Chief Product Officers face many challenges while managing both team motivation and product innovation, especially with pandemic-related workplace changes. There also are constant priority interruptions that can affect the cadence of product innovation. How does a CPO facilitate the right culture to keep up the innovative pace? Nubank CPO and Global CPO 20 winner Jag Duggal shares insights into creating rhythm, hiring a great team, and maintaining innovation.

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On Creating Rhythm for Teams

The first thing Jag shared with our CPO Renée Niemi was how to create a rhythm or pace for teams to help with the go-go-go mentality and burnout in order to leave room for product innovation.

“The biggest thing I try to do for myself and for my teams is to give some amount of predictability. One of my favorite words is cadence or rhythm. Athletes always talk about being in the zone, there’s a rhythm, there’s a cadence, the game actually feels like it slows down. 

“One of the things you often see in startups or overgrown startups, like Google or Facebook, is that leadership often isn’t very intentional about creating rhythm and cadence. So, a topic comes up, and you decide as a leadership team that you really want to fit it in here and learn more about it. You call the team in and what you haven’t thought through is that you call that team in for next Wednesday’s meeting and you’ve just taken two weeks of their effort because they know they’re going in front of the CEO and the executive team. They are going to drop everything to make it as perfect as they can. So two weeks out of 52 is a pretty big percentage for a one-hour meeting that you sacrifice out of your year. 

“Be as careful as we can about designing the rhythms for updates so that they are predictable, they are known well ahead of time, and teams very rarely ever have to drop everything to give updates. With that is the appropriate level of overhead and not more than that.

“That’s incredibly important, especially and even more so when the rest of the world is entirely unpredictable. Your business outside may be entirely unpredictable, your life outside may be entirely unpredictable. The more you can make the bits that you can control for yourself, for your team, for the company, the better.”

On How to Facilitate Culture to Keep Innovation Going

Once we have set up a cadence for our team, Renée and Jag discuss how to facilitate the culture to keep that innovative pace going. Jag gives a few ways to approach this, including his North Star.

“One is the concept of giving a team ownership. … You can give a team full ownership if you can give them clarity on who their customer is, who they’re trying to innovate on behalf of, and then you can give them a scorecard. What’s the metric that would define winning? People like to win, and if they have clarity on what target they’re aiming for, whose lives they’re looking to make better, and then give them a way to keep score, they can do a lot of magic. …

“There are a couple of other concepts that sort of layer underneath that first one. First off, there’s a lot of noise in any system, particularly one that’s moving super fast. If you can give people a North Star. For me, the North Star is always the customer. If you have 12 different variables to optimize around and think about, which is always true, which one are you which one trumps? It’s important to be very clear that it is always the customer. If you don’t understand the customer and you’re not trying to optimize for innovating on their behalf, almost nothing else goes right. 

“The other thing that I think is a good thing to pair with that is this idea of building products that are … fundamentally different, not incrementally better. We’ve been entering a series of new financial services markets, and there’s a lot of market share you can get, particularly on the back of a successful product. You can always get your first million customers if you have a 50 million customer base. If you’re at Facebook or Google and your customer base numbers are in the billions, you can make any product look great for 18 months, because you can just milk that.

“So incrementally better isn’t good enough. You can have an MVP, and we can talk about that concept, that’s for sure. But in terms of what you’re aiming for, you should be able to articulate what is fundamentally different about your product on behalf of a very specific segment of customers. 

“If you can do that, if you can bring those mindsets, I think you have a good foundation for innovation. Otherwise, the noise, the velocity, the chaos of just operating in the world when the day-to-day usually overwhelms.”

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On Measuring Winning for Innovation

Lastly, when you are successful, you want to know how successful you are, right? Measuring and metrics can encourage and motivate teams, and also align and satisfy stakeholders. Jag gives us some ideas of metrics for innovation.

“First and foremost with customer love. If there isn’t customer love, then everything else is a waste of time. I’ve loved for 20 years the NPS metric. What do customers say about the product and, more importantly, what do they tell their friends? A framework like NPS is super helpful. 

“Next is what do they do aka usage intensity. I worked at a social network, so that’s kind of the currency of the realm, not just how many users you have but how many are active monthly, how many are active weekly, how many are active daily. It’s one of the great success stories of Nubank because we’ve been able to move not just the number of customers but the intensity of their usage up into the right consistently over the last 18 months or so. …

“Then I break up the other metrics that I look into at the top level into tied to a key concept. Product management basically breaks down into pre-product market fit and post-product market fit. If you have to understand any single thing about product management … the only thing that matters is getting the product-market fit. 

“What are the metrics that define product-market fit I think is critically important? I actually learned at Nubank in the first month or so I got there that folks at Nubank are keen students of the cutting edge of techniques in Silicon Valley. They taught me when I arrived in Sao Paulo about a metric called the Sean Ellis Survey invented by Sean Ellis. I’ve come to really love that metric in terms of customers telling you that they really care that your product exists and to what degree that is true.

“Secondly, it’s actual churn metrics. How leaky is your bucket? How many customers do you get? How many are still around 2, 3, 6 months from now? If your bucket is leaky, there’s no point in boasting and growth. So figure out pre-product market fit and measure product-market fit as scientifically as you can.

“The last bucket of metrics that I spend a lot of time looking at is, once you have established that there’s product-market fit, it’s growth metrics: how many customers, how much revenue, whatever the currency that you’re measuring is. Is it going up into the right and at what rate? It’s got to become something that is tracked regularly by everyone on the team. … If you have a dashboard and it’s set up with a key metric, not just for where things need to be in six months, but where new things need to be today, you unleash the creativity of the entire team, whether it’s 10 people or 1,000 people. That’s incredibly powerful.”

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About the speaker
SC Moatti Products That Count, CEO & Founder Administrator

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