’s about showing what’s possible, showing what’s achievable in the future. I think when you look at any leadership role, you know, and we differentiate between leadership and management, when we talk about leadership and product leadership, it’s about recognizing what what is it that’s possible, what is it that’s going to happen, it can be positive or negative, but leadership is about showing a really positive direction and energy out there. And I won’t, I think one of the things about product management roles and product leadership roles, I think, in many ways I see as being the you know, and we came from a consulting background. So I think one of the things about these roles right at the heart of it, it’s a it’s very much fun being a little boy in the book, The Emperor’s New Clothes. You know, leadership is about asking really simple questions, and then asking that, you know, asking them questions that people are wanting to ask, but afraid to ask them pointing out the obvious changes that people, you know, seeing or views that are being ignored. So for me, for me, a leadership role is about being able to have those questions being able to put on the table. What about these questions? Are we right questions? What if this happened? Questions? So when you talk about product leadership, it’s about saying, How can we start to challenge things? How can we make things better? How can we start to fix things that are broken? So you know, the product leadership can be in services as well? So it’s all about trying to say, how can we make things better? How can we start to challenge norms that are there and do a better job. Now, if we go back to a product like, you know, a product like the iPhone, it can be tricky. You know, if we look at the norms at that time, we were looking at flip phones, we were looking at Nokia phones with dozens, so actually challenging this and going this can be a visual device, this can be a highly tactile device, this can be something that’s very different model. This is that’s that’s leadership. If we look at services, it could be, you know, something around Netflix or Spotify, completely changing the the whole concept of what is possible in an industry. So leadership, for me is about creating an environment where you’re not only encouraging those debates, but you’re asking for them, you’re driving to have that level of discussion that is challenging us, that’s the first part of their job, their second part of their job is simply to try to deliver that, and that’s really difficult. But I think understanding what’s possible is is one part in it, bringing the resources together getting the you know, I don’t just mean resource in terms of the money but the right people getting the product quality, right there is this is an getting that getting that product to market in the right way is is the difficult part. You know, one of the you know, one of the interesting things about product managers and product leadership that’s that’s really important to put on the table is 95% of new products fail. So that comes from, you know, research by Clayton Christensen. So you’re in an environment where 95% of things that is supposedly successful are not going to work. So I think that’s why that leadership role becomes even more critical
Roy Sharples: 4:59
nature aside Nothing survives without innovation. Few movements survive long term without embracing both radical and incremental innovation. Every successful business and artist needs to innovate continuously or risk being surpassed by competition, and change and the longer term. So let’s break that down. radical innovation is the introduction of new business model and a way of doing what is an invention dismantles and surpasses an existing business model and the status quo that surrounds it. And the continuum of business is typically equates to higher risks but offers higher returns. And it requires the ability to envision and treat failure as a step forward, not a step backward, or a reason to disengage. startups are typically biased towards radical innovation by having significantly fewer constraints than larger organization so that you can afford to take greater risks, and to focus more on the bigger picture and have more aspirational objectives and our willingness to experiment and reimagine and design for the new with fewer inhibitors. You mentioned apple. That’s a great example, Apple experimented with the music application iTunes, and as soon realized there was no quality mp3 players on the market at that time. So Apple took the cue, and they created its own device which became the the iPod until it dematerialized its own technology by pivoting into another adjacent market smartphones with the iPhone. This resulted in Apple reimagining the mobile phone and leading the music revolution and industry itself. If that wasn’t enough, they also reinvented themselves from being a personal computer company to a multinational technology company that designs develops and sells consumer electronics, computer software online services. The Tesla powerwall is another example which disrupted energy storage by using the technology that Tesla developed for its cars to branch into new billion dollar markets and Amazon from initially selling physical books, towards ebooks and ereader devices. And also Netflix which transformed from mailing DVDs to video streaming over the web, and Uber that disrupted food delivery with the online food delivery market and also not to forget them, camera company Fuji film that’s disrupting cosmetics due to the thousands of chemicals used in Fuji films core business, which was identified as antioxidants that can be used for cosmetic purposes. Now, compare that to the other part of the continuum of innovation is incremental innovation, which is a series of small improvements made to existing business models or existing products and services or experiences to achieve the desired business goal. And to differentiate from the competition by building upon current value propositions and offerings. And mature businesses tend to be more biased towards innovating incrementally. And by continuously trying to retain the existing customer needs and the growth or the customer base no more risk, mitigated and tangible way for all the obvious reasons around how those industries or companies may be governed reporting on quarterly results are different constraints and pressures than say, having more freedom of being a smaller company or a startup. And they focus more on continuous improvement. So we’ll get companies like Disney and Coca Cola, who have mastered the art and science of relevance, and customer retention through incrementally innovating extensions of the product offerings through enhancements, acquisition and experiential branding, that have enabled them to stay relevant to tap into emerging trends and bringing something new to its customers over the years whilst continuously remaining. The market leader. What is your creative process in terms of how do you make the invisible visible by conjuring up ideas, converting those ideas and the concepts and then implementing those concepts into actualization?
