Product

Lean Analytics – Alistair Croll, Benjamin Yoskovitz

Lean Analytics – by Alistair Croll & Benjamin Yoskovitz
Date read: 8/11/19. Recommendation: 8/10.

The best book that I’ve read to date on product metrics and using data to your advantage without overanalyzing. The core of the book focuses on how to use data to build a better startup faster. Croll and Yoskovitz walk through a dashboard for every stage of a business, from validating a problem, to identifying customers, to deciding what to build, to positioning yourself. They discuss how to choose strong metrics and the analytics frameworks available for building a successful business (Pirate Metrics, Engines of Growth, Lean Canvas, Growth Pyramid). Croll and Yoskovitz also define their own “Lean Analytics” framework which features five stages – empathy, stickiness, virality, revenue, scale – and explain the metrics you should be tracking and the gates required to move forward at each stage. This is a great resource for founders and product managers if you’re looking to improve your analytics and be more strategic with key metrics.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.


My Notes:

How to use data to build a better startup faster. Dashboard for every stage of business, from validating a problem, to identifying customers, to deciding what to build, to positioning yourself. 

Find a meaningful metric, experiment to improve it until it’s good enough for you to move on to the next stage of your business. 

Airbnb photography metric:
Hypothesis: hosts with professionally photographed homes will get more business and sign up for this as a service. Airbnb took the Concierge MVP approach and sent professional photographers to take pictures of hosts’ homes. Initial tests with this MVP showed that listings featuring professional photographs received 2-3X more bookings. The new metric they began to monitor was shoots per month (already knew it resulted in more bookings). 

Good metrics:
Comparative, understandable, a ratio or rate, changes the way you behave (actionable). 

Total signups = a vanity metric. “Total active users” is a bit more insightful, but even better is “percent of users who are active.” Tells you the level of engagement users have with your product. 

Be data-informed, not data-driven:
Slippery slope towards overanalyzing: “Using data to optimize one part of your business, without stepping back and look at the big picture can be dangerous – even fatal.”

Analytics frameworks for building a successful business:
Pirate metrics: AARRR - acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, referral. 

Learn Startup, engines that drive growth: sticky, virality, payment. 

Sean Ellis’s Growth Pyramid: product market fit, stack the odds (find defensible unfair advantage), scale growth.

Lean analytics: empathy, stickiness, vitality, revenue, scale. Each of these has a gate required before you’re able to move forward (page 53). 

Two-sided marketplaces:
Start by focusing on whoever has the money, model the buyer side as your primary focus. Harder to find people who want to spend money, than it is people who want to make money. 

When Uber launched in Seattle, they created supply. They overcame chicken-and-egg problem by buying up towncars, paying drivers $30 an hour to drive passengers, and switched to commission once there was sufficient demand. 

Business models vs. business plans:
“Business plans are for bankers; business models are for founders.”

“By knowing the kind of business you are, and the stage you’re at, you can track and optimize the One Metric That Matters to your startup right now. By repeating this process, you’ll overcome many of the risks inherent in early-stage companies or projects, avoid premature growth, and build atop a solid foundation of true needs, well-defined solutions, and satisfied customers.”

Empathy (stage 1):
Primary job is to get inside someone else’s head. Discovering and validating a real problem. Then find out if your proposed solution is likely to work. Interview at least 15 people at each stage. 

Goal of this stage is to determine whether the problem is painful enough for enough people and they’re already trying to solve it. 

“Always know what risk you’re eliminating, and then design the minimum functionality to measure whether you’ve overcome it.”

Stickiness (stage 2):
Focus is squarely on retention and engagement. Are people using product as expected? Are they getting enough value out of it?

Goal of this stage is to build a core set of features that gets used regularly and successfully. 

One in, one out: If a new feature doesn’t improve the one metric that matters most, remove it. 

Major risk is driving new traffic when you’re unable to convert that attention into engagement.

Revenue (stage 4):
Shift focus from proving idea is right to proving you can make money in scalable, self-sustaining way. 

You need to be able to answer these: how big can the business grow, how good can the margins get, and what kind of barriers to entry does it have?

“Users engage with the online world in three postures: creation (often on a computer with a keyboard), interaction (usually with a smartphone), and consumption (with a tablet).”

User groups and feedback:
You can get better answers by asking your customers to make a selection of one alternative from a set of possibilities, rather than asking them to rate something on a scale of 1 to 10. “Would you prefer a delicious, high calorie candy made with artificial ingredients or a bland, low calorie organic candy?”

