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The Spaces In-Between: Four Conversations from Mind the Product/London 2017

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Mind the Product/London

Fifteen hundred and ninety-five product professionals gathered one week ago today at Mind the Product/London to discuss all things, well…product! There are many excellent posts summarizing the content of the conference, including:

I’ll focus on something that’s often talked about, but not always recounted: the conversations that happen during breaks between speakers, over dinner, coffee, and elsewhere. Inevitably, these conversations did relate back to product somehow even if they might seem not to at first. Product people have product minds, there’s no escaping it.

Sound – How loud is it?

Hanging out with Amber Case, author of Calm Technology and the forthcoming Sound Design, saw her constantly pulling out her phone to check the noise level at the coffee shop Prufrock – it was around 90 dB. We observed a few people at tables by themselves with headphones on. It was a bit loud for the 5 of us to carry on a conversation, and we didn’t stay there for too long. Amber pointed up to the corner and mentioned that if there were some sound dampeners, the coffee shop might have more customers.

Lesson: Small details matter more than you think. You might not realize how important they are to your product’s experience.

Cycling in London

At the speakers dinner, I was fortunate to find myself sitting next to Roman Pitchler. If you’ve ever had the chance to chat with Roman, he’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet. It turns out Roman also has a love for cycling, which I hadn’t known. We spent a good chunk of dinner just chatting about bikes, disc brakes, and so on. He even invited me for a ride the next time I’m in London. There were plenty of amazing speakers, authors, or other product rockstars nearby, yet we had a fabulous conversation between the two of us that we both enjoyed. I even got an invite for a ride in London!

Lesson: Stay focused on what, or who, is right in front of you. There may be opportunities you had never imagined.

Cake, please!

No cake-or-death here. At every Mind-the-Product Andrea Saez crushes product demos at the ProdPad booth. I’ve been in similar roles in my past, and I know how challenging it can be. Prior to the conference she made mention in a Twitter post about cake. So, I thought: I’ll bring the cake! When is cake not a good thing? When you’re gluten free or allergic to cake ingredients, that’s when! While I was looking for nearby bakeries it occurred to me that I should inquire about dietary restrictions. One of my favorite cakes is a chocolate cake with peanut-butter frosting. Who doesn’t love that? People with peanut allergies, that’s who! I asked Andrea and learned that nuts and shellfish were off-limits. So much for sharing my favorite. I eventually located a nearby bakery, acquired some cupcakes that fit her restrictions, and delivered them to her booth.

Lesson: Design for ‘we’, not for ‘me’. You are not the user.

Crossfit. Yes, Crossfit

“Oh gawd, they’re in the Cult of Crossfit,” I can hear you thinking loudly. At Dishoom, a fantastic Indian restaurant in London, I dined with my co-author Bruce McCarthy, and speakers Teresa Torres and Barry O’Reilly. The three of us are Crossfit athletes, to varying degrees of commitment, so it was a sure-fire discussion topic. One interesting observation Barry made was that the founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman, started to scale the company with an exemplary MVP: by simply posting the workout of the day (also known as: WOD) to the crossfit.com website. They also created a messageboard (hey it was 2001, every site had a message board back then!) where people from all over started to reply with comments on the WOD, suggest their own versions, brag about their accomplishments, etc. With that input, Glassman was getting market feedback from his customers and validating product-market fit. Further, he was building an audience. And you thought we were just going to gush about the awesome the WOD!

Lesson: MVPs come in all shapes and sizes. Keep your eyes open as you might learn something from another industry

And there you have it, four product lessons from the spaces in between at the Mind the Product/London 2017. If you weren’t there check out 2018 edition and look us up!

By the way, I’ve written a book with Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, and Michael Connors entitled “Product Roadmaps Relaunched.” This was also the topic of my workshop at Mind the Product/London. You can check out my slides here:


Author C. Todd Lombardo

C. Todd brings his vast experience in design, innovation, and strategic thinking to craft smart, impactful solutions that radically transform our clients’ business strategies.

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