290 episodes

The Everyday Innovator is a weekly podcast dedicated to your success as a product manager and innovator. Join me, Chad McAllister, for interviews with product professionals, discussing their successes, failures, and lessons-learned to help you excel in your career and create products your customers will love. Every organization must have products that provide value to their customers. People like you who know how to create that value are the ones with real influence. The topics are relevant to product and innovation management, and include: creating a culture of innovation, managing product development, validating the viability of product concepts, conducting market research, selecting a product innovation methodology, generating product ideas, working well with teams and cross-functionally, and much more.

The Everyday Innovator Podcast for Product Managers Chad McAllister, PhD - Helping Product Managers become Product Masters

    • Management
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The Everyday Innovator is a weekly podcast dedicated to your success as a product manager and innovator. Join me, Chad McAllister, for interviews with product professionals, discussing their successes, failures, and lessons-learned to help you excel in your career and create products your customers will love. Every organization must have products that provide value to their customers. People like you who know how to create that value are the ones with real influence. The topics are relevant to product and innovation management, and include: creating a culture of innovation, managing product development, validating the viability of product concepts, conducting market research, selecting a product innovation methodology, generating product ideas, working well with teams and cross-functionally, and much more.

    TEI 301: Innovation hacks for product managers – with Scott Anthony

    TEI 301: Innovation hacks for product managers – with Scott Anthony

    Five behaviors of great product managers and innovators

    In this discussion we visit two topics—one to help you be more successful personally and another to help your organization be more successful. The first examines five behaviors to be a better innovator. The second is breaking through barriers in your organization that limit innovation and the effectiveness of product managers.

    Our guest for this discussion is Scott Anthony, a Senior Partner at Innosight, based in the firm’s Singapore office. If you are unfamiliar with Innosight, this is the innovation consultancy created by Clayton Christensen, the father of disruptive innovation and Harvard Business School professor.

    The insights that Scott shares with us are from a new book he co-authored with a title that is perfect for this podcast—Eat, Sleep, Innovate. As Everyday Innovators, we see innovation opportunities each day, and that notion is conveyed well in the Eat, Sleep, Innovate title too!

    Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

    [4:28] How do you define innovation?

    Innovation is something different that creates value. It’s purposely a broad definition. “Something” can be more than just new products or technology; it can also be new ways to market, new ways to organize meetings, etc. “Different” reminds us that while big leaps forward are great, you can also make something different by simplifying or making it more accessible. “Creates value” means that innovation isn’t just the idea; you have to do something with it to increase revenue, profits, engagement, etc.

    [5:04] What are the five basic behaviors of innovators?



    * Curious—questioning status quo

    * Collaborative—if you want a great idea, you need to work at the intersections

    * Customer-obsessed—so you can find problems worth solving

    * Adapted to ambiguity—because every idea is partially right and partially wrong

    * Empowered—you can’t innovate until you go and do something



    [5:35] What are some hacks for being better innovators?

    [5:47] Hacks for being curious: Make it a regular habit to ask prompting questions that can open up avenues for innovation. Stay positive. Reframe worries as opportunities.

    [8:37] Hacks for being collaborative: When you’re solving a problem, find someone who’s already solved it. You might find a source related to a different context, but once you have inspiration you can bring it to your context.

    [10:53] Hacks for being customer-focused: Increase the amount of time you spend with customers. If you don’t understand what your customer values, you run the risk of innovating for innovation’s sake; you’ll come up with something cool that no one cares about. Great innovators have an empathetic understanding for the person they’re trying to serve. Understand the job they’re trying to get done or the problem they’re having. Use the many available tools to help you understand the problems you’re solving.

    [13:25] Hacks for being adapted to ambiguity: Follow an emergent strategy, meaning you discover truth through controlled experimentation. Early in innovation, your idea will be a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and you won’t know which part is which. The tendency is to solve this analytically, but you’ll make assumptions and miss something. Instead, recognize the few things you know and the many assumptions you’re making, and find the most effective and efficient way to experiment. Experiments don’t have to be complicated. Look for low-risk ways to test your idea. Create models or simulations.

    [18:11] Hacks for being empowered: Ask forgiveness, not permission. Figure out how to do stuff in a scrappy way in a constrained environment. Get other people behind you by telling the story of why your idea is compelling.

    • 34 min
    TEI 300: Off the cuff on product management – with Steve Johnson

    TEI 300: Off the cuff on product management – with Steve Johnson

    A conversation of insights for product managers

    This is our 300th episode. The podcast started in January 2015, and we have not missed a week. Thank you so much for listening and for sharing it with others! The purpose of the podcast has not changed—to better equip product managers and leaders for more success. Some Everyday Innovators have shared how listening has helped them—doubling their salary, finding a new job after not interviewing for many years, moving to a different industry, gaining a better appreciation of customers, and more.  

