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User-Focused Product Development Model

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There are thousands of technology companies working on building products, but only a few create products that delight their users. Generally, startup founders or product leaders start with a beautiful product vision, but what eventually gets released is not as pretty or delightful (see Image 1). The main reason is that building products requires many people who think differently to work together, resulting in a compromise.  Image 1 - Vision vs. Reality (image courtesy of Christine Wang) How do you build the culture and process that delivers products that delight users? The answer is simple: solve user problems and don’t compromise. However, executing this simple idea is hard. The following method can help: The organization needs a clear mission and an understanding of how solving user problems will deliver on that mission. Customers don’t buy your products because they like your mission; they buy them because they solve a problem for them. Therefore, everything an organization builds s

My Operating Principles

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How do you effectively lead an organization? There's no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on various factors, including the organization's size and industry, your leadership style, the experience of your management team, and more. Throughout my career, I've held numerous management roles (GM, CEO, CPO, VP, etc.) in organizations of all sizes. This experience has allowed me to develop a set of guiding principles that I not only operate by, but also share with my teams. They are: 1. Ready. Shoot. Aim Thanks to Sam Walton , founder of Walmart, for this principle. This mindset was instrumental in the growth and success of Walmart, as it fostered a culture of experimentation, rapid response to market demands, and continuous improvement. It means that you should prepare to take action and, instead of spending time in deliberation and planning (aim), take action (shoot) and iterate your way to the target. 2. Understand the Impact of Your Actions on Company Vision Think about h

Evolution And Investing

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Last weekend, I finished reading - What I learned about investing from Darwin . It is a fascinating book that shows how evolution theory can be used to create an investment strategy. I might be biased towards liking the book because I used evolution theory to explain how Silicon Valley works . I found the following two concepts particularly interesting: 1. One selected behavioral trait of animals can trigger many physical changes in animals over generations. Following edited excerpt clarifies the idea: A sixty-year-long study focused on selecting silver foxes for only one trait: their willingness to be tamed. The researchers were not interested in body size, coat color, skull shape, ear stiffness, or any other physical characteristics. They took great care to ensure that selection was based solely on tameness. However, this single behavioral characteristic triggered many physical changes in the animals.  This principle is applied at Nalanda Capital (NC), the investment firm run by th

AI Comedy

Google spends a lot of time and money developing the Transformer , the technology behind ChatGPT, but does not commercialize it. Microsoft invests billions of dollars in OpenAI , the company behind ChatGPT, to commercialize the technology. Apple makes a deal with OpenAI to incorporate ChatGPT into the latest iPhones without paying much for it. Apple will make billions of dollars by selling new hardware with minimal AI investment. :)

Building Alignment

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In an executive management role like CPO, COO, or CEO, you spend a lot of time aligning people you work with. How much time you spend aligning depends on the organizational structure, organization size, complexity of the product, growth rate of the company, and, above all, the culture of the organization.  Let's take an example of a dysfunctional organization, i.e. everyone is doing their own thing and there is no clarity on what the organization is trying to achieve in the short term. To a new person, the situation might seem like chaos. How do you bring order to the chaos?  From chaos to order  With the breadth of my experience over the last two decades, I have developed and practiced an alignment methodology with five steps:  1. Understand why the dysfunction exists 2. Build trust  3. Create a shared vision  4. Execute on the shared vision  5. Establish an operating rhythm   The methodology assumes that you are aligned with the board. Implementation of the methodology varies dep

Mulberry Picking

Mulberries ready to leave the tree are sweeter. 

Money

Money might not be able to buy love but it will definitely help you lease it. 

My Management Philosophy

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As a business manager or business executive, I have been managing teams for over 20 years and have developed a simple management philosophy. I and everyone I work with should have fun, learn, and contribute to the growth of the organization. These three cultural attributes are defined as follows:  Joy of working (image credit: Canva AI) Have Fun Enjoy your work Enjoy problem solving together with your teammates Enjoy sharing your knowledge Opportunity to work on things not directly related to the job but still good for the organization Maintain balance Learn Learn what is necessary to do the job better Learn about the topics that interest you Feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them Learn how to collaborate better with your teammates Learn how to communicate more effectively Contribute to the growth of the organization Deliver results based on your goals (that can be changed with new data) Understand how your work is contributing to the growth of the organization Offer new ideas

Irony

France is complaining about government subsidies contained in the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Subsidies

Why are low corporate taxes not considered as government subsidies? 