“Asking customers to trade off variations of combinations, over and over, dramatically improves prediction accuracy.”

Inspired – Marty Cagan

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love – by Marty Cagan
Date read: 1/9/19. Recommendation: 7/10.

A valuable resource for technology teams that’s tailored to product management. Cagan discusses the principles of strong product teams and breaks down the individual roles–product managers, designers, engineers, product marketing, and other supporting positions. He also discusses the process of getting to the right product through discovery, ideation, prototyping, and testing. At times it can be a bit prescriptive and could use a few more stories to illustrate the concepts and techniques. But overall, worth the read for entrepreneurs operating in this space or those looking for an introduction to technology product management.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.


My Notes:

The best product teams share three main principles:
1. Risks tackled up front (value, usability, feasibility, business viability)
2. Products are defined and designed collaboratively
3. Focus is on solving problems, not implementing features

Product/market fit: smallest actual product that meets needs of a specific market of customers.

Product Manager key responsibilities (all focused on evaluating opportunities and determining what gets built):
1. Deep knowledge of customer (issues, pains, desires)
2. Deep knowledge of data and analytics
3. Deep knowledge of all aspects of your business (stakeholders, finance, marketing, sales, legal, technical capabilities, user experience)
4. Deep knowledge of your market and industry

Successful product people are a combination of smart, creative, and persistent.

VPs of Product should have these four key competencies:
1. Team development
2. Product vision
3. Execution
4. Product culture

How to organize teams:
1. Alignment with investment strategy
2. Minimize dependencies
3. Ownership and autonomy: build teams of missionaries (they’re force multipliers), not mercenaries
4. Maximize leverage: establish a balance with shared services
5. Product vision and strategy
6. Team size: 3-10
7. Alignment with architecture: otherwise dependencies, slow pace
8. Alignment with user or customer: team focused on buyers should be different than the team focused on sellers
9. Alignment with business

Management’s responsibility is to provide product teams with business problems, objectives, and vision (NOT solutions). Let the team figure out the best way to solve the problems.

Product Discovery:
Collaboration between product, UX, and engineers to tackle risk before writing production-quality software. Outcome is a validated product backlog.

Purpose is to address value, usability, feasibility, and business viability risks.

Goal is to gain deeper understanding of customers and validate product ideas (qualitatively and quantitatively).

Dedicating time to framing the problem and communicating this can make significant difference in results.

“But one of the most important lessons in our industry is to fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” MC

Opportunity Assessment Technique:
1.
What business objective is this work intended to address?
2. How will you know if you succeeded?
3. What problem will this solve for customers?
4. What type of customer are we focused on?

Customer Letter Technique:
Product manager writes an imaginary press release or letter from hypothetical perspective of a customer talking about how it has improved their life.

Product Opportunities:
Assess the market and pick lucrative areas where pain exists. Or look at what technology enables and match that up with a pain point. Or encourage customers to use products to solve problems other than what you planned for.

One of biggest innovations at eBay was watching how customers used platform to sell things the team never would have imagined (concert tickets, fine art, cars). Built capabilities to facilitate these types of transactions after demand was established.

Customer Interviews:
Always be working to understand if your customers are who you think they are, if they really have the problems you think they have, how they solve the problem today, and what would be required from them to switch.

Prototypes:
Provide the ability to learn at much lower cost (time and effort) than building the full product.

Always ask, “what’s the fastest way to learn this?” MVP should be a prototype, never an actual product.

Benefits of prototyping: forces you to think through the problem at a deeper level, team collaboration, quickly assess one or more of the product risks.

A/B Testing:
Optimization A/B testing: Small changes, different calls to action, colors, fonts. 50/50 distribution. Conceptually similar.

Discovery A/B testing: Big differences, different concepts. Live-data prototype shown to 1% of users or less.

Necessity leading to invention:
In the early days of Netflix they had the same model (pay per rental) as Blockbuster. One of the many tests they ran was to assess customer interest in a subscription service (monthly fee for unlimited movies). They generated significant interest but created more problems in the process of bringing it to life. Most people wanted to rent the newest films which was prohibitively expensive. Netflix needed to get people to ask for a blend of old/new (inexpensive/expensive) titles. This was how the queue, rating system, and recommendation engine were born.

The Messy Middle – Scott Belsky

The Messy Middle – by Scott Belsky
Date read: 10/20/18. Recommendation: 9/10.