    To mark the 300th episode, I asked past guest Steve Johnson to join me for a completely unscripted, off-the-cuff discussion. We had no specific topic or questions in mind, and the result is a free-flowing discussion about changes with product management we are seeing and changes we want to make. 

    I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we did making it. 

    Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

    Why product managers are important



    * This has been an interesting year for business. Companies are re-thinking product management.

    * Throughout the challenges, organizations have realized a couple of things:



    * They really need product managers. They’re embracing product management as a repeatable, sustainable function to keep their products going.

    * They need to optimize their team. There has been a lot of chaos, caused by confusion about the role of product management.







    Prioritizing ideas



    * Companies should prioritize projects or new features based on…



    * value for the customer.

    * value for the business.





    * Sometimes a new feature will not provide good value to customers and may even distract them. We might like to polish our products, but we shouldn’t waste resources or create distractions.

    * Creating value for the customer will return value to the organization.

    * Assuming all possible features are valuable to the customer, a feature that creates more business and increases profitability is a better outcome.

    * The Lean Canvas is a tool to help product managers prioritize projects. It’s focused on creating a product and identifying the customer, the customer’s problem, and the solution you could provide. It helps you compare projects and choose one or two to accomplish with the resources you have.



    Customer discovery and the role of product managers



    * Many organizations have too many ideas. Before describing possible solutions, spend time doing discovery, personally talking with possible customers. Before prioritizing, get commitment from leadership. Only then, flesh out the canvas and begin development.

    * If product managers are involved in development, they must also be preparing for launch and market. Release is the end of development, but launch is the beginning of marketing.

    * Companies must be judicious about selecting projects—they may have many good ideas, but must figure out which one or two they need to get to first to create the most value for the customer and the business.

    * Product ideas should be:



    * supported by evidence, not just someone’s pet project.

    * something customers are willing to pay for.

    * feasible for the business.





    * The product manager generates ideas by talking to customers. Then the company needs to prioritize what they’re going to do, get the ideas to the developers, and then to the salespeople and ultimately the customer.



    The magic wand



    * If you had a magic wand that could change an organization, what key thing would you do to improve product management?

    * Steve’s answer: I wish product management were recognized as a profession. People aren’t clear about what product managers are supposed to be.

    • 44 min
    TEI 299: Better product team performance by understanding introverts – with Jennifer Kahnweiler, PhD

    TEI 299: Better product team performance by understanding introverts – with Jennifer Kahnweiler, PhD

    Why product managers need to understand introverts and extroverts

    If you work with other people, and I think that is just about all of us, you are going to love this episode. People are either extroverts or introverts. For everyone leading a team or working in a team, you can improve the team performance by improving how introverts and extroverts interact.

    To help us improve team performance, I went to the person who has spent her professional life researching, writing about, and speaking on introverts. That is Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler.  

    She helps organizations harness the power of introverts. Her recent book is Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance. 

    Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

    [6:30] What are the definitions of introverts and extroverts?

    The identifying factor is where they get their energy. After being with people all day, introverts need to recharge during quiet time. Extroverts get charged up by being with people.

    There is some misunderstanding about introverts. Many introverts are labeled as shy, which is seen as a problem. Shyness has to do with anxiety, and it can be overcome. Introversion is a natural way people are wired.

    [9:49] How can we identify introverts and extroverts by their characteristics?

    Introverts tend to be calm, take time to think, embrace silence, and be humble. Extroverts can get people to talk and like to be in a large room where they’re having multiple conversations. Usually, someone can determine whether they’re an extrovert or introvert by their characteristics. There are also ambiverts, people who identify with both extroverts and introverts.

    There’s a myth that introverts aren’t in people-facing roles. That’s absolutely not true. A study a few years ago showed that introverts make the best leaders for extroverts because they’re very good listeners.

    [14:20] How can introverts better relate to the people around them?

    Introverts will do well to prepare for their interactions with others and to connect one-on-one. Consider some questions you would like to ask and schedule a meeting or phone call with someone for an intentional reason, such as hoping to learn from them or serving as a mentor. Having deep relationships is an introvert’s strength, and they like to get into deep conversations, but it’s also important to learn to use small talk to build relationships and then move to substance.

    [19:53] How can extroverts better relate to introverts?

    An important principle is “Accept the alien.” Realizing that somebody is different from you and you cannot change them takes away stress because instead of spending time trying to change them you’re learning how to work with them. Extroverts need to listen. When introverts pause in a conversation, they may be reflecting and have more to say. Extroverts can tend toward “loudership,” meaning the loudest voice gets to lead. If you do this, you’re excluding others’ ideas that you and your team need to hear. Extroverts can discipline themselves to listen, such as waiting for three people to talk before offering their opinion, or asking someone to email them ideas after a meeting. It’s also helpful to tell people the agenda for a meeting ahead of time so they have time to prepare their thoughts. Another tool is giving everyone a few minutes to write down their ideas before anyone shares.

