Share this post

🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. Failure is an opportunity for growth. Building trust and effective communication are crucial in navigating through difficult moments and learning from them.
  2. Building trust and involving team members in the process of change leads to better outcomes, while adapting, moving on, and learning from setbacks are key to overcoming challenges.
  3. Overcoming fear and leading with genuine intentions is crucial for creating successful innovations; understanding users' struggles and focusing on creating something wonderful is key to avoiding failure.
  4. Failure offers valuable learning experiences and should be seen as an opportunity for growth instead of something to fear.
  5. Failure can be a valuable catalyst for personal and professional growth, teaching us the importance of timing, context, and prudent decision-making in business endeavors.
  6. Understanding people's needs and delivering a solution that stands out can lead to success, even after initially declining an opportunity. Building a team and focusing on exceptional execution can generate positive word-of-mouth.
  7. Learning from failure and avoiding repeating mistakes is crucial for companies to succeed.
  8. By maximizing strategies and evaluating potential levers, experiment results can determine if a hypothesis holds true, leading to further optimization and impact on desired outcomes.
  9. Prioritize understanding user needs and pain points, and align proposed solutions with the company's strategic strengths for successful product development.
  10. Understanding unit economics, tailoring solutions, and embracing learning moments are essential for cost savings and better user service in business.
  11. Setbacks are not defining moments, but opportunities to learn, adapt, and create your own path towards success.
  12. Success is a gradual process, so make the most of the time you have by staying resilient, believing in yourself, and embracing the valuable lessons that come from exploring different paths and overcoming setbacks.
  13. Conducting lean experiments and constantly testing and iterating is crucial for identifying valuable growth opportunities and driving success in business.
  14. Mistakes and failure are vital for a product manager's development. Learning from and acknowledging bad products is necessary to avoid repetitive mistakes and become successful in the field.

📝 Podcast Summary

Embracing Failure: Lessons from Top Companies and Leaders

Failure can be a valuable learning experience, even for the best companies and leaders. This podcast episode dives into the topic of failure and highlights insightful stories, such as Katie Dill's experience at Airbnb. As head of design, Katie faced a rebellion from the design team shortly after joining. Through this difficult moment, she learned that she had not earned their trust and had failed to bring the team along with her. This emphasizes the importance of building trust and effectively communicating with your team. Failure can provide valuable insights and opportunities for growth, and it's essential to listen, learn, and adapt from these experiences.

The Power of Trust and Adaptation

Building trust is crucial when making changes within a team or organization. Lenny learned that by actively listening to his team members and understanding their motivations, he was able to bring them along on the journey of change. Inflicting change on people may not yield the desired positive impact, but involving them and gaining their trust can lead to better outcomes. Similarly, Paul's experience of freezing on stage and walking off in front of thousands of people teaches us that even in the face of the worst nightmare scenario, things can turn out okay. It's important to adapt, move on, and learn from our experiences, knowing that these setbacks are not insurmountable.

Fear and Failure: Lessons from Google and Facebook

Fear can hinder innovation and success. Paul Adams discusses his experiences at Google and Facebook, highlighting the failures of social projects like Google Buzz and Google+. He reflects that these projects were motivated by fear rather than a genuine desire to create a great product for users. Adams learned firsthand how not to lead in such environments and emphasizes the importance of understanding users' struggles and creating something wonderful. He also highlights the positive aspects of his time at Google, such as the development of products like Google Maps and Android. Ultimately, Adams's decision to leave Google and join Facebook was driven by a desire to work on projects founded on good intentions.

Embracing failure for growth and innovation

Failure and taking risks are important aspects of growth and innovation. Paul Adams, a former Google employee, emphasized the importance of embracing failure as a product leader and how it leads to learning and improvement. He shared his own experiences of failure and highlighted the value of making big bets, even if they don't always succeed. At Intercom, the company he joined, they foster a culture of shipping fast, early, and often, acknowledging that mistakes will be made along the way. However, there is a tension between high standards and the need to learn from failure. Similarly, Tom Conrad, who worked at notable product failures like Pets.com and Quibi, also stressed the importance of learning from these experiences and carrying those lessons forward. The key takeaway is that failure is an opportunity for growth and should be embraced rather than feared.

Lessons from Failed Ventures and Personal Growth

Experiences, even in failed ventures, can lead to personal and professional growth. Lenny reflects on how working at different companies opened doors for him and provided valuable lessons. He highlights the importance of timing and context, using the example of Pets.com and Chewy. Pets.com struggled due to early market conditions, but Chewy thrived by executing well and growing their business over time. Another lesson learned is that excessive investment can become a burden and lead to unwise decisions. Tom Conrad shares how his team made the difficult choice to wind down Pets.com instead of bankrupting it, returning the remaining balance to investors. Ultimately, these experiences and lessons shaped their perspectives, even in the face of failure.

Success through solving problems beautifully.

Focusing on creating a product that solves a specific problem in a beautiful, elegant, and delightful way can lead to success. Tom Conrad's experience with Quibi taught him the importance of understanding what people care about and offering a solution that outshines competitors. While he initially declined the opportunity to work on Quibi, he eventually realized the potential and fell in love with the industry once again. Building a team from scratch and designing a product from the ground up allowed him to harness the advancements in software architecture and embrace the rewarding process of bringing something new to the market. Despite stumbling along the way, the key lesson was that addressing a significant problem with exceptional execution can generate positive word-of-mouth and drive success.