The Grid

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This morning, I finished reading The Grid by Gretchen Bakke . It is a fascinating read about the past, present, and the future of electricity.  Following are a few excerpts from the book:  ------ The subtle-seeming transition in the structure of circuitry, from series to parallel, was the grid's first revolution. Though we tend to give Thomas Alva Edison the credit for having invented the lightbulb (he did not), he did devise something just as remarkable - the parallel circuit, one of his greatest, if least lauded contributions to technological underpinnings of our modern world.  ------ By 1990, California had become home of 85% of the world's capacity of electricity powered by the wind and 95% of the world's solar power electricity.  California might have been the planetary center of wind energy in the mid-1980s, but their turbines were more machines for churning out visions of greener futures than actual watts.  America's first turbine engineers were aeronautical engi

Children And Thinking

When do children start thinking? What is happening in their brains before they start thinking? How does one think without language? 

Lunch

A nice lunch can cost more in Palo Alto than in Saint Tropez. 

Utility vs. Truth

"Our perception evolved for usefulness, not truthfulness."  - Henry Schurkus 

Complexity Rising

As the technologies get more complex, it is becoming harder for us to understand how things around us work.

Memory

Why is it easier to remember the truths than lies?

Stupidity

More battles are lost due to stupidity than won by brilliance. 

Product, Product Surfaces, and Product Enablers

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What is a Product? It is something that requires effort to make and someone finds it valuable enough to give up money or time in exchange to use it. For example, we spend money to use the iPhone and we give up time to use TikTok. Both products are made with human effort.  AI idea of product surfaces and product enablers What is a Product surface? The part of the product which a user utilizes to interact with the product. For example, Google search webpage is a product surface which is part of the Google search product. The product has other surfaces for advertisers, mobile app users, and users who use voice to interact with the product, etc.. Search algorithms are part of the Google search product but they work behind the scenes with the user interaction occurring via the product surface.  What are product enablers? The part of the product that the users don’t  see but are necessary for the product to perform and for the organization to build the product. For example, the technologies

Expectations And Logic

Expectations cloud logic. 

Product Manager XI

A good product manager works with first principles. 

Product Manager X

A good product manager understands the capabilities and limits of the organization. 

Product Manager IX

A good product manager understands the capabilities and limits of technology.

Product Manager VIII

A good product manager knows when to be flexible and when to be rigid. 

Product Manager VII

A good product manager learns from experimentation. 

Product Manager VI

A good product manager understands the interconnectedness between technology and user experience. 

Alignment

It is easy to align people to do the right thing as long as people have the same idea of the right thing. 

Product Managers V

A product manager who builds all the features that customers request has a lot to learn about the craft. 

Product Managers IV

A good product manager understands how solving a user problem might create new user problems. 

Product Managers III

A good product manager knows why a customer is requesting a feature, i.e., what user problem is the customer trying to solve. 

Product Managers II

A key responsibility of the product manager is to say no to a lot of good ideas that don't work with the product strategy. 

Product Managers

A product manager who keeps all the stakeholders happy is not a good product manager. 

Doerthe Obert, Munger's Executive Assistant, On Working With Munger

https://www.barrons.com/articles/charlie-munger-close-up-warren-buffett-berkshire-bff539ca

Beauty

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Beauty is food for the soul. 

Boundaries

There are more boundaries in my head than in the physical world. 

