Published! Amplitude’s North Star Playbook

A project that occupied much of my professional attention this fall was co-writing an online playbook on the North Star Framework. The project was sponsored by Amplitude, a product analytics firm based in Silicon Valley. The lead author was product development nut (his term, not mine) John Cutler, a prolific writer and thinker on product management and development matters. My role: collaborator and co-author. Our labors have borne fruit: last…

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The World’s Simplest Jenga Game

Anyone who’s ever worked with me knows I like visualizations, diagrams, metaphors, stories. Here’s a simple one that helps me as a product leader. Imagine three blocks, stacked on top of each other, as in Jenga, the game where opponents stack blocks in a manner to keep them from falling. This game of Jenga is dead simple. There are only three blocks. They represent: Your customers Your business What you’re…

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Event Horizons

One of my go-to product strategy tools is the three horizons model, which originated at consulting firm McKinsey & Company way back in the 1990s, when I was young and grunge was king. Several of McKinsey’s strategists then unleashed the model on the world in their book Alchemy of Growth. For a classic summary of the framework, listen to this podcast from McKinsey’s “enduring ideas” series. Nowadays, nerds of my…

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Applying platform strategy to EdTech

Platform, like product, program, or project (why do all the nebulous words start with “p”?), is a word we use liberally in business and technology. But what exactly is a platform? Is it just some behind-the-scenes technology, the software system that undergirds a product portfolio? Or is it something else? And what does it mean for educational technology providers? A platform is, at heart, a value model. It is a…

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Of landings, language, and leaders

When we look at history from the present, we’re misled by the appearence of inevitability. We consider the D-Day invasion, 75 years ago today, and we think: yes, the battle will be difficult, and lives will be lost, but victory will come. The allied forces will take the beaches, scale the cliffs, and secure the beachhead. And in the next episode, of course, the good guys will drive the Nazis…

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Kano like a boss

Product management and user experience pros may be familiar with the Kano model, a simple and powerful depiction of the non-linear relationship between the level of functional execution and the level of customer satisfaction of a product and its features. I won’t spend too much time on the basics of the model; others have done so well. User Experience guru Jared Spool recently posted another thoughtful primer on the Kano…

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A Journey of Discovery

Marty Cagan, founder of the Silicon Valley Product Group and a popular writer and speaker on the craft of product, says, famously, “the job of product management is to discover a product that is usable, valuable, and feasible.” Cagan has written extensively on the meaning of usable, valuable, and feasible. Product professionals around the world have embraced that triad in their work. While those three adjectives are certainly worth considering,…

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A Hero’s Journey: Shifting From Projects to Products

You are smart and competent. You work in some department, for some organization that requires innovation. Maybe it’s a content publisher, or a manufacturer of medical devices, or a legal services firm. Something like that. So you and your team come up with this idea for an innovative thing. The thing is digital, social, mobile, and it will revolutionize how you find and acquire customers—plus millennials will love it. Something like that.…

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