TedX Sydney – takeouts for Product Managers

Jen Marshall

TedX Sydney was held last week and while not billed as an event for Product Managers, I think there were many good takeaways for people in Product.

Here are four things I think have relevance to Product Managers:

Harness your challenging self-talk and thoughts for good

Mike Cannon-Brookes is well-known in the Australian start-up, technology and Product Management , what wasn’t known before TedX Sydney is that Mike has imposter syndrome.

Mike shared that he hadn’t even known what imposter syndrome was until recently, but that through his life he’d frequently been in situations where he’d experienced a “fear of being found out” as not having the right experience, credentials or expertise to participate.

He described a sense that perhaps he was only moments away from the ‘adults in suits’ calling his bluff and asking him to leave.

More importantly, Mike told the audience that this feeling doesn’t go away with success.

His advice is to harness those feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice. But most importantly, don’t freeze up. Use those situations to learn and build skills. And know you may well be in good company if you’re feeling a little like an imposter.

L-FRESH the Lion at TedX Sydney 2017
L-FRESH the Lion at TedX Sydney 2017

It’s time to take an inclusive approach to Accessibility design

Sarah Houbolt is a theatre performer, athlete, arts manager and diversity expert. She spoke passionately about the need for product designers to bring people with accessibility needs into the product design process.

“I want to invite industry to our table and to follow our conversations about innovation. And include people with disability as access consultants from the very start to the very end of the design and development process.”

“And in that designing for accessibility space, I need to see solutions that focus on fixing our environments first, rather than focusing on fixing our bodily experience of the world. Because while innovation might lead to accessibility, it’s actually when we think about accessibility and when we implement accessibility that it always leads to innovation.”

The population with disabilities has now reached critical mass, so they’re a significant market to address. And Sarah says, from a self-interest point of view, most of us will have accessibility needs as we age, so it’s time to make a positive change.

The future of engineering will blow your mind

Elanor Huntington is the Dean of Engineering at ANU and she’s on a mission to find the next generation of engineers during “one of the most profound transformative periods for the interaction between technology and society.”

She says at the heart of engineering is balancing technological opportunity with technological risk.

Describing a future where individuals, technology and society will converge, Elanor flagged the risks control loops in products will impact our everyday behvaiours.

“Right now the combination of the internet of things, social media and artificial intelligence, means the next great engineering discipline is just about to be born. And this one, because it’s about how connected we are to each other and to things is actually going to have us inside the machine. And that’s really profound.”

“We’re just about to have access to precise, detailed, real-time data about our actions and interactions. And that’s going to mean that people and algorithms can make decisions that affect the way that we behave.”

“That’s actually a control loop. And up until now control engineering has been used to engineer things. But guess what. Not any more. This time it’s us.”

So the next generation of engineers will need not just maths, science and technology. They’ll need psychology, anthropology and design skills, in order to balance the risks and opportunities.

Listen and exercise perspective-taking capacity

The TedX Sydney event showcased many voices. We heard from people who we might not come across in the normal course of our business and personal lives. People from different races, geographies, and with different lived experiences and different world views.

It was a great exercise in perspective-taking capacity to listen deeply and to sometimes feel discomfort as the stories unfolded.

As product managers we need a highly developed ability to listen. We have to be open to really hear what customers are telling us. We must listen closely to our colleagues and peers. In both cases, we might not always like the message. But we must strive to develop a deep understanding.

Because it’s only with this deep understanding that we can hope to make effective decisions for our Products.

Jen Marshall

Jen Marshall | Author

Jen is CEO at Brainmates. She's interested in building the profile of Product Management and contributing to a rich discussion on the state of Product Management in Australia.