This week, I’ve begun doing a rotation with our support team at Automattic. Every Automattician does this as part of their on-boarding, as this helps to learn the systems, tools and users we’re interacting with every day. For me, this additionally helps to learn more about the users we’re building products for, which is a huge added bonus towards our user-centric approach to product development. Through this week, my work time demands 100% of my focus to be on the support rotation. I take this very seriously and am 110% focussed on learning as much as I can. This means, of course, postponing or moving any meetings I have on my calendar. This brought about some interesting and exciting results, which I’ll be exploring further here.
Traditionally in South Africa, the year which corresponds to the date of your birthday is referred to as your “crown birthday”. While I’m not certain of any special significance other than the “once in a lifetime” nature of a crown birthday, I feel it important to reflect on the year past and on what awaits in the year ahead.
When building your product, it’s important to get off the ground correctly by finding your first customers, gathering customer feedback and shipping your first minimum viable product. Once your product has launched and your market is enjoying what you have to offer, there is an important approach to take to ensure you’re staying relevant, satisfying your customers and enhancing your product to continue adding value. Today, I’ll run through the approach of what I refer to as the Lean Startup Loop.
Bruce Wayne, however, is a multi-billionaire. While not much emphasised as a contrast within the Batman storyline (rather choosing to emphasise Batman and Bruce Wayne as one in the same), I feel this contrast between Batman and Bruce Wayne has a hidden message I’d like to explore further.
The only thing that is constant is change. – Heraclitus
As humans, we often struggle with change and how to incorporate this change into our status quo. As someone who thrives on consistency, focus and clarity, change is always difficult to adjust to. At the same time, I feel I’m slowly figuring out how I best deal with change. It seems, whenever change is presented to me, I assimilate the change into myself, figure out the new path and proceed forward on said path, gradually letting my mind catch up to the new path.
This past week was a dramatic week for us in Cape Town. With the loss of a dear friend in George Bacon, as well as the closing down of Mercury Live (a popular live music venue), it seems somewhat difficult to truly know the best path forward in that sphere. A large reason for this post is to explore this change, work through some of the feelings I have around it and (hopefully) arrive at a rational conclusion.
The term “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) is often seen as a buzz word. I read a great post by Scott Riley about why he hates shipping MVPs which helped me to re-think the wording of this phrase to “Smallest Viable Product” (SVP). For the sake of common understanding, I’ll refer to MVP and SVP interchangeably here.
An MVP is the smallest possible product, requiring the smallest amount of initial effort, in order to satisfy the needs of your proposed customer. I often view an MVP as a pretty storefront, with a herd of hamsters frantically spinning their wheels in the back room. Your MVP is largely about showcasing the potential of your product and the need it meets for your customer. Ultimately, your customer doesn’t really mind how you achieve the result, as long as you achieve it to an acceptable standard to meet their need.
Today, I’d like to dive a little bit deeper into the mindset behind crafting your MVP.
The foundational principles of commerce have existed since a time long before any of us can most likely remember. The basic principle of “You have something I want. What would you like in exchange for it?” is one we take entirely as a given in today’s society. Spending my days focussing on eCommerce (humanity’s latest branch of commerce), I spend a significant amount of time dissecting the smaller details of this base principle. One such construct is the steps of the interaction; from desire to exchange.
Several weeks prior, I met with the head of a venture capital firm who focus largely on African markets. While discussing the differences between the various markets in central and west Africa, the concept of “buy now, pay later” was discussed. This sparked a series of thoughts on the topic and how we can leverage this principle to create a more pleasant purchasing experience for our would-be customers.
Everyone has their own definition of clutter. To many, clutter constitutes large amounts of “stuff” piling up in a space which should not usually contain so much of said “stuff”. While focussing on day to day tasks, I’ve noticed that there are several areas of my day to day which have high potential for clutter. When these areas are cluttered, I feel like my focus shifts and isn’t as sharp as it could be. Today, I’d like to help reform our views on what creates mental clutter, and how to overcome this and achieve laser-like focus.
One area of business building and product development is predicting the success of the product, before launch. This is one area everyone tries to get as accurate as possible, in search of the one unifying metric to unite all and predict accurate success trends. Methodologies such as the lean startup approach aim to ensure as accurate a product success rating as possible, by approaching the project from a customer-centric point of view (if you build what they want, they will come). Now that we’ve discussed how to get customer feedback, lets discuss how we make use of this feedback in our approach to product planning.
While in the gym this morning, doing lunges with a barbell on my back, I experienced the best feeling I’ve experienced during a workout; the feeling of zoning out. This lead me to question; “am I zoning out, or simply zoning in on the task?” After completing the last set of lunges, my trainer was extremely impressed and said “great job, Matt! That was a great set of lunges! I’m very impressed!”. Now normally, my trainer enjoys taking the “drill sergeant” approach, preferring to motivate with “come on, you owe me another 5”. Outside of the workout sets, he’s really smiley and happy, so this drill sergeant approach feels somewhat out of character. For some, it works. For me, I’ve not always felt it to be the best motivator. Today, I discovered why and (most importantly) what is a motivator for me.