    [24:44] As an introvert, after seeing myself on video at a professional development event, I realized that even though I was engaged, my voice and body language weren’t showing that. I’ve learned to speak louder and use my eye contact and body language to show my engagement. What are your thoughts?

    We want to choose behaviors that narrow the perception gap,

    • 38 min
    TEI 298: How product managers can use appreciation to improve product teams – with Dr. Paul White

    TEI 298: How product managers can use appreciation to improve product teams – with Dr. Paul White

    The five languages of appreciation for product managers

    Dr. Paul White is a psychologist, author, speaker, and leadership trainer who “makes work relationships work.” For the past 20 years, he’s improved numerous businesses, schools, government agencies, and non-profit organizations by helping them: 



    * Create positive workplace relationships and improve staff morale. 

    * Eliminate the cynicism, sarcasm, and lack of trust that often are associated with traditional employee recognition programs. 

    * Overcome the obstacles to help staff communicate authentic appreciation to one another. 



    Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

    [5:03] You recently wrote The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. What is appreciation and why is it important?

    Appreciation is feeling valued for what you do or who you are. Stephen Covey said that appreciation is the highest need beyond physical survival. As opposed to employee recognition, which motivates toward specific goals, appreciation helps people feel valued for who they are.

    [6:37] What are the benefits of appreciating our colleagues?

    Appreciation does much more than just make people feel good. We have over fifty citations of research that shows the return-on-investment of appreciation. When team members feel valued, absenteeism and staff turnover go down and productivity and profitability go up. Appreciation is the oil in the machine that helps things running smoothly with less friction and less sparks.

    Let’s talk about the five languages of appreciation.

    [10:39] #1 Words of Affirmation (preferred by 46% of employees)

    When using words that affirm a person’s value, be specific. Don’t just say “good job.”



    * Use the person’s name.

    * Specify what they’ve done that you value.

    * Tell why their action is important to you.



    [11:56] #2 Quality Time (preferred by 26% of employees)

    Quality time doesn’t have to take long. Just a few minutes can mean a lot. Quality time can take two forms…



    * Focused attention—some people like to meet one-on-one to share and listen. It’s important you are not distracted.

    * Peer interactions—others people, especially younger employees, prefer time with several colleagues, e.g., going to lunch together.



    [13:02] #3 Acts of Service (preferred by 22% of employees)

    Acts of service isn’t rescuing a low-performing colleague. Instead, consider serving a colleague working on a time-limited project. For example…



    * Doing some work they delegate.

    * Running interference with their email or phone calls.

    * Bringing in meals so they can keep working.



    [14:00] #4 Tangible Gifts (preferred by 6% of employees)

    Tangible gifts does not mean raises and bonuses. It’s small things that show you’re getting to know your team members. For example…



    * Their favorite cup of coffee.

    * A gift card, especially for something you know they enjoy.

    * Magazines related to their hobby.

    * Pair tangible gifts with another appreciation language to make it more impactful.



    [16:06] #5 Physical Touch (preferred by 1% of employees)

    We struggled with whether to keep this in, but we did because…



    * We don’t want to advocate a touchless society. Appropriate physical touch can be meaningful in an appropriate setting.

    * Physical touch does happen in the workplace, usually as spontaneous celebration such as a high-five.



    [18:15] How can we identify which language of appreciation someone prefers?

    You can ask someone how you can show them appreciation, although that can be an awkward conversation, and you may not learn much. It works better to ask people how they are encouraged since this is similar to appreciatio...

    • 32 min
    TEI 297: How to be a forever employable product manager – with Jeff Gothelf

    TEI 297: How to be a forever employable product manager – with Jeff Gothelf

    Five steps to securing success in product management in an uncertain world

    Are you taking steps to make yourself more valuable to your organization or the next organization you want to work with? Arguably, all the topics we address on this podcast are about career development, helping you improve in product management and innovation.

    However, occasionally we focus on the topic head-on, and with the impact of the pandemic on organizations, creating opportunities in some cases and hardship in others, now is an important time to discuss making yourself highly employable, or as our guest says, forever employable.

    What is interesting is that our guest is now offering career advice after becoming known as the Agile Product guy who helps organizations build better products. You may know him from his past books, including Lean UX, Lean vs Agile vs Design Thinking, and Sense & Respond. His name is Jeff Gothelf and, as a product guy, he will give you the 5 activities for being forever employable.

    Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

    [5:37] You recently wrote the book Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You. Who did you write this book for and what does it mean to be forever employable?

