Essentials for leading product teams.

Pick a big fight

Initial conditions matter. and the size of the problem has a bigger say in the potential utility - and long-term success - of the solution you come up with.


Leadership, at the end of the day, is having the attention of the people around you. People will listen to you when they’ve had the chance to say their piece and have their viewpoint inhabited by someone else. In order to accomplish this, you must listen and be present.

Keep the team small

Product leader, designer, developer.

Have a periphery team in place

People to answer questions, provide direction on the larger issues (e.g. executives, domain experts, customer service reps, etc).

Personality > skill set

Skill sets are important, but more important than that is an individual’s openness to new experience. Said another way: do they lose their shit when faced with ambiguity and change? If so, these people will likely not come up with anything inspiring and if they do, it will be by accident and the process will not be unlike pulling teeth. Also, they’ll kill creativity for everyone else on the team.

Be a contrarian

Start on the crazy end of the product-possibility-spectrum and work backwards to the status quo conceptual conventions.

Make deliberate mistakes

Many of the early stabs at a solution are, by definition, wrong. Part and parcel with starting from the crazy end of the spectrum, make deliberate mistakes to 1) confirm, explicitly, that those off-the-wall concepts don’t necessarily resonate with the majority of your customers* 2) get the team to understand how it possible to be utterly drama-free about failure.

*Side note: If this deliberate mistake actually succeeds then you are in a much better position to generate a breakthrough product.

Employ a quick, iterative prototyping process

Google Ventures has written extensively about the process they use. Or.. you can just hire me to help ;)

Get user feedback

Preferably from outside your company.

Be willing to find nothing

Even though we all want to find the Next Big Thing(tm) and be on the Fast Track to Success(tm), you have to know that at the end of the day, there may be nothing to find. And that’s ok, cheap failures are a mark of intelligence.