Gary Burt: 9:30
Making the invisible visible, that’s tough. So what you’re saying there, you know, let’s let’s deconstruct that bring it back. What you’re saying is how do you make something that you can’t see that you can’t feel? You know, how do you bring it to life? Now, if we look at that in a corporate environment, it can be it can be PowerPoint presentations, it can be coming videos, which is better, but really what you want to be doing is you want to be starting to make a connection to people emotionally to starting to make Physical starting to make it real. So, you know, when you look about concepts, you’ll see a lot of design as well, well, very quickly focus on very low fidelity, low quality by design intention, low quality, prototypes and ideas. So if we look at the free look at this in the physical space, this isn’t necessarily a 3d mocked up printed, high quality definition of your device, it could be it could be carved out, or it could be folded out of paper, if you want to, if you wanted to build a concept of a new kind of shop, this could be cardboard boxes, and big styrofoam pieces that you’ve caught. But I think the core thing for me when you start to make them visible visible, is actually to physically do that, to make it physically that don’t conceptualize it in terms of, you know, 3d renders, try to make it as physically available as you can. And I think when you start to say this is this Are we too often talk about products and experiences. But also, when we start to talk about the changes we do, we need to think about how we’re going to make those human connections. So when you say, making the invisible, visible, what we’re saying is, I flip it around and say how do we start to make this understandable by humans, by real people? How do we start to make this important to people? So that’s what for me what invisible visible means? It means how do we make it relevant? How do we make how do we make this matter? So once we’ve done this, we then need to, so we’ve physically bring it to life as much as you can. And it can be lo fi, in fact, it should be because we should be focusing on speed of learning, and capturing that energy rather than being sent off to a lab for six weeks while so you know, they do the 3d renders, and we build a prototype, keep it fast, keep it but then at the next stages, then bring it back to people and start to know really make the learning which is get it in into people’s real lives and start to understand how do we make those experiences part of people’s lives? So if it’s a phone, you know, what, what, not just a look in the field? What what’s the right size? What’s the way? How are they using it and none likes. So making the invisible visible to me is about how to make this relate to humans and relate to people. And there’s a really good test here. That will save people a ton of money. If they don’t care, stop doing it. You know, really, in anything you’re doing. This is why we see so many products fail. If nobody cares about what you’re doing, stop doing it. Go back, go back one, step two, step three steps, as many as you want. And iterate that, iterate that point until you get to something that people care about. That doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a consumer product, it doesn’t matter whether it’s white goods, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a travel experience, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a brochure, if this doesn’t resonate with people go back and reset do not blast through, do not use subjective interpretations of the data to show that what you’ve done was a really good idea. If you’re not making and this is a key for me. Emotional and human connection. Go back to how do you make the creative process and invisible, visible, find and prove that you have a human connection there? And if you don’t, you’ve not made it visible? Go back, reset, pivot and restart?
Roy Sharples: 13:24
What are the key skills needed to be a product leader?
