There are decades worth of research that highlights the importance of social connection. It is linked to important life outcomes like how quickly we heal and how long we live. Thanks to new tech social spaces like the metaverse, products are now all about connection. So, what is the role of connection in building mission-driven products? Meta VP of Social Impact Emily Dalton Smith shares insights on building mission-driven products that change the world.

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On the PM tool kit for mission-driven products

There are certain key traits and abilities that every product manager needs to be successful. Because the job requires cross, team, and customer collaboration. PMs need to have an extensive tool kit in order to solve any problems they may encounter and to drive their mission-driven products forward. Emily laid out exactly what product managers need in their tool kit to drive growth and revenue for their organization. Check out Emily’s PM tool kit for mission-driven products:

  1. The Sixth Sense of Organization 
    • “It’s knowing who to go to, and time is of the essence, how to keep everyone organized, and on track and focused.”
  2. Respect for Details, Loose Ends, & Unanswered Questions
    • “It’s been incredible as I’ve gotten to grow my career, seeing how that type of respect for details and the ability to dive into details, particularly when you’re trying to solve a really complex problem, can differentiate a great Pam from someone who’s just good. 
  3. Technical Expertise 
    • “This has technical expertise in the field you’re working in. One of the things that’s been really interesting about the work that we’ve done at Meta over the past several years is, seeing how people marry technical expertise in whatever domain that they’re working in, and how excellent and incredibly powerful that can make them. 
  4. Translating Your Knowledge
    • “This is really important to be a great PM. You have to be able to translate your knowledge so that everyone knows what you’re talking about, no matter who they are, no matter what their background is, or whether or not they’re familiar with the domain or the material.” 
  5. Turning Ambiguity into Clarity 
    • “This is so critical. One of the most important parts of being a PM is turning those ambiguous problems into really clear plans. Here’s the big problem we have to work on. Here’s what we need the solution to look like. And here’s how we have to think about managing and mitigating risks.”

On mission-driven products needing a North Star

The North Star has been a symbol that has guided humanity for hundreds of years. It is a symbol of the path and the direction you are going. And a sign you are heading in the right direction. In order to create mission-driven products, you need a North Star. PMs need something at the heart of their product strategies and roadmaps that drive them forward. This is why your mission-driven products need a North Star:

“The most important thing for mission-driven products is that they need a North Star. The North Star is the heart of what you’re trying to achieve. It is the essence of what your product is trying to do, and the essence of the problem that you’re trying to solve for people. Once you have a Northstar, it unlocks everything else.” 

“If your mission isn’t objectionable. If it isn’t clear and bold and doesn’t force us to make serious trade-offs, it is not a mission. It is just a nice thing that we’re gonna put on a mug.”

“It can take the form of a mission statement or values. For me, it’s how a person experiences your life, your product, and the difference it makes in their life. So, it doesn’t need to be the thing that your product does.”

On products with purpose at the center

If someone were to ask you, what is the purpose of your product? What are you trying to solve for? The answer should come to you easily. And if it doesn’t, you need to reevaluate your mission and vision. The purpose must be at the core of your product in order for it to succeed. Mission-driven products need a purpose that drives them forwards and helps them stay on track. Here are some reasons why your mission-driven products needs a purpose:

“It’s always about the people. It’s about giving them joy. We build products, but our focus is really on the framework of connection. And it’s always about the people not about the bricks, the pixels, or whatever we’re building.”

“For us [at Meta], we’re increasingly focused on supporting the social issues that are most meaningful and relevant to our community. So, we really look at what the issues that are meaningful to our community, where they need support, and where they want us to play a greater role and to empower them.” 

“My goal is to continuously raise the bar for social impact by keeping core at keeping connection at the core of our products. This is a way to help raise the bar for us and for the industry.”

On streamlining the mission across the organization

Communication is the key to streamlining your mission across the entire organization. This is where you turn ambiguity into clarity. Emily regularly writes her goals, mission, and vision down on paper; and reworks them until she gets to extreme clarity. With extreme clarity, it doesn’t matter how many people are in the room, everyone walks away with the same understanding. These are some ways to streamline your mission across the entire organization:

“Communication. This is about turning ambiguity into clarity. You take your goals, mission, and vision, and then put them all on a piece of paper.”

“I put them down and I tried to strip them away as much as possible. I tried to get to extreme clarity. Which is, you can communicate something and everyone walks away with the exact same understanding” 

“If you can ladder the goals up to your mission and vision and your top line goals, and then you can cascade those goals down throughout your organization, it actually gives people the framework to align their work around top-line success.”

About the speaker
Emily Dalton Smith Facebook, Director of Social Impact Product Member
About the host
Brian Root Exploring new opportunities, Vice President of Product Management

I am a collaborative, patent-holding product executive specializing in building impactful customer-facing digital products in eCommerce, FinTech and InsureTech. I have over 12 years of experience leading and managing cross-functional product and design teams at all stages from Series A to Fortune top 2 (Amazon and Walmart). I have built and scaled teams from 0 to up to 15 individuals on several occasions, and I particularly enjoy the challenges of hiring and structuring teams. My passion as a leader has always been to unlock the potential of my reports and mentees. I strongly believe that an impactful, scalable \"what\" (the product) is the result of a strong understanding of the \"why\" (user and business needs) and \"how\" (product management and design best practices). In my non-work life, I enjoy running, cooking, dabbling in statistical modeling of sporting events, and being the best father that I can be to my baby son.

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