Our series of YOLK events continue to go from strength to strength. Rather than letting all that brainpower go to waste, I thought I’d write up my takeaways from our most recent event to share with you all.
As context and for those of you who are not familiar with these sessions, YOLK is a series of events run by the team at Hatchd that focus on the trends and behaviours shaping the business landscape, both here in Perth and beyond.
Our first four events took a distinct industry focus, as panellists discussed and debated disruption in the transport, health, banking and government sectors. For our fifth event, we’ve pivoted a little to focus on mindset rather than industry.
Our clients at Hatchd are a diverse bunch, coming from industries like agtech, government, robotics and energy to name just a few. Despite their vastly different industries, we’ve found most of our clients face similar challenges and opportunities.
Throughout our clients’ journeys and Hatchd’s own evolution as a company, one thing has become increasingly apparent to me - we’re all in the business of building products. The product may be physical like an electric car or digital, like an online booking platform. But we’re all building products, and it’s the companies that build and market the best products that ultimately win.
It was off the back of this revelation that we decided to focus the latest instalment of YOLK on the ‘product mindset’ pitting it against the more traditional project-based business approach. The event title we settled on was ‘RIP Projects: Why a product mindset is the way forward.’
I was joined on stage by some really smart (and funny!) people from Google, Bankwest, Virtual Gaming Worlds, Nuhera and HealthEngine to debate, discuss and share thoughts on why focussing on products delivers results that focussing on projects simply can’t.
This was the first time I’ve been on-stage at one of our YOLK events, and now that my adrenaline has calmed (I don’t love public speaking), I’ve captured the points that resonated with me the most.
Product focus and customer focus are not mutually exclusive
The morning’s discussion kicked off with a question around whether the customer-first mantra so many companies have pinned their corporate strategies to is becoming redundant in the face of a new product-centred future. All panellists, myself included, agreed that the two mentalities can and should live side-by-side.
One panellist highlighted that ‘the number one issue facing businesses is building a product your customers don’t want’ and that to overcome this challenge you need tight links between your customer’s needs and the product you’re building.
To me, customer satisfaction will always remain at the centre of everything great businesses do. Building great products is the delivery mechanism that allows us to arrive at that customer satisfaction.
Great people build great products
This isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, and it certainly won’t be the last, but in the product space, culture is king. We all agreed on the importance of assembling a great team to do great work. In order to do this, there is a range of hard and soft skills that you should hire for:
- The core skills for the role (obviously)
- The ability to collaborate
- The ability to communicate (choose people that can write!)
- The ability to prioritise and be productive
- Emotional intelligence
Despite what we so often hear about the shortage of talent here in Perth, my takeaway was that most panellists were at least somewhat optimistic about hiring in Perth. It’s true the talent pool is not as deep as it might be on the east coast and that we’ll continue to lose a portion of our ‘best and brightest’ to places like Silicon Valley and the UK. However, the lifestyle and cost of living here in Perth means it is possible to attract talent here. Furthermore, many of those that leave in their 20’s looking for the opportunities and challenges a bigger market presents often return to Perth in their 30’s when a family comes onto the agenda.
Failing fast should be celebrated
There was a great deal of discussion about customer validation of products and new product features. As we strive to put the customer at the centre of everything we do, it stands to reason that customer insights should inform our every move.
But what happens when customers don’t know what they want? Well, it’s at that point you have to be bold and run with your ideas. There are numerous examples of instances where significant progress and improvement came as a direct result of a ‘failure’. Once again it comes back to culture. The businesses that build a culture that allows staff members to make bold (yet rational) decisions without fear of punishment should they fall flat, are the businesses that are able to move and innovate most quickly.
This mindset also plays into the delivery of great products. Unlike a project which has a defined start and end, a product is a living organism and needs to evolve. By taking a long-term focus and understanding that incremental micro-failures and readjustments are part of the product evolution process, businesses can take a huge step towards delivering products that will continue to meet the ever-changing needs of their users.
Responsibility and trust are critical
Product teams can only move at the required speed if members are empowered to make decisions. Giving responsibility to your team and partners and then trusting them to execute is something that all great product businesses seem to get right.
We talked about the numerous challenges faced in creating an organisational structure that could deliver on the bold goals they had assigned themselves. While the blockers were different (from stuffy corporate environments to charismatic, but hard to pin down founders), the resounding belief is that creating structures that allowed people to do their best work and then getting out the way was ultimately the best way forward.
After a great deal of chatter about what a product-mindset is and why it matters, a pragmatic audience member asked the question that was likely on most minds, ‘where do we even start?!’ Here’s my advice on how to get the ball rolling:
Try to shift the conversations with leaders in your business from short-term to long-term.
- Get crystal clear on how you’ll represent the benefits of a product approach to leaders in your organisation.
- Understand that the funding structure and program of work to support a product approach is vastly different from a traditional project-based approach.
- Consider your internal culture and talent pool and understand any alterations that will need to be made to support this new way of working.
- Call Hatchd! I had to get a plug in there somewhere. But in all seriousness, at Hatchd we position ourselves as the ‘product people’. We’ve co-created and delivered great products with our clients across industry sectors. If you have any questions on what was discussed at this event or are interested in exploring what a product-led approach could do for your business, get in touch with our team. We’ll be more than happy to help.
That’s all from this instalment of YOLK. To stay up to date on all that’s happening with future YOLK events, follow the YOLK Showcase page on LinkedIn.
YOLK is an invite only event, but if you are currently working in the product space and feel you have some insights that could bolster the discussions we’re having, please reach to us at email@example.com.
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