Gary Burt: 13:29
I think there’s there’s one above anything. I think there’s there’s one that stands out. And, you know, it’s, it’s it’s one that I think a previous employer, both of us was looking for a while ago, passion. You know, when I started at Microsoft, in 2001, there was there was one hiring criteria above anything else. And I think at the time, they still got it right. And I’m not saying because of me, but because they employed a group of people who were driven by one thing, passion. And I think that’s the starting point for anything that’s going to be created, actually, the skills to physically create, all of the stuff that goes around it is very secondary to this. So if you want to achieve anything creative look for someone who cares about what they’re doing, whether they’re any good at it, and Unless Unless it makes a really, really stupid, if they’re, if they’re less good at that you can patch you can support those skills with other people. So if they’re, if they’re you’re looking at design, and they’re not a great physical draw, you can work with graphic artists to close that. But you can’t imagine you can’t sort of recreate passion that isn’t there. So the starting point, passion. Second point, what else do you need to be around product lead again, this is again, something a bit different. I want experience. So when I look at when I look for people to work with what I want to see, I want to see experience I want to see your done stuff I. And that’s not to say that someone coming out of university someone out of college or something didn’t go to those can’t be relevant. What it is, is about Have you have you pushed yourself? Have you done things out of the norm? Have you traveled? Have you taken on different jobs? Have you done jobs that are really, really interesting, because that diversity is what’s gonna bring the breadth of vision, that’s gonna give us a really great team environment. And I think this is really important. And one of the, you know, just to go off topic a little bit, one of the downsides that we often hear so much coming through about what we’re telling young people is, you know, go to school, go to college, university, get your internship, go to a job, well, that’s great. If you want to be an investment banker, you know, and if you want to be rich, don’t become an investment banker. If you want to be employable in any creative field, go for diversity of learning, go for diversity of input, travel, do different jobs, do a meet different people go to different experiences, because that insight, that breadth of mind, is what’s gonna make you different to all the others. You know, I think when we look at if we go back to careers, get bit a bit off topic, but hopefully, some of the people are listening to this are coming into the, into the field. If you if you want to be attractive, don’t just think about the next job. What’s going to matter when you’re 35 4045 is not is not this linear path, because there’s loads of other people with these linear paths. It’s, it’s what’s been this zigzag what’s been your life history? You know, I think one of the things that when I’ve worked from places that are really good, the good employers that’s floating around, you know, the employees that are good, the ones that are just gonna get average, they’re gonna look at the top, they’re gonna go, what exams did you do? What qualifications did you do? And the worst? What school did you go and we both know that, they know that that skill can not be down to ability, sometimes it’s just down to the luck, the path, the family that you’re in, so you can be really misled. If you want to hire great people, you know, metaphorically turn the thing upside down, start at the bottom, start with the hobbies and experiences, start with the travel, start with the things they’ve done in life. Start with the stuff that that day is all messy leaks, they’ve got to be honest about there. They don’t know, leave gaps in there. But I went and travel for three months in Asia, and I traveled and I volunteered, you know that? What does that show that shows passion that shows willingness that shows commitment to learning that shows a comfortable comfort with being uncomfortable. So these are these are great skills, not just in product management, but in terms of being a great asset to what I think is an increasingly challenging workplace to be in. But you know, when we start to look at this, that’s what’s going to differentiate. I think one other thing. And this is, this is a really tricky line to hold a really tricky line to get right, which is, I want you to have passion. That’s, that’s, that’s true. But I also want you to have something you care about, I want you to have an opinion, I want you to be able to defend something you care about. Now, that doesn’t mean to say you’re gonna back down and double down a power politician. That’s not what I mean. What I care about is was, you know, what are your views about the environment? I want? I don’t want someone who’s agnostic about this, I want somebody who cares, I want somebody who’s gonna get no, I’m passionate about this. Now, that doesn’t mean to say, you know, you’re donating money to Greenpeace, but it means that you have something that you really care about. So, so for me, have passion, but have an opinion, you know, be prepared in an interview to demonstrate those values. Because, I mean, for me, if I’m interviewing, if I see people wavering away from standing up to their values, you’re actually going to fail. What I want is to go is p people who are comfortable going, I understand who I who I am, at this point in my life, I, I have these experiences, I’m still willing to learn, but there are some things that I’m pretty comfortable with. And these lines in which in terms of behavior, so things like integrity that are not, you know, they’re not there to be deconstructed. They’re not there to bend. So, you know, have you have an opinion, have values and don’t be afraid to demonstrate those. Because if, if you’re, if you’re clear about what those are, and those are pretty well centered, then you’re either going to be hired or not hired based on those and if you’re not hired, they’ve really done you a great favor. So I think, you know, the three sort of into into twine haven’t sort of thought of it this way. But the three intertwines a can with passion, can we experience and then have an opinion and a willingness defender? I think we’re probably talking about incred have credibility, having integrity, you know, don’t shy away from having that.
