Category Archives: Leadership

How to accelerate Customer Impact thru Discovery 🤩 without the framework hype 😅

Too many teams miss out on unlocking product value (plus fun & learning as bonus) either by not focusing on discovery, or obsessing about the process. Worst is when leaders track efficiency metrics to manage it. Having learned discovery the hard way myself (credits at the end), I think I understand why. But more importantly, I want to share 3 areas leaders can manage instead, so teams are empowered to do their job.

I’d like to start by reflecting on two quotes that explain discovery best.

“Discovery, by definition, means you don’t know the answer when you start.”

Ed Catmull’s (Co-founder, Pixar) spirit1 in Marty Cagan’s words2. Either way, two great influencers on building lovable products.

The most magnificent thing takes a while to build.

Moral of Ashley Spires’ story, The Most Magnificent Thing, for pre-schoolers captures the ups & downs of the creative process perfectly.

There are two unknowns in there: scope (resources) & time — presuming everyone likes high quality. And Management 101 teaches leaders to fear & control both. Rightly so, because they have opportunity costs associated, making leaders and teams anxious about discovery. Instead of trying to observe what works and what to fix, they resort to a shinier process for a false sense of control. 🤦🏽

Don’t get me wrong about process; I love process as a guard-rail but not as the only rail.

Instead if leaders just observed these 3 areas from a distance, they would know exactly where to coach, while empowering teams to have a fulfilling time doing discovery.

1. Origin of discovery work

Understand 🔍

  • How do teams explain ‘discovery’ and their current process? Particularly useful when starting in a new role, and helps understand the mindset, frameworks and approach of the team.
  • What triggers discovery and where does it begin? Answers would most likely range between ticket, feature, idea, problem and mission. Great teams (with a well-defined purpose) are at the right-end of that scale — both literally and metaphorically.

Improve 💡

  • Democratise access to data – both quantitative and qualitative. Data Analysts should be reserved for higher-order analysis that modern-day product analytics and data visualisation tools are still not ready for. User research findings should also be in an easy to search system4. Same goes for customer service tickets and feature requests.

Data accessibility ensures product teams know just as much as anyone else in the company about what their customers need and don’t need to be thrown ideas at.

  • Educate the team on core discovery concepts: dual-track Agile, design thinking, customer journeys, jobs-to-be-done, design sprints. Instead of adopting one as-is, retrospect and restore the missing pieces in your process. Don’t be shy to repeat.
  • Guide teams to clear missions which help them understand which problems to own, and which ones to solve with other mission teams. Assuming good team topology exists. Connect to company mission.
  • Challenge teams on their opportunity(-solution) trees and discuss how those bets fit within the portfolio of bets you manage in your product area. Connect to north star metric through KPIs these opportunities impact.
  • Reflect on discovery content you discover — frameworks, blogs, podcasts, etc — to draw parallels to your process and control the FOMO. Trust me, they all rinse-and-repackage the same core principles.
Continue reading How to accelerate Customer Impact thru Discovery 🤩 without the framework hype 😅

🎧 Hear how mentoring can make you a stronger leader

In this podcast, Daniel Bartholomae & I discuss how mentoring talent has strengthened our core leadership skills. Hear it on Spotify or SoundCloud and let me know what you think. Cheers to a first! 🍻

I also wrote a post on the Mentoring Club Insights blog talking about the mentoring loop, that you might like.

4 Simple routines I adopted in 2020 to reduce anxiety and increase positivity 🧘💪🏼😇

Before diving in 2021, I wanted to reflect on the past year. Like I said, 2020 was crazy, but we thrived. Crisis presented a bunch of new opportunities. I want to share how being thoughtful about 4 habits I became contributors to my sanity and satisfaction of life.

1. I won back my time, mind & body.

gray pedestrian lane

With everything around overwhelming us, time and headspace became more constrained than ever. I gradually made 5 simple changes to my day, starting with a digital detox. These include writing weekly priorities, replacing breakfast, checking messages less often, (less Netflix) more podcasts, and ending the day with an activity. All of which reduced anxiety and gave something to look forward to everyday. The headspace allowed leading and caring better — both at work and home. And without the time, none of the below would’ve been possible.

