Mozilla Chief R&D Officer on Creating People Focused Tech Products (Part 3)
A Great Product Uses Data!
A great product loves data. You want a product that you love creating and that someone else loves using. Even if they’re small moments of joy, they’re going back and using it because it answers a question for them. It helps them do something and does it in a delightful way. So that’s the love part, that’s the equation on for what you create and how someone is using it.
Then, I think, the other side of that is data. I tend to like talking about being data informed, not data driven. For a large company, or even a small startup, you set a KPI or something like that. So if you are purely data driven, then you are blind to how you are thinking about what you’re doing. It’s relinquishing decision making, because you’re just actually letting the number guide you to love in a certain way.
But if it’s data informed, you are always taking evidence and therefore being evidence based. Plus, you’re also taking into account the quality of the stories. So I think that is how we end up making great products that aren’t just about the number or accelerating that number. I think there’s the question about how you do that. How do you manage what a great product energy does? And in my mind that always seems to be about whether they are curious. Do they really engage users? Are they really focused on the user need, and how they’re answering that need? Generally, the solution is not the hard part, it’s asking the right question.
What Makes A Great Product Manager
A great product manager asks the right question. Then as they grow, how are they thinking about keeping an eye on the stories and the people. There’s a point where it’s easy to get lost, either in the story or in the data. At which point, you get side effects that are unexpected and sometimes detrimental to society, or to the individuals or to your company. So a great product manager really looks at both of those. I think they have a great feel. They’re really good at listening. And that is listening to their team, listening to the work, and the people who are using this system.
In addition, they are great at prioritization. You know, most of these things are what you would look for actually in some ways in a community leader as well. Someone who is going to take all of the input, help people fame it, prioritize it and then help the group work through that. A big part of product management, which gets underrepresented sometimes, is being able to influence when you are not the person in charge. What I mean by that is some of the best product managers I know can have 1000 people reporting to them, but they’re the ones who are actually influencing because they actually have the love and the data in hand to have the conversation and get everybody aligned.
About the speaker
Sean is an executive, entrepreneur, inventor, and musician who has spent his career leading innovative development of the experiences, systems, and technologies that enable creative expression, connect us to each other, and enhance our understanding of the world around us. He is currently Chief R&D Officer @ Mozilla. Previously, he cofounded BrightSky Labs, a company he incubated while an EIR at Greylock Partners. Before Greylock Partners, Dr. White founded and built the Interaction Ecologies Group at Nokia, leading multiple innovative efforts in new mobile forms and experiences in the areas of wearables, Internet of Things, and augmented reality. His previous roles include CTO of NeoCarta Ventures, VP of Technology for Lycos, Inc. (acquired by Terra Networks), and CTO of WhoWhere? (acquired by Lycos). Prior to that, Sean was a project lead and member of the research staff at Paul Allen's Interval Research Corporation. He holds Advisory Board positions with Perch and Virtual Workflow, and previously held Advisory Board positions with NY Sun Works, Environmental Defense, Evite, Gravity, and OpenVoice.