Roy Sharples: 19:58
You’ve got your rear view mirror. You’re looking back upon your life to date. If you were 18 again, today, and you know what you do now, what would you do differently? If at all anything? If you were giving advice to a younger Gary,
Gary Burt: 20:14
I love people who have this question they go, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t change a thing. All that means is all the mistakes you’ve made, you might have learned from them. But you won’t, you wouldn’t want to not change them. I think, you know, so, look back and go, something was willing to change, you know, because if you if you’re not, you haven’t learned anything. So what would I do differently? Number one, this is this is so easy to say, and much harder to do, but really easy to say, but I absolutely believe this. And this comes into what I said before travel more, I should travel more when I was a youngster, I still want to travel more. I think for a product leader, for a creative, this is essential. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not the best time to have this discuss with your managing your CEO. But I think spending time to learn and experience new environments and cultures is essential. Now, it’s I think it’s essential to a product leadership role or product management role. But I think more than that isn’t important in life, it’s important to be a great person to be rounded to see other things. But let’s go back to the specifics. You know, when I was in previous workplaces, I’ve been lucky enough to travel around, I’ve spent time working in Hong Kong and Singapore, you know, but traveling to any city should infuse you with new ideas, go there with an open mind, you know, take your phone, take your camera, it doesn’t need to be expensive, do it on the cheap, work your way around. But whenever you get an opportunity, you know, whether personally or professionally, use it to travel and brace and really, you know, throw yourself 100% into learning those embracing those new experiences. I think one of the challenges, let’s flip this back something very specific in terms of product management. In the West, we do have, I think we have a very isolated view of we know best, you know, we have a very clear view of what we think phones should be like what we think, you know, a lot of devices should be like, if you go to Japan and China, you’ll see that not only do those are those devices, quite different. There are thousands of suppliers. But in many cases, they’re actually way more ahead in their use of things in these things, particularly technologies. But also so that that’s one extreme. But if you take the other extreme, you travel to, you know, some developing countries, you can see them having to deliver services, and massively lower cost. So, you know, there’s things that you can take from that as well, they are able to deliver services without having perhaps millions that you would normally ask for in order to set these things up. You know, and the final thing as part of again, this triangle, you’ve sort of got this advanced culture, you’ve got a developing culture. But I think the other one that you could bring into this, and this is really much more important looking forward is a wellness or happiness culture. So yes, you can go to some when you can see, you can see technologies, you can go to another place, and you can see developing world you can see services being used. But I think there’s a whole angle, which is going to become much more important in terms of in terms of wellness, happiness and health that we can spend into this. So number one, travel and for the rich for those reasons. I mean, you can see videos of this, you can watch documentaries, you can you know, go to a Japanese restaurant in any major city, if you want to experience what Shinjuku is like in Tokyo, go there, stand there and just experience it be there at 12 o’clock, and see that the pace of the city hasn’t changed. The lighting change, this step the place is still flowing back is a huge energy, a huge buzz. I think if you ever, if you ever wanted to understand whether product management or creativity is a good career for you, if you’re not getting buzzed up, when you’re in these sort of exciting places, then it isn’t, you know, and that’s not that’s not putting it down on any other profession. But if you’re getting buzzed up, if you’re going to a place, I’m just energized by what I can learn from it, what I can take back, you know, then a creative role or product management is certainly away. Second part to that, you know, what would I do differently, I experienced more, I think one of the things that I try to do now is just just embrace new things. And this isn’t they say yes to everything. It’s not that because if you do like work, you’re going to get nothing done, but start to look at things and say, you know, I mean, very American phrase, you know, lean into this. I think there’s a lot to be said for this. And that’s, you know, take out all the political it’s not about being socially correct. It’s about saying there’s gonna be opportunities in your life. Some of those are going to be Yeah, I like that. I will go and join Jonathan Phillips at the weekend in their in their place, but also the Look at the things that you wouldn’t normally do because this is locked. You know what I say expands more what what I probably mean is embrace those opportunities to push yourself out of the comfort zone do different things. Do you want to come to the theater, not theater person? Yeah, I’ll go, why I wouldn’t normally go, do you want to come? Do you want to go and, you know, go skiing, skiing, climbing, skydiving doesn’t have to be physical, you want to go to a poetry lecture, you want to go to a comedy night, embrace it, you don’t have to enjoy it. Because the point is, if you’re going with the right mindset, which is I’m gonna learn from this. Yeah, I might not enjoy it. But I will know that I don’t enjoy it, and I love it. And then I will learn something. So the times good. And I’ll tell you what this, whatever you’re going to do a few hours a couple of days, it’s absolutely going to be worth it in the long term, because you’ve just expanded your view of, you know, what you love, but also what you don’t like, and that’s absolutely key, a couple of more things, I’ll get faster. So next thing change jobs faster. So I have a real die still work to this. If I get up in the morning, and I really don’t want to do the job done