2. I gave back through mentoring.

Having done some informal mentoring in 2019, the Mentoring Club, and later, the Vodafone Institute’s female social entrepreneurship accelerator F-Lane, provided the platform and structure to mentor as a routine. The overall experience from 30 sessions was highly enriching and immensely contributed to sharpening my core leadership skills. For that, and the joy of giving back to community, I will certainly continue to mentor in 2021

I’m really happy I could give back

3. I learned & practiced a lot.

2020 started off with the most awesome personal trip with work colleaguesyes, read that again. — to ski for the first time ever. What you see below is the result of 2 hours of training, 2 days of (almost non-stop) practice and endless encouragement from fantastic companions.

That’s me on the 3rd day of skiing in my entire life. Thanks Geoff for capturing this.

That was of course before spending rest of the year indoors. I decided on strengthening my discovery & innovation skills, and completed 2 enlightening & collaborative courses from Ideo: Insights for Innovation and Human-centered service design, over 10 weeks. It enabled a big mindset shift and to see user feedback in a new light, allowing better experimentation to maximize learning. I also self-studied the Monetisation & Pricing and Product Strategy courses from Reforge, greatly useful for 2021 strategy & planning.

Continue reading 4 Simple routines I adopted in 2020 to reduce anxiety and increase positivity 🧘💪🏼😇

5 tips: how to find a job in Germany, Europe, or anywhere else 🇺🇸🇦🇺🇸🇬

A couple of recent mentoring sessions ended with mentees asking how to find a job in Berlin, particularly asking about English-speaking opportunities. While I could share my own experience of moving here from Dubai, I asked fellow mentors from the Mentoring Club: Büşra Coşkuner (Product Consultant), Fani Bahar (Product @ VMWare Pivotal Labs), Pavlo Voznenko (CTO, Instamotion) & Rahul Jain (Principal EM, Omio). for some tips. And like great mentors, they were kind to share their expertise. 

1. Reflect on why you want to move 🪞

No one leaves home without a reason, but it’s important to articulate your own. While it’s mostly one of career advancement, quality of life, or cultural curiosity, your individual priorities might differ. Not only does reflection help decide, it also helps trade off – as most moves require.

💡 Tip #1 Evaluate objectively: Identify and rank your criteria from what matter most to what you can let go. Don’t let gut decide.

Rahul suggests probing into reasons, evaluating the decision objectively and noting fundamental differences between locations. EU is less capitalist (more socialist) than the US, implying lower disposable income, but great public health care. The US is ahead in tech, offers more opportunities, lesser bureaucracy and doesn’t need a new language.

My journey: I moved for quality of life and to experience a new culture, which I traded off with tax-free income, luxury and proximity from home. No regrets. I evaluated my priorities using this decision framework (spreadsheet linked).

2. Short list countries & cities to live in 🌍

Selecting cities needs way more than looking at a map. You have to understand the supply-demand for roles you’re seeking, immigration barriers (language, visa, residency) and cost of living.

As Pavlo pointed, moving with a partner broadens your options. That way, the one whose role has higher demand can pioneer, while the other can bridge barriers and eventually land a job. He also notes the option of studying in Germany, which promotes internship as a means of entry.

💡 Tip #2 Reach out: to your network — friends, family, professional contacts or a mentor — with clear context and questions. Don’t confuse them with asking help finding you a job.

Continue reading 5 tips: how to find a job in Germany, Europe, or anywhere else 🇺🇸🇦🇺🇸🇬

8 priorities that shape your career decision

Backstory: My decision to leave L&T was reactive. While I evaluated it using some criteria, the move itself wasn’t planned. This framework is what I used when starting with Landmark in Dubai, and it also served my move to Babbel.

