Category: Innovation

Getting out of a slump 

If you are working on something important in a large company, chances are a lot more people at going to be involved in this project than you imagined and you have to find a way to engage and align them. I thought I knew this but I did not realise how crazy things can get. I think I almost got depressed working on this new, important project as I figured out how many conversations I needed to have and how many presentations I needed to make to get alignment. Here is a quick summary of how I felt during the last one month working on the project. 

Thursday July 4th: Down and Out

It’s so easy to get yourself down. I am having a hard week because it’s been difficult to figure out product strategy questions while figuring out the politics around it. Stakeholders are asking good questions but I’m just seeing them as roadblocks. I’m also spending every waking moment thinking about clever retorts and smart one liners to put them in their place. Obviously this is not healthy. And, for the first time in my life, I had trouble sleeping two nights in a row. 
So.. I brought out the big guns. I relied on the advice from Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss and my dad and decided to: 
  • Write 
  • Listen to music 
  • Change my body language to feel how I want to feel 
  • Journal (gratitude, morning journal) : Could not get myself to do this. 
  • Exercise to get the good chemicals flooding in (swam or cross fit every day) 
  • Decided to treat it as my problem to convince the roadblocks and make them allies. 
  • Met an old friend from high school. Had a good chat, good Zin, unhealthy food 🙂 
  • I also decided to blog about my predicament. This was very helpful. 
I have three paths forward now: Engage my team to answer the objections Ask the roadblocks how they would pitch the idea Let my management chain know that I will need help It’s amazing once you do stuff… Depression disappears and opportunities appear. You think about things you normally won’t. You smile. You change your mindset. The nature of the problem changes. Your head reconfigures. Hope this helps you get out of your head and “save your soul” https://youtu.be/0wBDDAZkNtk https://youtu.be/0wBDDAZkNtk 

July 18th: Working through it. In Action. 

Was a really difficult week but rewarding at the end as I was able to resolve conflicts, raise issues as and get stuff sorted out within the company so that we can get good results in the long term. I did not win every argument. I did not get exactly what I wanted. But it really allowed me to hear other people’s points of view. And, a promising future. 

Update August 16th: A fantastic week

Things have gone well since I decided to stay in action and bring all stakeholders along. It prevented internal sabotage. I did have to have difficult conversations in person with some stakeholders but it was all important and necessary. Had I seen these folks as roadblocks and tried to steamroll my way through, it would not have worked. 
Onwards and upwards. 
–Anubhav 

Restraint is overrated

Restraint is over valued I was reading a travel mag on a flight to MSP and read something provocative. “Balance in life is overrated”. Passionate people pursue their passions singlemindedly, produce extra ordinary results and then burn out and need to recharge. Maybe that’s how innovation happens. Concentrated periods of singular focus and compete immersion in an area. 

–Anubhav

The viral fever

I’m clearly late to the party.

These guys are doing great work. The quality of their shows is great. Their scripts are fresh. Written for a younger audience. Written in a way that makes them work for us. The techies, the nerds, the young folk, the intelligent audience. 

I also love their embrace of tech. Maybe they did not have a choice..  

The best way to get content out today is via YouTube or Vimeo. They are Vimeo quality now. They just need a pay wall. Or.. The confidence to think about a paywall. Start with bonus footage, behind the scenes clips and outtakes that are only available to paid members. I also like that they are a lean operation. I hope that they can continue that way. 

I don’t know their story. I would love to contribute to their success somehow. The “Pitchers” show inspired me to write more. For the first time, I saw a drama that I could relate to. 

–Anubhav

Can you build great software products in India?

One of the hardest questions to answer as a product manager in a multinational software company is, treat “Can you build great products in India?”. Most of us will instinctively respond, pharm “of course, yes”. The follow up question is, “Really? How can you build great products in India when you are surrounded by filth, your workspace is not fabulous, your country does not value design, your atmosphere is poisonous and you have years of training in putting up with unfinished shit?”.

Essentially, they are saying, “Unless you have good design around you, you will not notice bad design and thus build products that are not really ready for an affluent user base that values design”. Thus, all new products must be built where there is a better appreciation and presence of design.

All these arguments are true to a certain extent. As a well traveled Indian living in a metropolitan city I can see why foreigners think this way. India is not clean. Functionality trumps design and has for a long long time.  Government project remain unfinished forever or get done to a really low level of quality. Most people are not willing to pay the premium for good design. And, we really do put up with more shit than most.