doing, then I’m essentially hitting that button on me leaving that job now that done me wrong, got bills, got a family, I’m not going to leave on that day. What I’m doing, though, if I get up and I don’t mean, really, at that meeting, I do not report, what I mean is if there’s I wake up and there’s a deep, that deep feeling that I don’t want to do this, this is not what I’m about, then, you know, today, even today, this isn’t now step two, then it’s time that’s the time that you press the button on, on the time is running, you know, the year that you’ve hit the button, the time is running, you’re gonna leave. It’s just a matter of where you’re going when. So I’ve always stuck to that. I would evolve that, what would I do now? So that’s always been when I woke up, and I really didn’t want to do the job, I would make one change to this, which is I would do it on board. Now. I if I’m not, if I’m getting up, and I’m going I don’t hate the job. So it doesn’t meet the criteria for leaving. I the rules have changed. If I look back, while How would I change the rule? The rule would be if, if I’m not feeling creatively fired up about this, I’m not not just not just not enjoying it. But if I’m bored, this means I’m not fulfilling my potential. This means I’m not able to express myself in the job done. I think it’s time to move. Now previously, I think many years ago, we changed we were far more reluctant to change jobs. And of course, in the current climate, be careful. You know, when we talk about changing jobs, that means you’re knocking it doesn’t mean you’re resigning. But, you know, I think I think I would have loved to have gone because I I think no what’s the what’s the one thing I did, I think I probably stayed in jobs that I knew I wasn’t going to stain for far too long. And the first time I hit that, that that that threshold that I went past, and I probably know it was when I was bored. And it was the point and that that boredom means I’m no longer feeling creative. I’m not fulfilling feeling that that’s an outlet for me to be the best me I can now. And I think that’s the time at which I should look take So I think, you know, looking back the thing is to is to lead a border. Now just just one thing for hopefully, there’s young people listening to this. But if if you you know, one of the things, you know, you still get people asking us, I don’t know whether I should leave, I don’t know whether I should go, here’s how to, here’s a fight, let me share something, you have no decision to make in terms of leaving until you have another contract in your hand. So as soon if you get bored, if you’re not happy, start locking start engaging. The only time you have to make that real decision is when you’ve got the contract and the offer and you’re having for the one until then, you know, keep doing your best, you know you want to go but until you have the contract in your hand. That’s the point at which you walk about making a decision. But certainly don’t let it stop you locking. You know, the idea of being in a job, being unhappy is one thing. That’s that’s that’s not a great position. The unforgiveable possession is the fact that you’re not doing anything about it. You know, one, one final thing, just just to go back to your question. So I haven’t gotten that the 18 year old thing. And this is this is so product management, this this this really is ship, ship, the article you’re in, ship the novel, write the post, finish the product, finish it and ship it. So one of the one of the things that for me as a product manager, and there’s been some shift in the industry over this is shipping, iterate, ship and iterate. And this this is true for a product because if you don’t ship it, you can’t sell it but it’s true for you as a person. So this goes back to me being a team. You know, I have loads of notebooks of half written articles. The mindless He’s full of like, two thirds written stuff that I haven’t published. And I say this because I’m really guilty of and I’m holding up a mirror to myself, if you don’t share that, meaning you don’t get it out there, you don’t write it, you don’t publish it, you don’t share it. You don’t do that performance, you can’t get the feedback. Therefore, you can’t learn so many great works are not in our libraries. They’re not in libraries, they’re not on Amazon, they’re still in their head, on paper, in the in your office, they’re in your head, they’re in your shipping, employee, embrace the feedback, good or bad, and then it’s right, you know, then improve and repeat. You know, you are always going to get good feedback. If you can’t get bad feedback. And the feedback could be good or bad. Well, flip your mind. It can be either, so you know, me know me. I’m a sports coach, I coach Judo and a goat triathlete, you know, now, if you look at Judo, on average, two people fighting on average, you’re gonna lose half your contests 50% of the time. And it’s a lot more when you start, hopefully a lot less when you go on. But over an average, half the time you win or lose, you’re a one on one get used to losing. So the mindset here isn’t is, is to completely flip if you do a sport like this, you know, as a team sport, you could be one of the team and you have a great season, you win nine games or your 20 games, you lose a couple. Yeah, well, you know, flip the mindset. So, you know, what do we teach in judo, you either win, or you learn. That’s it. And I think that philosophy of philosophy applies in life. And anyway, to bring it back. So you either win, or you learn. So ship, an iterate. So you ship it, you get bad feedback, the feedback isn’t bad. If it is negative, it’s not helpful to you? Well, probably it is helpful, but you don’t think it is take it in decide whether you want to act on the feedback, because you might go No, I thank you for your feedback, I completely ignore that and go forward. If it weren’t for JK Rowling, she’s got a big stack of letters of rejections of people not wanting to buy, you know, those Harry Potter manuscripts. But you know, but actually, shipping is the only way you’re going to be able to get any validation and any appreciation and any ability for backspin to shape this, if you want to publish, you have to you have to get the feedback of people, you have to improve that craft, you have to polish it. So, you know, those are things that I would do when I was 18. You know, shipping, iterate, change jobs, faster, change, being bored, throw yourself into experiences, and trial.