This is an overwhelming, topic but its important to get started! Here’s how to plan start planning your career:

  • Start with a slightly long-term vision. A 4-6 year horizon intertwining your personal & professional aspiration – fueling the purpose that’ll fuel your passion.
  • Broken down to define short-term milestones (next 2 years). Enhancing your toolkit: skills, business, tech acumen, or just leadership skills – towards mastery.
  • An action plan. E.g. Update your resume

Basing career decisions on intuition is a bad idea 👎🏼 Whether you’re kicking off search or accepting an offer, start with figuring what you’re optimizing for.

Basically kicking yourself out of your comfort zone! In this post, we’ll get started thinking what’s important to you. Everyone has needs. Being honest with yourself and prioritizing what’s important to you will not only help decide but also trade-off between opportunity cost and risk.

Its personal. But steering life is important. Its scary and exciting. Sound boarding this with a mentor is always a good idea.

The list below is how I look at choices – not necessarily in that order. You might need to tweak it for yourself – ⬇️ download or ➡️ view the spreadsheet online.

1. Opportunity & Toolkit

  • Enhances your toolkit?
  • Offers challenges, opportunities to learn?
  • Novelty*? A new domain / technology / vertical / market
  • Gives access to good mentors & a network?
  • Opens new avenues in the future**?
  • Offers better title***? Consider position in the organization hierarchy, competition
  • Offers a better role? Influence v/s Authority, Leadership
    * Novelty alone shouldn’t be a driver
    ** Don’t overrate future prospects when starting your career
    *** Opt for a rationalized, industry-wide title

2. Goals & PassionSource: runnersgoal.com

  • Makes best use of your passion?
  • Gets you a step closer to a future goal?
  • Aligns with personal interests – wealth, network, travel?
  • Gives a meaning, purpose to your life?

3. Risks

  • Leaving your comfort zone?
  • Chances of failing in the new role?
  • Relocating to a new country/city?
  • Could this be short-term? Changing jobs too often?
  • Employment contract? Notice period?
  • Is your gut sounding an alarm?
    * Answering No means low risk, high score
    ** Taking no action also has its own risk
Continue reading 8 priorities that shape your career decision

#RELOOKUP – Rationalizing Housing’s emotional appeal

Ever since I’ve had a wifemy only one – from the advertising arena, I’ve developed a keen eye for commercials & hoardings. If you’ve been in Mumbai in the last month or so, there is no way you have missed the myriad of Housing.com banners extending for miles. Touching emotions is the magic bullet to successful campaigns in the Indian market. Housing did just that, and I feel it succeeded. But when I visited the portal, I felt it lacked the means to realize the dreams the hoardings had shown me, albeit a slick user interface.

Here is what I thought would’ve helped kick-start the #LOOKUP journey and rationalize the emotional appeal.

See nothing? View the presentation on SlideShare
Header image: Sharad Madiman / Gaurav Prakash

 

3 reasons for e-commerce to go mobile-only

A couple of weeks back, Myntra announced it was closing its web-shop to focus on a mobile-only strategy. With Myntra’s app-based sales already at 60%, it is now aiming at 90%. Soon after, its parent and India’s largest e-commerce site, Flipkart, confirmed similar plans for the next year. Why are  eCommerce giants moving from a mobile-first to mobile-only strategy? Here are the top reasons for having users on the mobile platform – all of which directly impact the bottom line.

1. Customer acquisition & retention

With penetration in India expected to reach 45% by 2020, mobile-only is a flawless strategy to tap into the next generation of eShoppers. A single page m-site is enough to redirect (or force) users to move the existing user base to an app. Comparing products across individual apps is painful. Unless someone comes up with a comparison app, that can launch individual apps for detail, users are likely to stick to a single app. Achieving such a mindshare and stickiness is much harder to do on the web.