This perception is an issue because often, important executives think this way and throttle career advancement opportunities for promising folks in India. And, I do think that this is a real problem.

What’s interesting is that these issues are kinda beyond the control of the individuals being penalized. We are trying our best to experience good design and learn and retrain ourselves and our teams.

What’s also interesting is that this intrinsic lack appreciation for design is going away in India. This is largely thanks to the startup boom due to VC investments in India. We are experiencing really good design via mobile apps and responsive web sites. Most software developers have easy access to what is considered good design. We are training a lot of experience designers who are building well designed websites like cleartrip.com. And today, other that good data scientists, XD is the hardest function to recruit for in software.

We are also beginning use data to improve experiences and drive users through funnels J All this is forcing us to develop world class sensibilities and software right from here. Example: zomato.com It’s a well design service that’s giving yelp a run for its money. Flipkart is competing head on with Amazon.com and Snapdeal.com is competing with Flipkart. Similar things can be said for Practo and Bookmyshow. These are well designed apps too.

Uber is forcing taxiforsure and ola and Meru to up their game. Some of these crappy apps have grown to become good copies of Uber even though they had really humble, functionality driven beginnings.

So yes, things are changing. Hope we change this perception by shipping lots of great shit out of India, fast and often!

–Anubhav

 

Lean Analytics book review

Hmm.

Lean* is on a roll. I read lean analytics on a plane last week and was able to get through about half of it and I liked it. I’ve recommended it to product owners on my team so that they can get a quick summary of the best practices for analytics. They have laid out the book as an “Analytics for Dummies” book.

I think the first half of the book is useful to get grounded but here are the things I did not like:

  • Focuses only on web analytics
  • Does not really discuss measuring feature use even for a web app

Here are the things I liked

What to measure

You can track many metrics, its important to collect as few metrics as you can and only the ones that you can control. For example – many product managers are not in charge of pricing or marketing or the GTM. So… should you measure customer acquisition metrics? 

Picking the right metric is more important than almost anything else.

Trust your gut

Eventually product mangers and entrepreneurs get paid for their judgement and not just for doing what people are telling them to do today. This is the only skill to hone and then measure results and course correct.

 

Gentlemen Coders, Writers and Musicians

It is interesting to draw a parallel between what has happened in the music industry and what is now happening in the tech and publishing industries. A new breed of professionals, who are really good at what they do and can “hustle”, are giving established companies are hard time in all these industries.

On a long walk with one of my previous managers in San Francisco last week, we discussed a new generation of coders, who he called “Gentlemen Coders”. He described them as :

  • Self employed developers paired up with a good designer
  • Via the app stores,they sell directly to customers
  • No desire for world domination – just building the best product they can
  • Value their time and quality of life over a desire for just money
  • Can hustle and get attention to their products

He moaned how he would have loved to be able to do this when he got out of college 25 years ago. He told me of story where he sold his product’s rights to a publisher and then when the publisher went bankrupt, he could not sell his product – period. His product had become a property of the lenders to the bankrupt publisher and its fate had to be decided in bankruptcy court.

I see many interesting products being created by gentlemen coders. See:

And, this way of developing software is significantly faster and cheaper than how established software companies develop products. Gentlemen coders are very closely tied to their customers and have complete control of the pace and direction of development. Thus, they seem to respond faster to customer demands and update when they are ready not when “everyone in the company” is ready.

So, is it game over for large software companies or publishing houses? I dont think so. But, this new way to develop software should attract a lot of talented, fresh out of college graduates towards starting their own companies. Working for a large innovative software company is so 2007. 🙂

Its much easier to build out a product idea that excites you and then take it to market via the app stores today than it ever was. These stores are hyper-competitive though and knowing how to hustle will be the differentiator between success and failure.

Music Book Publishing Software
Publishing Channel(s) Own website Kindle, e-Books App Stores (apple and android)
Successes Jonathan Coulton Hugh Howes AirServer
Hustle methods
  • Free give a aways
  • Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
  • Blogging
  • Sending free copies to reviewer
  • Building the first 1000 fans
  • Social Media
  • Posting to the forums
  • Experimenting with App pricing

–Anubhav

 

Quirky and GE

Pretty cool way to innovate while riding on the “internet of things” theme.

http://www.quirky.com/ge?utm_source=Quirky&utm_campaign=b576ba10fa-Quirky_GE_Partnership_Announce4_9_2013&utm_medium=email

I have a lot of regard for Quirky and its clear that GE could do with some help in this area by asking the community for help and using Quirky’s different and innovative product development process.

 

–Anubhav