More than a business book, and that’s what I loved about it. It’s a book about embracing the long game and leading through ambiguity–whether you’re a founder, entrepreneur, or artist, you’ll find relevance. Belsky details the endurance it takes to bring an idea to life. It’s not always as pretty as the beginning or end, but the middle is worthy of equal attention since it’s where most of the journey takes place. As a product manager, I found the book to be particularly insightful for my daily work and career. The next time I’m asked for a great product book, I’ll be recommending this. But again, the beauty of this book is that it’s relevant for anyone who’s building something from nothing. Those who are leading others (or themselves) through uncertainty will benefit greatly from it. Far from a generic business book with the same recycled ideas, it’s original, practical, profound, and one of the best books I’ve read all year.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.


My Notes:

You cannot travel the path until you’ve become the path. Embracing the middle is the only way through.

Values/Principles:
-“The truth about telling the truth is that it does not come easy for anyone. It’s not natural or organic. The natural thing to do is tell people what they want to hear. That makes everybody feel good…at least for the moment. Telling the truth, on the other hand, is hard work and requires skill.” Ben Horowitz

-“There is no better measure of your values than how you spend your time.” SB, accounting of how you spend your minutes is hard truth of your values.

-Routines backfire when you do them without thinking. Throw a wrench in every now and then to see if it feels liberating and is no longer relevant/effective.

-Sometimes you guard your time too closely. Fluidity/flexibility to adapt is important, or else you won’t reach full potential. Need to create and preserve some margin of downtime in your day to accommodate opportunities. 

-You deserve this and you are enough. There’s a part of all of us that fights our own progress. Overcome these insecurities and doubts.

-"You are not your org chart, your department budget, or your title. Don’t let success at a company prevent you from pursuing scary and wonderful new opportunities to build.” Hunter Walk

Endurance:
-“You need to do your fucking job.” What Belsky would tell himself before going into a tough meeting, negotiation, or firing someone.

-“Playing the long game requires moves that don’t map to traditional measures of productivity.” SB

-“Curiosity is the fuel you need to play the long game.” SB 

-Resourcefulness is a competitive advantage. “Resources become depleted. Resourcefulness does not.” SB

-80% on boulders, 20% on pebbles.

Lead your team:
-Teams need to be reminded of where they are and progress they’ve made. Call out landmarks you pass and the terrain ahead.

-When discussing your teams efforts so far, weave in stories and leverage the perspective that excites you the most.

-Your perspective during trying times will help your team overcome moments of self-doubt.

-Not all meetings end with a solution, quit seeking a false sense of closure. Instead actively lead through a process of self-discovery.

-Unresolved conversations are draining. If you can’t provide closure, add energy, turn negative into positive. 

-“Your story has more gravity than you realize. Your job is to help your team make sense of the strategy–what they’re seeing, doing, and working toward. You are the steward of your team’s perspective, and there is always a way forward so long as you explain it.” SB

-Don’t aggressively market yourself, celebrate the people on your team and empower great makers. “Ego is rust. So much value and potential are destroyed in its slow decay.” SB

-Pick your fights and don’t deprive others of their own process. Sometimes the best way to instigate change is to plant questions as seeds and let them take root so you can avoid immediate reactions. 

Conviction:
-“For extraordinary outcomes, seek conviction in your work and build teams that value conviction over consensus.” SB

-Hesitation breeds incrementalism.

-Most effective way to communicate a vision is to declare it, rather than blunting blow with a comforting narrative that makes it sound less drastic.

-Progress is only possible once a decision is made. Can always backtrack and adjust as you learn along the way. Keep moving!

-Make your mind up quickly and go with the option that feels most right at first (don’t survey every available option). Otherwise you’ll waste time and energy searching for alternatives that may only be mildly more beneficial.

Self-awareness:
-Self-awareness is the greatest competitive advantage for a leader.

-Your sense of self shifts when you’re at a peak or in a valley. 

-Effort to understand how your mind works is only path to reliable self-awareness during intensity/stress.

-“You cannot win unless you know how you’re most likely to lose.” SB

-“Knowing when to ignore your experience is the true sign of experience.” -John Maeda

Ambiguity:
-Avoid temptation to describe what you’re building in context of what already exists (i.e. “It’s Airbnb for X”). 

-When you feel overwhelmed, remember the vision. Compartmentalize your ideas, look ahead, worry less about day-to-day concerns. 