Roy Sharples: 32:48
Shipping a theory that really resonated. The bottom line is all commercial businesses exist to make money. Creating business value requires understanding what drives the business to operate and be successful through revenue growth, operating margin, asset efficiency, and option value. The key is to operate in ways that drive sustained business value by prioritizing and by prioritizing and executing on the right strategies and tactics, and an adaptive and scalable way. Pure and simple, right? Then you put people into the mix, and it gets murky. And the probability of success and failure oscillates wildly because it is ultimately about people and their ability to execute. And people are egoistic people assess themselves by their own ego, where the magnitude of the runway, for each individual obviously varies people, organized in teams, and in organizations are rational, in that they are self contained economic engines, applying their brand of rationality to situations and this can lead to greed and complacency, which in essence are deadly sins. And, you know, there’s many examples in history around artists and businesses and the likes that have eaten themselves because of because of these fundamental flaws in human behavior. Xerox, Kodak, Blackberry Nakia, blockbuster taught us not to fall asleep at the wheel and get drunk on your own Kool Aid and to continuously stay a step ahead and to see the wood from the trees and all the beasts of prey emerging, navigating into the future. Gary, what’s your vision for product leadership? And what what do you see are the key forces that’s driving change in the industry, socio cultural, economical, political, and technological.
Gary Burt: 34:49
So I see a number of key forces driving change in the industry. The first one is that products getting easy to use and easier to create with what was formerly a professional, an experts is now available to non specialists. So photo applications are a good example of this previously required high end hardware, expensive software, and a lot of time to train, what we now have is those capabilities available either as free, or very inexpensive downloads that you can work with on your phone. You know, this isn’t just with audio, we’re seeing the same thing with video as well. So we’re seeing the ability for a home user with a laptop to create a home studio that rivals what would have been a professional capability professional studio not that long ago. And while these changes are doing is they’re democratizing these underlying skills. They’re enabling people to become experts in their home or their company, what were previously specialist domains. And this raises a really important question for companies today. What is the dominant professional product or service in your industry? And how do you make it available for a 10th, or a hundredth of the price, because if you’re not looking at this, then the competitor that will disrupt your industry is empowering This is AI just don’t call it AI because as soon as it’s useful, it’s no longer in AI. It’s just a function that they use. So whereas a user’s we know that advanced photo editing filters are actually powered by AI, it’s just a filter, it’s just a way to make the change. So the lesson here and the change here is your task as a product manager used to take really advanced capabilities and make those super simple to make the underlying technology almost invisible. So it’s just intuitive and easy to use. And this brings us to a couple of other changes. When we say we make those changes, those changes need to keep rolling out as well. If you stay still, you’re going to get out innovated by new entrants into your market. As a new user or as a as an even as an experienced user, I need to keep being fed, give me new capabilities. upgrades, no, it needs to be continually rolling evolution of the product, it needs to get easier, it needs to get better, it needs to do new things. And it’s easy to think about this just applying to applications, but it isn’t, what we’re seeing is this expand to include things like car OSS and other devices. So not only can we have functions delivered, but we can have them remotely enabled or disabled if you don’t want to pay. So what this brings us to is a really big changing market dynamic about innovating or die. If you build something and you’re not continually innovating not if you’re not continually improving it, then you’re going to be facing the competition, who’s going to be right in your tail doing this. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that not only do we want to build great product, we want to build beautiful products, that’s easier said than done. But there’s really no excuse for rotting products. And what you find is, whilst we don’t often talk about this will, we’ll see that the failure to produce beauty is going to result in you having a redundant product, there is that much competition on the market, if your product isn’t just intuitive, but is isn’t pleasurable to use, then you’re going to find users very quickly looking at this and rejecting it. So for organizations that are not investing in not just usability, but the ease and the beauty of the usability, then you’re gonna find, you know, your competitors are going to be taking your market share another feature that, again, appears to be a very personal thing, but it’s not. It’s about embedded sharing, and collaboration. It isn’t just about social media, this is about being able to create on creative processes, about products being integrated into an ecosystem of production and distribution, about able to collaborate actively. You know, this isn’t just about you on your own. This is about you connecting into a community. And that does doesn’t mean Facebook it means, you know, share an image, you’ve been able to find others and work and collaborate with those who can help you create on something that’s shared. And this, you know, what we’ve seen with COVID is a real acceleration of a lot of these changes. But if we look further forward, I think there’s a number of changes that COVID in the work from home changes are going to have on products, which are going to be much more deeper as well. The first one is that we’re going to see much more drive for products and services to be aligned to lifestyle. Now this isn’t just about the values that you hold been held by the company. It’s about being able to take professional capabilities at home and integrate these into your life. There’s a couple of companies that really stand out has done a great job of this rogue, who’s a fitness provider have gone from being a real high end provider to really soaking up the home market. You know, you look at their website that was sold at they had a lot of stuff that was sold out for months. But probably the best example of this is peloton You know, the combination of great hardware, a beautiful product, a fantastic service, continually upgraded content. And a really well built ecosystem is really built a fun tastic solution, you know, there’s going to be very hard for a lot of organizations to close the gap on that. And it’s going to be very easy for peloton to expand, and really starts coming to a lot of new markets. And I guess going back to the, the individual, one of the changes that we certainly seen products is around monetization. So I don’t just want to share, I want to build and sell, I want my passion to become a business so that I can see the evolution of you know, individual content, delivered it free towards one that sees me being able to be rewarded. Now YouTube has done this for a while, but you know, you need to get up to a higher level of views. But how do we make this scalable so that we can have users able to develop income from a range of content and value that not just on the number of views, but on the value of the service, import or quality that it delivers to the end user. So, you know, substack has really made a good inroad into this. But I think we’re really seeing the start of something, that’s going to be a much bigger change, about being able to monetize your content. And when you link that, again, to the creativity, you start see a very exciting environment, but very much related to this. And I think it’s actually really closely linked to the monetization is the prefacing community. So we know that technology providers are harvesting data from the using the platforms and using this to market to us. And they know and improve their product. But most importantly, they’re using it to generate cash. So what I see is I see an increasing shift, which starts to bring these other factors together, to one that sees users wanting to create content, wanting to monetize that, but wanting to be the one who are in control of this in control of the privacy and control of the community, being able to offer curated, managed safe, high quality content, and you know, and be able to be rewarded for that. You know, so to wrap this up, is this complex. Is this all really, really complex. No, it isn’t. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the technology, you know, everything for the last few minutes is taught about the technology it isn’t. It’s about the people, products are evolving, to enable human experiences better human experiences. So great product design is about enabling people to improve and enrich their lives. That’s how big your goal needs to be. Now, it doesn’t matter whether that’s a Swiss Army knife, or Rolex, an iPhone or a Tesla, the fundamentals are the same, improve the human experience with your product. That’s it. And again, you know, it’s easy to think of this as a technology thing isn’t a beautifully weighted sharp knife that’s a delight to use and stay sharp and cuts through and is a joy to hold a camera that takes better photos, and and it’s easy to program and doesn’t overcook your food. A car that is safer to drive but is also fun. That’s what we’re looking at products that are easy to use, a joy to use. A product that enables to you to use enables you to do what was previously unthinkable, on affordable and then to connect to ways. So whilst it isn’t complex, it certainly isn’t easy. But you know, the key to this focus on people, make experiences for people and improve their lives. If we if we go down the road of doing those, you’re in a great starting point.
Roy Sharples: 43:52
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