Computational Thinking

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Computers dominate our world today and their dominance will continue to increase over time. Since I work in Hi-Tech, working with computers has been an integral part of my life. To get better at working with computers, I read Computational Thinking . The book defines Computational Thinking (CT) as "the mental skills and practices for:  1. Designing computations that get computers to do jobs for us; and  2. Explaining and interpreting the world as a complex of information processes.  The design aspect reflects the engineering traditions of computing in which people build methods and machines to help other people. The explanation aspect reflects the science tradition of computing in which people seek to understand how computation works and how it shows up in the world."  The book goes into the history of von Neumann architecture , computer science, software engineering and how things evolved over time. It is a fascinating read. I found the following paragraph to be particularly

Humans And Machines

All Large Language Models (LLMs) outputs are probabilistic but we consider them as definitive. 

History

To better understand the world today, learn history.  Empire podcast is a  fun and addictive way to learn history. 

Business Writing

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I have to write frequently for work. My writings include messages, presentation decks, articles, white papers, etc. A simple rule, I found useful, to make my writing more effective is to follow PAMD, which is:   1. P urpose: Why am I writing this document?  2. A udience: Who is the document for? How much do they know about what I am writing?  3. M essage: What is the message I want the audience to get from the document? What is the message I don't want the audience to get from the document?  4. D elivery: How will the document be delivered? In a meeting, via email, or in a solo presentation? PAMD for business writing  For example:  As a startup CEO, I might be writing a broad deck to be delivered in a board meeting. The purpose is to get buy-in from the board on a new strategy. The audience is all board members, senior executives from the startup, and the general counsel at the board meeting. The message might be that the recommended pivot is the best option to be successful.  Star

Meetings

In group meetings of three or more people, you are never communicating with just one person. 

Habits

If you work at a pawn shop for a long time, you lose the ability to tell the difference between used goods and collectable items. 

Appreciation To Dependency

Appreciation: The first time you give something to someone Anticipation: The second time you give the same thing to someone Expectation: The third time you give something to someone Entitlement: The fourth time you give something to someone Dependency: The fifth time you give something to someone As per Bob Lupton 

Words Vs. Numbers

We might be susceptible to seeing words before numbers. 

Change

We notice a change in our surroundings before we know what the change is. 

Romance And Luxury

Romance is inversely proportional to efficiency and luxury is inversely  proportional to utility. No wonder luxury is considered romantic. 

Choice & Time

We have more of everything and less of time. Does choice come at the expense of time?

Dreams

Dreams visualize desires and do not show the trade offs that come with dreams coming true.

Irony

TikTok is banned on all US government devices and the US government often talks about banning TikTok entirely in the US. However, US President Biden now has an official accoun t on TikTok :) 

AI

Society would be served better if we work on making Artificial Intelligence (AI) do things humans can not do rather than making AI more human like. 

Reframing

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Framing is how we look at the world. Everyone has their own frame. In business, framing is how we look at problems. Often, reframing a problem results in better decisions because you get a deeper understanding of the problem. Like Charles Kettering said, "A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved."  How do you reframe a problem? Deconstruct the framing into three elements - assumptions, optionality, and constraints - and analyze what can be changed in the three elements to create a new way of looking at the problem.  The three elements of framing are defined as follows:  1. Assumptions: What assumptions are embedded in the framing and how are they leading to conclusions?  2. Optionality: What are the other possibilities?  3. Constraints: What are the constraints embedded in the framing and how they can be changed?  Thinking through and analyzing these elements with a diverse group of people often results in reframing and better decisions.  Reframing Following is a p

Thinking

Business executives would do better by spending more time thinking. 

Argument Reconstruction

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In philosophy, argument reconstruction is defined as restating an argument as a logical sequence of premises supporting a conclusion. For example:  Argument: We have a decision to make today. Our competitor has launched a new product, we need to either launch a better product or lower the price of the current product.  Argument reconstruction:  1. Competitor has launched a new product.  2. There are only two possible responses to this event: launching a new product or lowering the price of the existing product.  3. Therefore, we must do one of these two things. Argument Reconstruction The argument reconstruction of the example makes it clear that you don't have to make any decision today and in addition to validating the premises, more options need to be explored.  Reconstructing arguments clarify thinking and help you see the flaws in assumptions.  Adapted from The Economist Education