-When you feel lost in ambiguity, ask a different question. i.e. Not “why aren’t people signing up?” but “what kinds of people would benefit most?”

-When you’re building something new, focus on asking the right questions instead of having the right answers. 

Defy prescribed roles:
-Directing blame and expressing disappointment take more energy than tackling whatever you’re criticizing. Take the initiative, even if it falls outside of your job description.

-“There is rarely a scarcity of process or ideas but there is often a scarcity of people willing to work outside the lines.” SB

-“You’re either a cog in the system or a designer of better systems…challenge every system you find yourself confined by.” SB

-Asking for permission to do what you know needs to be done will yield hesitation at best, rejection at worst.

Prioritize your team:
-“I have met many founders who obsess over product and steamroll their team. Most of them have failed. Team comes first.” SB

-If you want to execute well over time or make great products, prioritize your team over your goals and tend to your team before your product.

Hiring:
-Hire people seeking a journey rather than a particular outcome.

-Closing the confidence gap of new hires is more important than closing skills gap. Building confidence is important if you want to unleash someone’s potential. 

-Maturity and perspective > age and accolades.

-Best reason to fire people who aren’t performing is to keep your best people.

-Salary bands: subconsciously biased by age, years of experience, gender, and other characteristics that don’t correlate with indispensability. 

Founders:
-“What distinguishes great founders is not their adherence to some vision, but their humility in the face of the truth.” Paul Graham

-Greatest thinkers anchor ideas around a central truth they believe is unique and unrealized by others, but embrace questions when someone challenges them…they don’t look the other way.

-Poor leaders are too worried about being loved. The best founders have conviction in their ideas and aren’t hedging by spreading resources thinly across too many ideas. 

-Hold on to the openness, humility, and brashness you had in the begging.

Product:
-Speed through the generic stuff, but take time to perfect the things you’re most proud of. This is what differentiates your product, so it deserves a disproportionate investment of resources.

-Uniqueness of your product needs to be baked in, not sprinkled in at the end. Otherwise it’s likely to taste bland.

-Customers don’t engage with functionality, they engage with experiences. Make it more human friendly and accommodating to natural human tendencies.

-Competitive advantage is as much about what you choose to let go and not be, as it is about what you focus on. 

-One feature in, one feature out. Keeps you focused on simplicity.

-Having to explain your product, least effective way to engage new users.

-Empathy for your customers and humility in your market are powerful filters. Focus on these before you fall in love with your solution.

-Greatest brands developed by playing at far end of the spectrum and not trying to be everything to everyone. “Playing to the middle makes you weak.” Don’t give up your edge to appeal to broader audience.

-Engage emotionally as you create, but detach yourself when you’re evaluating.

Innovation:
-Every product or service in your life either helps you spend or save time. Best products remove a daily friction.

-Don’t be too different, familiarity drives utilization. Train customers on something new only when it’s core to what differentiates your product. Helps reduce cognitive friction.

-Big part of innovation is saying ‘you know what I’m really sick of?’ What frustrates you likely frustrates many others.

-True innovators value art up front and compete against incumbents through stuff that doesn’t intuitively scale. Give your customers something precious, uniquely personal, emotional, and seemingly scarce that cannot be easily scaled, automated, or commoditized. Preserving the art in your business gives it a soul that people can connect with. 

-At the beginning, must run manual experiments, spend endless amount of time with customers, and tinker until you find something special.

The Product Lifecycle:

  1. Customers flock to a simple product.

  2. The product adds new features to better serve customers and grow the business.

  3. Product gets complicated.

  4. Customers flock to another simple product.

The First Mile:
-Fewer options, shorter copy, simpler steps.

-Need to prime your audience to know, 1) Why they’re there, 2) What they can accomplish, 3) What to do next.

-30% of your energy should be allocated here. Top of funnel for new users, deserves to be well thought out. 

-Remember, people are lazy, vain, and selfish. You have 30 seconds to engage and address each concern.

-Best hook is doing things proactively for customer. Once you help them feel successful and proud, will engage more deeply and take time to learn and unlock the greater potential of what you’ve created. 

Measuring Success:
-Always ask “what is the real goal here?” Answer is rarely as measurable as you may think.

-Avoid too many measures, the more numbers you’re tracking, the less attention you pay to any of them.

-Boil your business down to one or two core metrics.

