Startup lesson

Startup

Was very excited to hear that Alex Bloomberg, price treat creator of one of my favorite podcasts – “Planet Money” is trying to make it out on his own. See: Hearstartup.com. That said, Act 1 of This American Life episode 533 is painful to hear because it makes a lot of rookie mistakes. It’s especially painful because Alex is a great storyteller, yet he fails to perform a simple audience analysis before he meets a powerful investor.

I encourage every startup enthusiast or entrepreneur in the making to listen to what happens to a seasoned storyteller in a pitch meeting. How Alex’s personal attachment to his startup clouds his storytelling approach.

I wish him well. I hope he stops asking for funding. He is essentially building a small business. It could be a great small business that keeps him and maybe a couple of more people gainfully employed but there is no big exit.

I would hate to see him take on a lot of debt pursuing a dream that won’t come true. I really don’t think he is going to get a big time investor excited about his idea. I do think however, that he will create great content and will do well if he can limit the scope of his endeavour.

Your life’s narrative

My Life

Once again a great story from This American Life (TAL) inspired me to write a blog post.

As a product manager, nurse you are often dealing with anxiety. At a large company, ambulance you might also feel disenfranchised. You might also be feeling that you do not deserve to be a product manager, sales especially after making a bad decision or after meeting a much more experienced member of the product team that you recently joined. So, here’s how to deal with this. First, listen to the above podcast.

I’ve liked all books by Michael Lewis. He is able to curate great stories and write them in a very accessible way. His story on Emir Kamenica on TAL is a great example of the power of positive thinking and the power of exercising your choice on how to react to a given situation.

What could easily have been an “I’m a victim” story, Emir reframes his story as an “I’ve been so lucky” even when it’s not true in all its details. Yet, this has had a profound impact on his life. The power your life’s narrative has on you is staggering. So, its important to be aware of what story your mind is making up about yourself and then change it so that it empowers you instead of sucking away your energy.

Additionally, remember that Stories are what we make up to explain facts. An unlimited number of stories can explain a set of facts. I learnt this from “Crucial Conversations”. It’s a great book. Here is a summary of it.

So, first try to write down your life narrative. Who you are? And how you got where you are today? Then, do this exercise, as outlined in a simple blog post by Michael Hyatt

And, you may find that you are able to run in a different gear than today.

–Anubhav

Writing effective call to action messages in software

I recently had a to review an important call to action dialog. We had just finished an important feature and wanted to drive its usage. The call to action dialog came up automatically and urged the user to try this feature.  The team had taken two stabs at rewriting it but it was still too long & repetitive. Additionally, it was written from the point of view of the team and not the customer.

Since I have limited writing experience, I started searching for “Effective Software dialog messages” or  “Better messages in software” but did not get good results in both cases. This made me think about the problem differently. I then searched for “Writing effective call to action messages” and found a rich volume of work that helped me re-write this message.

Here are the blogs I found useful:

  • http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/07/24/call-to-action-examples/
  • http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31435/How-to-Write-Call-to-Action-Copy-That-Gets-Visitors-Clicking.aspx

I felt the following rules applied most to us, while these are obvious, they can be hard to do right:

  • Keep it consise
  • Focus on the user’s benefit
    • Designers saved 30 mins a day by using “feature x” instead of feature x is great, try now
  • Eliminate risk for the user in trying this new feature
    • Try it now, you can always disable it from the preferences menu
  • Use numbers, where possible. For example:
    • “Feature X” saved 15% of time spent in doing something in a recent user study. Click yes to try now
    • 11 tools have been revamped to make you more effecient in this release, click yes to try now

I now feel that I should take a class in writing or rhetoric. There are many available on coursera. Let me know if you’ve had a good experience with any of them.

–Anubhav