Empathy -- Lead with your EARS and not with your MOUTH

Posted on November 4th, 2018

As promised, here are the slides from my talk at Impact Product Management Conference 2018 event in Budapest, Hungary. Watch the video here : https://youtu.be/91uOZLT4bv4 Presentation deck here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CVDPBjZc_abDZyEYcOvxkHF0AkwEJBVB/view?usp=sharing The challenges of product development are not about products. They are about interpersonal relations. The empathic component is what makes a product manager special. In a field that values objective performance, spending your time on empathic interaction is perceived as a waste of time because is not measurable. But there is a connection between empathy and other outcomes, such as enhanced team buy-in, smoother communication and information exchange. Empathy i...

Factors that Damage Your Integrity. Reflecting on Adverse Conditions.

Posted on October 13th, 2018

Product Managers rightly face criticism when negotiating or selling product vision to stakeholders. We increasingly turn to data analytics and customer insight in hopes of outlining a product's most pressing problems, whether it’s a user acquisition drop off, a shift in engagement, or failure to sway churn. My experience suggests that, if there is a poor acceptance or cultural fit, Product Managers end up with the bullseye on their back —and should take steps to understand cultural patterns that lead to unfavourable traction. Like what? Like colleagues not being available, withholding information, not keeping their commitments, damaging your reputation by reducing your personal and professional credibility. To make progress against nega...

How To Find The Narrative In Numbers -- And How To Sway Cynics.

Posted on September 16th, 2018

I'm moderating Product Circle MTL this week. A meet up by product managers, for product managers. My discussion topic revolves around numbers. Finding the narrative in numbers. The language of product is mathematics. Your initial plans are almost certain to be wrong in some way. Your first priority as a product manager is to figure out where. Lean principles prescribe ditching long technology development cycles. Instead, you start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It’s quicker and cheaper than traditional methods. Startup-formation delivery gets determined by a Product expert who knows how to operate on good-enough data. Fix failures by iteration on ideas and pivot away from the ones that don’t work. So how does one fly low with...

Just How Bad Is The Pressure To Move Fast For YouTube Creators? Here’s Watchmojo's Unity.

Posted on June 9th, 2018

WatchMojo was entering its expansion-stage and we knew that there was a huge market growth opportunity in front of us, if we could just execute on it quickly, avoid common pitfalls and things falling through the cracks. From previous years we had battle scars. Our VPs had already realized that things were very different at scale and managing video production through spreadsheets and best-in-breed productivity tools were not operating smoothly and had apparent problems. "We need to become a well-coordinated execution machine with multiple global partners" Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, CEO of WatchMojo Not fucking up the expansion of our product line We had to rethink our approach to creating videos in order to increase our total addressable m...

What I've been reading on Product Management - 06/2018

Posted on June 8th, 2018

A round-up of interesting articles I've read over the last week or so, mostly about product management, Leadership and Prioritization. Leading by Letting Go Getting People to Believe in Something They Can’t Yet Imagine Value Propositions That Work Why most product managers suck (and how to be a better one) Slow Deciders Make Better Strategists Rethinking Product Management: How to Get from Start-up to Scale-up 20 Product Prioritization Techniques: A Map and Guided Tour What Product Managers Can Learn from the Apple iPod The Complete Guide to the Kano Model Aligning Your Product Roadmap with Company Goals Product managers for the digital world The Four Styles of Management Prioritizing for Strategic Alignment What It Takes t...

Can’t prioritize? Use this 6 Week Process to Generate Your Product Roadmap

Posted on June 3rd, 2018

Despite the proliferation of tools designed for road mapping, prioritization remains the most difficult part of the product. Without a process for roadmap reinforcement, it just won’t stick. Over the years, as a Product Manager, I established an effective product management process. With it and backed with strong strategy and leadership I helped develop roadmaps that aligned influential individuals and companies. Towards the end of any given quarter, I often rely on this fast-paced and collaborative 6 week process to refine priorities. I focused it on understanding the current state, identifying strategic opportunities, defining requirements, creating a vision of the future, and defining a staged plan to evolve the customer experience....