    My target audience is mid-career knowledge workers, but the concepts apply to others too. Traditionally, job hunting is a push process, meaning we push our resumes and experiences into job listings. If we have to keep pushing for the rest of our careers, we’ll lose more and more often because as we rise on the corporate ladder there are fewer positions, and our skills will never be as good as when we were younger. Forever Employable changes the dynamic from pushing ourselves into jobs to pulling opportunities toward us. As you build a platform of recognized expertise around your unique experience and as you share generously and give back to your community, you create the environment for jobs to find you.

    Take us through the steps to become Forever Employable.

    [10:40] Plant a flag.

    Decide which slice of your expertise you’re going to build a platform on. For example, product management is a huge field, so you might decide to plant a flag in product management for the real estate industry or product leadership.

    [11:33] Tell your story.

    Share your expertise. Participate in the conversation; have a presence in the industry; and give your knowledge back to your community. There are many ways to tell stories, so experiment to find one that works for you. Tell your story with persistence and consistency. As Jeff Weiner said, right about the time you’re tired of saying it is when they start hearing it. Persistence means continuing to tell your story even if it feels like you’re shouting into the void because initially no one’s ever heard of you. Consistency means you’re on topic, wherever you planted the flag.

    [16:44] Follow the new path.

    Take the new opportunities that telling your story generates. That could be talking at a meet-up, attending a conference, or writing a book. Following the new path may stretch you in new directions, and you won’t be doing exactly what you used to do, but the whole reason you’re following the new path is to attract new audiences and reach people in different ways, driving even more opportunities toward you. Not everything you try will work out 100%, but the nature of becoming forever employable is experimenting and learning, then following the paths that generate bigger and better opportunities.

    [21:16] Teach.

    Teach what you know. Everything I do is teaching—conversations like this, workshops, coaching, speeches. Teaching is how you get better at your practice, because the better you can teach it, the better you can do it. Teaching is also how you get better at storytelling.

    [23:27] Give it all away.

    • 35 min
    TEI 296: Better product testing – with Luke Freiler

    TEI 296: Better product testing – with Luke Freiler

    What product managers need to know about customer validation and alpha, beta, and delta testing

    Product testing is about more than determining if a product functions properly or not. A larger perspective, and one that our guests shares is Customer Validation.

    We discuss how to use the various types of product tests, including alpha, beta, and delta tests, to judge product performance, customer satisfaction, and areas for improvement.

    Our guest is Luke Freiler, CEO and co-founder of Centercode. Luke has spent most of his career improving product testing. Centercode is a Customer Validation solutions provider that helps tech companies bring products to market.

    Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

    [1:46] How did you become a testing expert?

    Early in my career in software, I became very passionate about the new field of usability—making technology easy to use. I was asked to run a beta test for one of my company’s products, and although we were a large, established company, we had no process for running testing. As I looked for solutions, I realized I’d found a hole—everyone had the problem of testing but nobody had solved it. I realized that testing with customers aligned with my passion for usability; customers can help you make technology more accessible. At age 21, I started a company to do tests, and I’ve learned a lot and have been doing it ever since.

    [6:55] How do you relate customer validation to testing?

    We realized that there is no single standard term that people use to refer to testing. We wanted to establish a better vocabulary and methodology that could scale and be adaptable to any company. We chose customer validation as an umbrella term for the various ways we engage with customers to develop a product. Customer validation includes three forms of testing: Alpha testing looks for quality. Beta testing looks for satisfaction. Delta testing, where we’re seeing a lot of innovation, is a continuous test throughout the life of the product to gather feedback about specific details.

    [15:49] Tell us more about alpha testing.

    The goal of alpha testing is to make sure the product works. We focus on technographics—the technology that surrounds people and products. Alpha testing is about targeting diverse ecosystems rather than your target market. Alpha testers can be internal employees or strangers.

    [23:50] Tell us more about beta testing.

    A beta tester should be someone who matches the target market, is enthusiastic enough to provide feedback, and is a stranger rather than an employee. The goal is measuring satisfaction. We start a beta test with a test plan, which is a list of features we want tested. Each feature has a basic description. Using a 1-5 scale, we rate the effort or time we want to put in and the value of the feedback to us. Then we design activities that tell the tester where the features are but are not overly directive. We use these activities to take testers on a tour of the product and engage them over a period of time. We want the beta testers to collaborate and communicate with each other about the product as they complete activities to explore features.

    We look for actionable, prioritized feedback. Out of each test, you want to discover:



    * issues—what needs to be fixed

    * ideas—what needs to be improved

    * praise—what needs to be promoted



    We ask testers to rate their satisfaction with each feature on a 1-5 scale. Then we ask why they gave that rating. We prioritize and act on the results.

    [31:27] What is the timeline of alpha and beta tests?

    Our average alpha test takes two weeks, and our average beta test takes three weeks. This is not very time-consuming.

    [33:57] Tell us more about delta testing.

    Delta testing is concerned with the next version of the product. We want to maximize small data to find quality issues.

    • 40 min

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