BE A GREAT PRODUCT LEADER
Adam Nash @adamnash
January 28, 2014
“Fate rarely calls upon us
at a moment of our
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Original meeting with Reid Hoffman turned in a four
hour conversation on what world class product
meant in a Web 2.0 world (circa 2007).
Most people start or join new companies because
they think “we can do it better this time”. They
come to build a company.
These are the top lessons I’ve personally gained
over the past two decades about product
management for modern consumer software.
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What Do We Demand of
How do we win the game, and how do we keep
What are the steps from here to there, and what
order do we do them in?
For this phase, what’s the list of what has to get
done, and are we on track?
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Product: Results Matter
In the end, we judge product managers by whether
they “win games”
The role itself can give limited authority. Like a new
coach, the team will let you deﬁne the plays initially.
But in the end, you have to show the team wins.
Product leaders don’t play the game, but they are
judged by the record of their products.
They cover any gaps. No excuses.
Responsibility, often without authority
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Put People Directly on
High Priority Goals
This may sound obvious, but it continues to be very rare in
practice. Diffuse responsibility is a killer.
It’s an expensive solution, but when you’ve identiﬁed the
few goals that matter, it’s exactly the right answer.
A small, cross-functional team, free to execute with clear,
direct goals and authority is an incredibly powerful force.
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These pay the bills. In the end, software that doesn’t
justify itself will lose the ability to fund itself.
If you don’t listen to customers, they will lose faith in
you and eventually hate you.
If you don’t delight customers, you won’t inspire
passion and loyalty in your users.
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Can’t I Have All Three?
It’s not impossible, but it’s extremely rare.
Very often, metrics movers are not requested or
Very often, customer requests will not move your
metrics or delight people.
Very often, delight features will not move your
metrics, and by deﬁnition, are not requested.
Great products, however, combine all three. In agile
processes, releases intersperse all three regularly.
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One of the key insights of our growth strategy from 2008.
Extensible to literally all engagement features.
Key measure used by applications on social platforms. This is
an extremely useful frame.
Two questions: what features let members touch non
members? How does a new customer today lead to a new
At the heart of virality is an exponential based on branching
factor and time. In an m^n equation, m is the branching
factor, n is the cycles in a time period.
Rabbits make lots of rabbits not because of big litters, but
because they breed frequently. “n” matters more than “m”.
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Engagement Can Be
Believe it or not, this issue has been hotly debated
Key metrics include:
• MAU / Total User Base
• DAU / MAU
• Actions / DAU
Don’t be afraid to learn from startups and/or
competitors. You are not always a unique snowﬂake.
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Find the Heat
There are two sides to boosting engagement: lowering the
friction of reaching out, and increasing the desire to
It’s easy to focus on the ﬁrst and ignore the second, but
social software depends on capturing the real nuances of
Heat is a placeholder term for emotions that drive action,
both positive and negative. Emotion. Passion. Desire.
Ask yourself the hard questions of what strong emotions
drive the actions in your products.
Examples: Apply with LinkedIn
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Simple is Hard
For some reason, people are talking a lot about
Steve Jobs these days. Inevitably this concept
It’s true in design, it’s true in metrics, it’s true in
prioritization, and it’s true in strategy.
What’s the one thing you want the user to do?
What’s the fundamental use case your feature
addresses for users?
Example: Mobile First design
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Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler
Simplicity is not an absolute ideal.
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We can be our own harshest critics. In the mirror
we see every ﬂaw, every mistake, every
These are the very early years. Things that seem
small now can and will be huge in 5 years. Each of
you can and will have a profound impact on that
Behavior matters. Values matter.
Be a Great Product Leader.
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“Thank you, all of you.
You honor us with your
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