December 20, 2022
10 minutes

2022 Product Innovation Series - Top Podcast Insights

It’s almost the end of the year, and a good time to reflect on everything we’ve learned and achieved. Over the past 12 months, Crowdlinker has been incredibly grateful to have welcomed so many amazing guests to our product innovation series podcast. In the spirit of reflection, here are some of our favourite podcast highlights and guest insights from 2022.

1. Don’t lead your customer

In this interview, Aram speaks to Senior Director of Products at Micro Focus, Ayal Cohen. After spending more than two decades in the world of automation, Ayal is now leading the next evolution for automated functional testing.

Experienced with translating customer pains and market needs into working and profitable products, Ayal left us with a great reminder of how companies can be sure they’re creating products customers will love.

Of course, it seems obvious that one of the best ways to get a helpful answer from your customers is to let them talk. But it’s also important to consider how we conduct this conversation.

“It’s very important to be patient, and not be afraid of awkward silences.”

If you want to learn about customer challenges, give them time to answer and avoid having them say something they don't mean. Authenticity from your customers is crucial, so try not to put words in their mouths or project your assumptions onto them.

Ayul gives us a great reminder for validating a new solution - “Don’t lead your customer in the direction that you’re already thinking about”.

2. Watch what your customers do

Back in October, we were delighted to welcome both Ravi Swaminathan (Founder and CEO) and Seth Barron (Head of Product) from their company TaskHuman. During this episode, Aram and the duo discussed the balance between data, insight, and intuition.

One of the more controversial statements from this conversation was about avoiding asking what your customers want.

Of course, there’s nuance to this. You have to ask them what they want - but sometimes it's better to watch what your customers do rather than listen to what they say.

It’s not uncommon for data from surveys and questionnaires to become a scattered minefield. Let's face it, sometimes what people tell you isn't what they actually end up doing.

Ravi explains you should listen to your gut and combine that with insights from what their actions are telling you. It'll help you make better decisions.

3. Approach your users with a wider perspective

According to Tom O'Neill O'Neil, the Founder, and CEO of Parallax , the number one mistake product people make when trying to talk to their customers is - “They don’t approach the conversation with a wide enough perspective.”

You could be missing the bigger picture if you’re not thinking about business objectives when talking to individual users.

Here’s an example Tom shared. Facebook’s customer isn’t the consumer. It’s not the person posting pictures of their family or updates about their lives. It’s the advertisers.

When approaching a design challenge related to the interface that the end user engages with, you can’t just ask what they want. You also have to look at it from the perspective of engaging the user to serve the customer.

It’s essential to have that wider perspective when interacting with users.

4. Foster creativity in your team

The way a design team is managed has the potential to fuel or stifle brilliant innovation.

Mike Townson, Director of Product Design at Order joined Aram to discuss how organizations can build a well-functioning design-thinking community. During the interview, Mike shared his most valuable principles for managing a design team without killing creativity.

Mike says, “You can’t just turn creativity on like a tap”.

With that in mind, here are 3 tips from the interview for building a design team that’s set up to be self-led and empowered:

1. The leader, leader method

Instil belief, trust and autonomy into your team so that they can be leaders in their own areas of focus.

2. Production over perfection

Software is inherently iterative and always changing. It’s more important to have it out there and learn from it than it is to polish it and make it great.

3. Be curious, be vulnerable, be humble

There are a lot of leaders out there who think they have to be right all the time. Get used to being wrong. It probably means you’re surrounded by smart people and you hired the right team.

5. Be a pioneer for your company

Rachel Folz, Director of Product at Cerkl, joined us in September to share what product leaders should do when they first join a new company.

For some context, Rachel started with Cerkl right after the two co-founders, making her the company's 3rd employee. Being a pioneer at Cerkl, she helped form the product team and all the processes that come with the territory.

Here's how she got started:

  1. She found out where Cerkl landed in the market. Analyzing the competitive landscape helped her to understand how they were performing there.
  2. She focussed on building really good relationships with those first few big customers. The ones that had a use case they were trying to expand on, and were in an industry they wanted to be in.

6. Find success at enterprise

In July we spoke to innovation leader and product executive, Pavan Singh. During this interview with Aram, they chat about how to easily open a new revenue stream and validate your big product ideas.

Here are Pavan’s 3 biggest takeaways:

1. Outside Validation

You have to build your prototype to show people and investors what your product could be like. Get the feedback you need to understand the unmet market need, and if your solution is something customers are willing to pay for.

2. Internal Alignment

This is the big AHA moment. Your innovation must be aligned with the company's capabilities, culture, and operational processes.

3. Timing

Unless there's a big impending reason for a company to invest in innovation as compared to their ongoing run rate business, they usually won't. There has to be pressure on the decision-makers to create change, otherwise, as Pavan says “there’s a lot of innovation that happens that sits on the shelves, and it’s never used”.

7. Beware of data-driven biases

Manuel Breschi, Director of Product at Typeform sat down with us to talk about data-driven biases and how to overcome them.

Data-driven biases can have a huge impact on your product decisions. You don’t want to reinforce an old strategy.

Manuel says driving product decisions based solely on data isn’t enough. What you should be is data aware.

Sure, you need to be able to measure the performance of your product. But, if you think that you can measure the future performance of your product using data from past performance, you could be disappointed.

Even if your product hasn’t changed, your market probably has. Following the data could help you stay afloat, but to grow your business, you have to consider the qualitative, and the quantitative.

8. Plan for one thing, but prepare for everything

A former technical product manager at Amazon Europe, Pierre Brunelle is now the co-founder and CEO of his company Noteable. A true entrepreneur from age 15, Pierre joined the podcast to share some of his greatest lessons that led to him building his own business.

It’s common knowledge that to be successful in business, you have to make a plan, have a north star, and commit to it. But always be ready to adapt.

You have to invest in something. Then when you start to get small signals you can begin to change. Then shift your engagement to the next thing, until you have enough information to allow you to change your direction again.

That said, when you’re running a company you can lose yourself pretty easily if you blindly follow every direction. To stay on track, here’s Pierre’s user-friendly analogy.

Think of it like a cone - the cone defines the vision and mission of your business, and inside the cone is the flexibility you have within those parameters. When you start a company your flexibility is small, you have to commit to something clear. You can’t shift priorities because you’ll lose yourself and your competitive advantage.

No guesses for what happens as your company grows. That’s right! So does the scope of the cone. And with it your flexibility to pivot and change. You can begin to build a different set of products or increase your range of services - you can expand.

If you haven't subscribed to our product innovation series podcast yet, head over to Apple or Spotify to get regular battle-tested tips, tactics, and strategies from your peers.

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