The importance of a solid foundational equation in company success

Companies are like math problems, with investments being poured into the equation to produce returns. The success of a company is not solely dependent on the product or its execution, but also on the foundational equation itself. Quibi, for example, made a bet on building a bespoke content library, but the equation was fundamentally broken. The content was supposed to be made in professional studios, but due to Covid, it had to be produced in garages, resembling YouTube content. The library of content needed to be much bigger, and the risk-reward profile of investing more was too high. It is important to fail conclusively and learn from the failure to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Maximizing treatment effect and exploring all tactics to test hypotheses in B2B settings with limited touch points for conclusive results.

When conducting experiments, it's important to maximize the treatment effect and explore all possible tactics and resources to test a hypothesis. In B2B settings with limited touch points compared to consumer-focused companies like Facebook, it may take longer to gather conclusive results. By throwing all possible strategies at the experiment, it becomes easier to determine if the hypothesis holds true. If it doesn't work, it's not worth investing more time and resources. However, if it does work, further optimization can be done by testing different tactics or narrowing down the approach. This approach applies not only to broad experiments like account-based marketing but also to smaller modifications like email tweaks. It's essential to evaluate all the potential levers that could impact the desired outcome.

The importance of empathy and customer-centricity in product management

New product managers often make the mistake of getting too attached to a solution before understanding the actual problems faced by users. Instead of focusing on their vision and desired implementation, it is important to first empathize with users and truly comprehend their needs and pain points. This mindset shift allows for a more customer-centric approach to product development. Additionally, it is crucial to assess the company's strategic strengths and consider whether the proposed solution aligns with those strengths. In the case of Airbnb's "Airbnb Plus" concept, the company should have prioritized improving the representation of homes and addressing the trust issues rather than attempting to compete with managed marketplaces, which was not within their operational expertise.

The importance of unit economics and targeted solutions for business success.

Understanding unit economics is crucial for the success of a business. It is not enough to have magical thinking about future scalability and profitability. Instead, unit economics should be carefully considered from the beginning. This includes ensuring that the costs and resources invested in the business are economical and sustainable. Additionally, it is important to deeply understand the user problem and tailor solutions accordingly. For example, instead of costly property inspections, Airbnb could focus on guest reviews to gauge the quality of listings. By identifying specific problems and finding targeted solutions, businesses can save costs and better serve their users. Finally, it is essential to recognize that behind every impressive A side, there are often overlooked B moments that shape our lives and careers. Embracing these moments and learning from them is just as important as celebrating success.

Overcoming setbacks and seizing opportunities for success.

Success is not always a straightforward path. Lenny's journey involved setbacks, rejections, and unexpected challenges. She faced rejections from top schools, dropped out of college due to depression, and experienced multiple layoffs. However, she didn't let these setbacks define her. Instead, she focused on learning and being adaptable. Lenny recognized the importance of storytelling and understanding what others perceive as valuable. She took opportunities that others may have overlooked, like the internship at a tier B/C digital marketing agency. Lenny's determination and willingness to figure things out led her to success. She started her own agency and eventually worked with well-known companies like Duolingo. Lenny's story reminds us that setbacks are not the end, but rather an opportunity for growth and resilience.

Embrace the Journey: Time, Resilience, and Perseverance

Our careers are longer than we think, and we have plenty of time to explore different paths and make mistakes along the way. Often, we underestimate the opportunities that lie ahead and waste time instead of utilizing it effectively. It's important to stay resilient, believe in ourselves, and keep trying even when faced with setbacks. Lenny and Gina's experiences highlight the importance of perseverance and the fact that success takes time. They both had multiple career changes and faced failures, but each experience was valuable in shaping their journey. So, don't stress if things aren't moving as fast as you want, because there's ample time to learn, grow, and find your path.

The Power of Lean Experimentation in Driving Growth

Conducting lean and simple experiments can help identify valuable opportunities for growth. Initially, the team at Duolingo made the mistake of not prioritizing lower hanging fruit and instead focused on a complex badge system that didn't yield any significant results. However, they learned from this experience and realized the importance of dogfooding - that is, testing their own experiments. By implementing dogfooding as part of their practice, they were able to identify the flaws in their badge system early on and make necessary improvements. This ultimately led to tremendous growth and opened up a treasure trove of opportunities for the company. The takeaway here is to not overlook the power of lean experimentation and constantly testing and iterating to drive success.

Embracing Product Failure: Essential for Growth and Learning in Product Management.

Making mistakes and experiencing product failure is an important part of growth and learning for product managers. Maggie emphasizes the significance of shipping a bad product and being able to acknowledge and learn from it. She believes that it's necessary to have enough experience and repetitions in order to become a successful product manager. She shares a story of a project that went terribly wrong due to arrogance, lack of proper research, and skipping important steps like discovery and writing a one pager. She advises against rewriting or redesigning a product and warns about the negative consequences it can have on the business. Ultimately, she highlights the importance of learning from failures and avoiding repeating the same mistakes in the future.