2. Insight for direct marketing

Once an app is installed, keeping track of consumer behaviour – usage, shopping times, interests, conversion, etc – is very easy. With registered users, additional demographic information is available which together with predictive analysis can be used to generate personalized suggestions. Push notifications allow strong, direct interaction with the user. In addition to suggestions, it can be used to communicate offers and remind inactive users of abandoned carts, without the fear of getting stuck in spam folders. With direct access to the user, spend on ads & affiliate marketing can be reduced, which otherwise shrinks margins by 8-20%.

3. Cost savings & increased sales

Once developed, apps are cheaper to maintain and can scale faster than the web front and avoid  scaling issues like with the Big Flipkart sale. It also helps deliver better user experiences, optimized to generate sales. With users connected 24×7 via mobile, apps allow users to shop on-the-go. It also makes bundling, up-selling, cross-selling, and generating repeat business much easier. Direct access to users saves 8-20% of margins otherwise lost on ads & affiliate marketing, driving the customer retention cost to a minimum.

Driving consumer passion to “Make In India”

MakeInIndia’s success at the Hannover Messe has been the talk of the town for a while. And truly so, it has made every Indian proud of the country’s vision. While the program is primarily meant to transform India into a manufacturing-driven economy, I do not see why it cannot be extended to everything we make in India – whether for export or domestic use.

All through my travels in Australia, I couldn’t ignore the promotion of products made in Australia, by Australian owned businesses – right down to bread and water.

Promotion of products made in Australia
Promotion of products made in Australia

Population is a double-edged sword. While population shrivels available resources, it itself is an important resource in industrialization. And India can use this abundant resource to its advantage, to make #MakeInIndia a reality. For this, I think it is key Continue reading Driving consumer passion to “Make In India”

Living in a metaconscious state

Each one of us keeps waxing and waning in the cyclic pattern called life. How we deal with extremes – the high and low points of life as we call them – is crucial to how well we get on to the next wave. The high points risk of making us rude, while the lows can be depressing. I’m not against emotions or letting them flow; but trouble is when emotions take over logic and lowers consciousness down to the individualist level.

I must’ve developed logical reasoning pretty early on. But I do remember becoming emotionally aware as I connected with more and more people over teenhood. More recently, I began training my mind to be self-aware – basically keeping a constant check on emotions to alarm the brain of a possible shift in the emotional equilibrium. Experts call this cognitive monitoring or being in the state of integral consciousness.

With this, my goal is to be fully conscious to count lemons as they come, and make my best attempt to make lemonade. I’m continually adding recipes of wisdom to improve the conversion rate. But at least, whenever a situation excites, perplexes, or angers me, I remind myself that the time has come! To Continue reading Living in a metaconscious state

Engage in one-on-ones & motivate your team with this Trello board

After a lot of reading & thinking, I came up with the idea of a simple Trello board to help me conduct effective one-on-one meetings with my team, and to plan each team member’s growth. This is the boilerplate that I could quickly replicate for each team member using  Trello’s “Copy Board…” feature. My team has been using it since last October and they’ve found it really helpful to communicate their achievements, issues and most importantly, to plan their growth.

Thanks to them, its now mature enough to help other managers better engage with their teams.  The boilerplate board is now public so you can easily copy & build on top of it. Here is a sample board showing real-world use. Get started by copying the boilerplate, and let me know how it works or how we can improve it.

Boilerplate (Get started by copying) | Real-world example

Motivation/Idea

My one-on-one pattern has greatly evolved over the last 4 years that I’ve managed teams. Starting naively by tracking work,  it now leaves the daily stuff out and instead focuses on the individual itself. When my travel increased, I felt the need for something online to retain the connect. I believe in transparency and I hate secret dossiers; I wanted a platform where we both have the same view of the relationship, which becomes the single version of truth for all discussion. Also, since it was their plan, I wanted my team to have access even when they decide to move on.

I’ve got inspiration from a lot of sources: blogs, surveys & talks I’ve participated in, etc. Thanks to all!

Board Structure

There’s enough on the board for either of you to take interest. It helps drive strategy, but still track tactical stuff; stuff that’s important for the individual’s growth, and the manager’s. Continue reading Engage in one-on-ones & motivate your team with this Trello board