-Prefer, a referral network for independent professionals, uses a single metric, “number of working pairs.” Allows them to focus on what matters instead of getting caught in surface measures like revenue or downloads.

-Iconic and breakthrough product insight are not the result of trying to improve a metric. Square’s iconic UX requiring everyone to sign using a finger instead of bypassing small transactions.

Investors:
-“For strong companies, financing is a tactic. For weak companies, financing is a goal.” SB

-Is the team attempting to defy a likely outcome or make it happen in a better way? Invest in the latter. Uses forces already in play.

Editing:
“The question that I find most helpful to ask is, ‘if you had to keep 10 percent, which 10 percent would you keep, and if you had to, absolutely had to, cut 10 percent, which 10 percent would you cut?’” Tim Ferriss

Desire to Learn:
-Warren Buffett spends 80% of each day reading. When asked about keys to success, Buffett pointed to a stack of books on his desk and said, “Read five hundred pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

-Annual letters to investors, Buffett is self-reflective and self-deprecating. Admits when he struggles to understand something or has made dumb decisions. Remarkably open to changing his mind. All because of his persistent desire to learn.

How Google Works – Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works – by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
Date read: 3/11/18. Recommendation: 9/10.

Fascinating read and tremendous resource for anyone working in a startup and/or the tech industry. How Google Works offers an insightful look into all the elements that have contributed to Google's success in recent years, as well as the initiatives that have come up short. The core tenets of the book emphasize the importance of creating great products, attracting smart creatives, and cultivating an environment where you can succeed at scale. Many of these contradict the way massive corporations work–Google values user experience over revenue, transparency at all levels, less ego, more freedom, fewer meetings, and smaller teams, to name a few. As a side note, make sure you grab the latest edition of this book, as it contains an interesting addition that discusses how Alphabet (Google's parent company) works.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

The core principle: The only way to succeed in business in the twenty-first century is to continually create great products, and the only way to do that is to attract smart creatives and put them in an environment where they can succeed at scale.

But a start-up, or any venture that is trying to do something big and new, favors the chaos. Start-ups don't run on process, they run on ideas, passion, and a common set of goals. They don't wait for the meeting to make decisions.

The best products are still the ones that are based on technical insights, those unique ideas that apply one or more technologies in a new way to solve big problems.

We have long felt that the start-up model, with small, autonomous teams located in one office led by passionate founders, is the most effective way to achieve remarkable new things (or fail quickly in the effort).

Business leaders should be constantly asking themselves the question, What could be true in five years?

Hire as many talented software engineers as possible, and give them freedom.

"In the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts." -Jeff Bezos

Since the industrial revolution, operating processes have been biased toward lowering risk and avoiding mistakes. These processes, and the overall management approach from which they were derived, result in environments that stifle smart creatives.

A smart creative has deep technical knowledge in how to use the tools of her trade, and plenty of hands-on experience.

Smart creatives, though, place culture at the top of the list. To be effective, they need to care about the place they work.

In the Internet Century, a product manager's job is to work together with the people who design, engineer, and develop things to make great products.

We invest in our offices because we expect people to work there, not from home. 

The Bezos two-pizza rule: teams should be small enough to be fed by two pizzas.

At the most senior level, the people with the greatest impact–the ones who are running the company–should be product people. 

MBA-style business plans are always flawed in some important way. This is why a venture capitalist will always follow the maxim of investing in the team, not the plan.

So although your plan might change, it needs to be based on a foundational set of principles...The plan is fluid, the foundation is stable.

Google Principles: Bet on technical insights that help solve a big problem in a novel way, optimize for scale, not for revenue, and let great products grow the market for everyone.

A technical insight is a new way of applying technology or design that either drives down the cost or increases the functions and usability of the product by a significant factor. The result is something that is better than the competition in a fundamental way.

Market research can't tell you about solving problems that customers can't conceive are solvable. Giving the customer what he wants is less important than giving him what he doesn't yet know he wants.

The best product had achieved their success based on technical factors, not business ones.

When you base your product strategy on technical insights, you avoid me-too products that simply deliver what customers are asking for. (Henry Ford: "If I had listened to customers, I would have gone looking for faster horses.") That sort of incremental innovation can work very well for incumbents....but for a new venture, it's not enough.

*Never prioritize revenue over growth. Do the opposite. Focus on creating the best user experience.

A workforce of great people not only does great work, it attracts more great people. 