What I've been reading on Artificial Intelligence and Data science - 06/2018

Posted on June 1st, 2018

A round-up of interesting articles I've read over the last week or so, mostly about product management, Artificial Intelligence and Data science. How companies can navigate the age of machine learning The AI-First Business Model Human-Centered Machine Learning Machine Learning for Product Managers Machine Learning and Product Managers Always start with a stupid model, no exceptions. The Cold Start Problem with Artificial Intelligence Deep Learning vs Classical Machine Learning Why Deep Learning Is Suddenly Changing Your Life What does it mean to be an AI Product Manager? Are You Setting Your Data Scientists Up to Fail? A Product Management Framework for Machine Learning — Part 1 of 3 A Product Management Framework for Machin...

Tomorrow’s Product Managers Will Need Solid Data, Model and Problem Understanding

Posted on May 21st, 2018

Tomorrow’s Product Managers Will Need Solid Data, Model, and Problem Understanding When people talk about Product Management of the future, the first theme that comes to mind is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is changing the fundamental structure of every industry. We’re interacting with technology in new ways, from giving voice commands to virtual assistants to having Smart Reply suggest quick responses to our messages. In Alpha’s Product Management 2018 Insights study, a third of respondents reported having AI or machine learning incorporated into their products. Does that mean it’s time to embrace the mathematical techniques that enable the building of intelligent software applications using the family of techniques known as deep ...

Product Managers, Make your CEO provide a clear vision

Posted on April 15th, 2018

There are so many articles about the challenges and stresses of being a Product Manager. But this is an article about your CEO’s duty to set a vision, to define why your company exists. For some product managers, the thought of talking openly about the void left by a missing vision statement is paralyzing. And as a product leader gets more senior, the need to clearly define the product strategy intensifies. In Alpha’s Product Management Insights study of more than 150 digital product managers, 32% percent said that their biggest wish in the coming year was a clearer product roadmap / strategy. So how frequently do you and the CEO interface? Does the CEO provide general direction? He should provide general direction. Without it you can't...

Our immersion into Deep and Machine Learning at WatchMojo

Posted on April 1st, 2018

Big data holds big promises for WatchMojo. Back in Q1 of 2017, in my quest to create proprietary products and innovations to link past video views and engagement to future video projects, I had heard about algorithms that can learn from data without relying on rules-based programming. To create value for our viewers, I asked if we had a dataset, then set our objective to discover which videos would be highly engaging and shared. We researched online, hired a data scientist and after a few attempts analyzing our records, got to develop statistical techniques and build interactive visualizations. In our first attempt, we envisioned gaining a better understanding of our data through machine learning, but truth be told, I grew more confused ...

You accomplish everything through others

Posted on February 24th, 2018

Imagine attempting to persuade a stakeholder and it results in increased resistance. So much talk, so much rationale, so many facts. And because your approach was logical — one that leveraged data, your experience, and expertise — friction and disagreement ensues. The Product Manager title alone won’t sway others, nor will it command the attention of stakeholders. Bottom line, we have no power to make other people see things as we do. You aren’t going to win every battle. Leadership is going to be wrong sometimes. Engineers will estimate wrongly. And Sales will always promise things your product doesn’t and will never do. And because you work at the intersection of groups of people — often people from different backgrounds — there will b...

The case for rotating though products

Posted on February 4th, 2018

The market changes. Trends in the marketplace affect the appeal of your message and the profitability of your product. Winning products thrive on big thinkers with the expertise to solve common challenges. Should a company hire a product manager with years of experience in, and knowledge of, the industry? How about a product manager who can quickly master a market and domain. One with generic, transferable product management capabilities. One who engaged with not just new technologies but also new business models. Who evolved in tandem with the types of products, customers, and markets they engaged with. You make your own luck. Rotating through products doesn’t require an MBA or the perfect mix of business, technical and design/UX...

To make engineers more autonomous create a partnership

Posted on January 7th, 2018

It is 5:00PM in the office, and a member of the engineering team stops by the Product team desk and expresses they want to build everything at once. When discussed, the head of engineering states that excessive rework undermines motivation. That they prefer focusing on code without a lot of distraction. That continual change tends to corrupt the structure of the software and once something is "done" it should never be revisited. What is wrong with these people? Is there a subculture of haters holding back continuous integration so to prevent the validation of the evolving product? It turns out the answer is no. Customer-centric rapid delivery can be perceived as a randomized environment. Rework could show problems in the requirements or...

Great companies are built on great products.