Passionate people don't wear their passion on their sleeves; they have it in their hearts. They live it. (And the truly passionate don't often use the "P-word.")

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." -Henry Ford

Google focuses on hiring "learning animals" who have the smarts to handle massive change and the character to love it.

Favoring specialization over intelligence is exactly wrong, especially in high tech...A smart generalist doesn't have bias, so is free to survey the wide range of solutions and gravitate to find the best one.

Rules of well-run meetings:
-Single decision maker
-Manageable in size (no more than eight people)
-Attendance is not a badge of importance – if you aren't needed, leave, or better yet excuse yourself ahead of time.

Spend 80 percent of your time on 80 percent of your revenue.

"Power comes not from knowledge kept but from knowledge shared." -Bill Gates

In all effective communication, reinforce core themes (At Google: putting users first, thinking big, not being afraid to fail).

Golden rule for management: Make sure you would work for yourself.

When you start a new position, for the first three weeks don't do anything. Listen to people, understand their issues and priorities, get to know and care about them, and earn their trust. So in fact, you are doing something: You are establishing a healthy relationship.

The more inclusive definition–innovation isn't just about the really new, really big things–matters because it affords everyone the opportunity to innovate, rather than keeping it the exclusive realm of those few people in that off-campus building whose job it is to innovate. i.e. Google self-driving cars vs. search engine improvements (core business with over 500 improvements/year).

Google[x] Venn diagram to determine if it will pursue something:
1) The idea has to be something that addresses a big challenge or opportunity
2) They have to have an idea for a solution that is radically different from anything currently in the market.
3) The breakthrough technologies that could bring that radical solution to life have to at least be feasible, and achievable in the not-too-distant future.

"Innovative people do not need to be told to do it, they need to be allowed to do it." -Udi Manber

Innovation has to evolve organically...Along the way, stronger ideas accumulate believers and momentum, and weaker ones fall to the wayside. There is no process by which to implement this evolution; its defining characteristic is its lack of process. think of it as a natural selection for ideas.

UX vs. revenue:
-Google Instant – immediate search results when you start typing. A few weeks before launch, no one had performed a detailed financial analysis. The product was obviously great for the user, so we all knew that launching it was the best business decision.
-Google has launched features that improve UX but hurt revenue a little (Knowledge Graph, side panel for people/places/things).
-Gmail – just concentrate on making it great and worry about revenue later.

Google knows that in the Internet Century user trust is just as important as dollars, euros, pounds, yen, or any other currency. Product excellence is the only way for a company to be consistently successful, so our prime directive when it comes to product strategy is to focus on the user.

There are rarely conflicts between [partners and customers], but when there are, our bias is toward the user. It has to be this way, regardless of your industry. Users are more empowered than ever, and won't tolerate crummy products.

Bigger challenges attract big talent. There is a symbiotic relationship between big challenges and highly smart, skilled people: The challenges get solved and the people get happy.

A good OKR should be a stretch to achieve, and hitting 100 percent on all OKRs should be practically unattainable.

70/20/10: 70 percent of resources dedicated to the core business, 20 percent on emerging, and 10 percent on new.

"If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions, and you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have tow in, otherwise good people don't stay." -Steve Jobs

The most valuable result of 20 percent time isn't the products and features that get created, it's the things that people learn when they try something new.

Create a product, ship it, see how it does, design and implement improvements, and push it back out. Ship and iterate. The companies that are the fastest at this process will win...Leadership's job must to feed the winners and starve the losers, regardless of prior investment.

And don't stigmatize the team that failed: Make sure they land good internal jobs. The next innovators will be watching to see if the failed team is punished. Their failure shouldn't be celebrated, but it is a bade of honor of sorts.

Antifragile: Management's job is not to mitigate risks or prevent failures, but to create an environment resilient enough to take on those risks and tolerate inevitable missteps. 

"Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment." -Mulla Nasrudin

Among your stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise at another company?

Sprint – Jake Knapp

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days – by Jake Knapp
Date read: 5/28/17. Recommendation: 8/10.

Targeted to those working in technology, but useful lessons that can be applied more broadly. The authors pioneered their own rapid sprint process at Google Ventures. The book documents, step-by-step, the best way to examine, prototype, and test new ideas with customers, in a single week. The faster you can test out a new idea out and gather real feedback, the better. Great framework for creative problem solving, no matter what project or initiative you're working on.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

my notes:

The sprint is Google Venture's unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers. It's a "greatest hits" of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, design, and more–packaged into a step-by-step process that any team can use.

Monday: Make a map, choose a target. Tuesday: Sketch competing solutions. Wednesday: Decide on the best. Thursday: Build a realistic prototype. Friday: Test with target customers.

Solve the surface first:
The surface is important. It's where your product or service meets customers. Human beings are complex and fickle, so it's impossible to predict how they'll react to a brand-new solution. When our new ideas fail, it's usually because we were overconfident about how well customers would understand and how much they would care.

Get that surface right, and you can work backward to figure out the underlying systems or technology. Focusing on the surface allows you to move fast and answer big questions before you commit to execution, which is why any challenge, no matter how large, can benefit from a sprint.

Fragmentation hurts productivity.

Longer hours don't equal better results.

If you're looking at a screen (laptop, phone, etc.), you're not paying attention to what's going on in the room, so you won't be able to help the team. What's worse, you're unconsciously saying, "This work isn't interesting."

Imagine you've gone forward in time one year, and your project was a disaster. What caused it to fail? Lurking beneath every goal are dangerous assumptions.

*An important part of this is rephrasing assumptions and obstacles into questions.
Q: To reach new customers what has to be true? A: They have to trust our experience.
Q: How can we phrase that as a question? A: Will customers trust our experience?

Turning these potential problems into questions makes them easier to track–and easier to answer with sketches, prototypes, and tests. Also creates a subtle shift from uncertainty (which is uncomfortable) to curiosity (which is exciting)

Map the challenge:
Map should be simple, include only the major steps required for customers to move from beginning to completion.

Each map is customer-centric, with a list of key actors on the left. Each map is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Keep it between 5-15 steps.

How Might We's: take notes in the form of a question, beginning with the words "How might we...?" (How might we re-create the cafe experience? How might we ensure coffee arrives fresh? How might we structure key info for screening patients? How might we streamline discussion with outside doctors? How might we make reviewing electronic medical records faster?)

Lightning Demos:
Team takes turn giving three-minute tours of their favorite solutions from other products/different domains, etc.

Finding Customers (for prototype/interviews):
-Recruit customers through Craigslist (post a generic ad with a link to a screener survey)
-Recruit customers through your network

Storyboard:
Best opening scene for your prototype will boost the quality of your test (can help customers forget they're trying a prototype and react to your product in a natural way)

The trick is to take one or two steps upstream from the beginning of the actual solution you want to test...How do customers find out your company exists?

It's almost always a good idea to present your solution alongside the competition. As a matter of fact, you can ask customers to test out your competitors' products on Friday right alongside your own prototype.

When in doubt take risks, sprint is great for testing risky solutions that might have  a huge payoff.

"Prototype" mindset – it isn't a real product, it just needs to appear real.

Interview customers and learn by watching them react to your prototype.

After you've recruited and carefully selected participants for your test who match the profile of your target customer.
-Why five people? 85% of problems are observed after just five people.
-Testing with more people doesn't lead to many more insights - just a lot more work.
-The number of findings quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns.
-When 2-3 people out of 5 have the same strong reaction, positive or negative, you should pay attention.

One-on-one interviews are a remarkable shortcut. They allow you to test a facade of your product, long before you've build the real thing.

Offer important insight that's nearly impossible to get with large-scale quantitative data: why things work or don't work.

Remind the customer that you're testing the prototype, not her.
-"There are no right and wrong answers. Since I didn't design this, you won't hurt my feelings or flatter me. In fact, frank, candid feedback is the most helpful."

NOT: "Now that you've seen the site, would you be ready to sign up now, or do you need more information?"
YES: "Now that you've seen the site, what are you thinking?" (after answer, "why is that?)

DON'T ask multiple choice or yes/no questions (would you, do you, is it?)
DO ask "Five Ws and One H" questions

You can also learn a lot by just remaining quiet. Don't always feel compelled to fill the silence with conversation.

Being in a curiosity mindset means being fascinated by your customers and their reactions.
-Always ask "why?"

Once you've run your test an identified patterns, look back at your sprint questions. This will help you decide which patterns are most important, and also point you toward next steps.

Instead of jumping right into solutions, take your time to map out the problem and agree on the initial target. Start slow so you can go fast.

Instead of shouting out ideas, work independently to make detailed sketches of possible solutions.

Adopt the prototype mindset so you can learn quickly.

Test your prototype with target customers and get their honest reactions.