Posted on January 1st, 2018

Product Management aims to clarify objectives, priorities and help focus efforts on them. Founder Institute startup founders and attendees were focused and truly enjoyed my product management presentation. I was lucky enough to be able to talk about Product Management and how now it’s their job to sell the goddam dream… every day. Founder Institute is the world’s premier idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program. - check out my event deck below: <iframe src="//www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/key/iWteteSQx3Vpqm" width="595" height="485" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" style="border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;" allowfullscreen> </iframe> ...

The Story Behind My Investment in Porpoise

Posted on December 30th, 2017

After two years of advising, I’m delighted to finally be investing in Porpoise, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Strengthening social connections a strategic priority in organizations Last May, Cigna Study Research put a spotlight on the impact of loneliness and revealed loneliness at epidemic levels in America. We’re seeing a lack of human connection, which ultimately leads to a lack of vitality. The findings reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of having communities. Researchers for Gallup found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured. Former Surgeon General Vice Admi...

You need to be contagious and thrive on the right amount of tension

Posted on December 25th, 2017

I've been in product for a while. Each year I write a few lines to re-frame what the hell it is I do and how to remain successful.--- Product management is a discipline of quirky nonconformists responsible of defining the "why". Winning products thrive on the direction of these individuals who evolve in tandem with the types of products, customers, and markets they engages with. I have yet to see a standard job description for a Product Manager. None of the work I do happens in a vacuum which is why we must learn to influence; not direct. Remain aware of company culture while managing the product system to build social capital. Earned social capital allows us to influence the success of product roadmaps. The first decision to make is ...

The story behind WatchMojo's AI-powered chatbots

Posted on December 8th, 2017

About a year ago, thanks to my product leadership role at WatchMojo I got to lead an AI-powered chatbot initiative. There’s been an explosion of messaging apps: 1.2 billion people use Facebook Messenger, 1.2 billion people use WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. Snapchat, in terms of non-native iOS apps, is No. 2 in terms of how much time people spend with that app. iMessage is the most used iOS app. And of course, good old-fashioned SMS is on 4 billion phones. Often companies decide to expand their product portfolio of offerings to better support an existing market. Instead, we decided to promote our existing set of video offerings to a new market segment. We wanted to engage users through 100M+ devices including voice-activated sp...

I do it because it’s good business

Posted on October 29th, 2017

This year, by partnering with Founder Fuel, Founder Institute and D3 Innovation Center I set a lofty goal to undertake pro bono advisory work. I gave over a hundred hours of advisory services in the startup interest. Including to individuals, fast scaling tech companies and incubator groups. I did so for the pedagogic value of enhancing my product and business related skill sets. The standout component was the one-on-one time with the startup founders. Running a startup is not easy work. They forgo stability in exchange for the promise of fast growth. The solutions are not obvious and success is not guaranteed. I hope they gained from my experience, network of people, encouragements and ideas. The ones below are leapfrogging to succ...

Be the CRO (Chief Repeating Officer)

Posted on September 3rd, 2017

The tyranny of the urgent can lead product managers down slippery rabbit holes. The ones that set you up to those "unconnected dots" discussions where all you do is puke out frustration. You improvise, make up emotional reasons why certain features will take priority over others. You say it with a this-is-my-turf-don’t-touch-it tone. It stirs up resentment, leads to a loss of integrity and sometimes irrational acts. I’m often asked how I pull myself out of the weeds and work strategically and long-term. The first and paramount responsibility of a product Manager is a never-ending, difficult, oft-shunned task of building a shared understanding of the product strategy through listening, influencing, and repetition. The creation and manag...

Empathy is the mother of all product roadmaps

Posted on September 3rd, 2017

Empathy is key to building great products. Give it to your office community, and they will love you. Be a good listener. Encourage them to talk about their product ideas. Talk in term of their interests, let them feel that the idea is theirs and use it to firm up your roadmap. The empathic component is what makes a product manager special. In a field that values objective performance, spending your time on empathic interaction is perceived as a waste of time because is not measurable. But there is a connection between empathy and other outcomes, such as enhanced team buy-in, smoother communication and information exchange. Patient-physician interactions Let's analyse this from another professions point of view. Researchers have long e...

Paul Ortchanian

This blog discusses leadership and product management. Have a product team that could be more effective? Need expertise on challenges ranging from strategy, crafting roadmaps and motivating the team to deliver the right thing in the right timeframe? Contact me at paul@reflektions.com