Learning Experience Leader

73 // A Product Manager Mindset with Aaron Airmet and Ash Roberts

November 16, 2021 Greg Williams
Learning Experience Leader
73 // A Product Manager Mindset with Aaron Airmet and Ash Roberts
Show Notes Transcript

Today’s guests are Aaron Airmet and Ash Roberts. Together they host Path into Product, a podcast for college students or professionals considering a career as a product manager but don't know where to start. Both Aaron and Ash are currently working as Product Managers at Weave Communications and have previous experience working with and in learning design environments. 

Today we discuss: 

  • Different ways of defining product management
  • Frameworks and mindsets instructional designers can utilize to build better learning solutions
  • Curiosity, ruthless prioritization, and being a partner rather than an order taker
  • Measurement in product and navigating the constraints to make an impact

Resources

Join the conversation on the LX Leader pages: 

Support the show
Aaron Airmet:

There is never a lack of ideas. When it comes to product management, you have to learn how to be a ruthless prioritize. And that's not to say that you don't have empathy for all the different stakeholders, but you still need to have ruthless prioritization for them and really focus in on those opportunities that you feel will bring the greatest impacts to your business. The greatest outcome to your customers and that are actually within the realm of what you can feasibly build that is viable for your business adds value for your customers, and people can actually figure out how to use it.

Greg Williams:

From the beautiful state of Utah in the United States Hello, and welcome. I'm Greg Williams, and you're listening to the learning experience leader podcast. It projects devoted to design leadership and the psychology of learning. This podcast helps you expand your perspective of learning design through conversations with innovative professionals, and scholars across the world. Today's guests are Aaron Aaron meat and ash Roberts. Together they host path into products, a podcast for college students or professionals considering a career as a product manager but don't know where to start. Both Aaron and ash are currently working as product managers at weave communications, and have previous experience working with and in learning design environments. Today, we discuss different ways of defining product management, frameworks and mindsets instructional designers can utilize to build better learning solutions, curiosity, ruthless prioritization and being a partner rather than an order taker. And finally, measurement in products and navigating the constraints. To make an impact. Of course, you can check out the resources listed in the show notes and join the conversation on the LX leader learning pages, both on Facebook and LinkedIn, which are included in the show notes. And with that, let's get started. Well, Aaron and ash, I'm so excited to have you both here on the show with me today.

Ash Roberts:

Thank you. We're excited too

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, glad to be here.

Greg Williams:

Well, you're both product managers, we all together work at the same organization. And I've, I've had a journey of learning about product management and talked a little bit about that here on on this show. But for those listeners who maybe don't know, what is product management, maybe they've heard of Project Management and general management like there's, there's all sorts of flavors of management, wondering if you could, we could talk just a little bit about the discipline of Product Management. And throughout our conversation today maybe dive into some of the mindsets and frameworks that PMS use in their work. So maybe let's just start with what what is product management? As you both have come to understand it.

Aaron Airmet:

I think this is a really intriguing question. And, you know, you if you ask a 100 product managers, what is product management, you're gonna get 101 different definitions. Right. And I think at its core, product management is really about discovering problems. And, and sort of analyzing which problems are the most important to go solve from a business and solution and software standpoint? Right. And so you talk a lot about project management and product management. And to me the, the main difference between those two disciplines is project management is very focused on output. Right? Can we can we ship some thing? Can we can we ship that on time, on budget and in scope? Right. And it's all about that output and how to maximize and, and make that process efficient? And I think the main difference with product management is, when it comes to product management, we have two big focuses. One is business impact, right? Are we building something that can really provide value to our customers and to our business? And beyond business impact? What is the customer outcome? Right? Are we actually helping our customer solve a problem that is meaningful for them in a way that can scale for millions and millions of users. And at the same time, folks are willing to pay or give us of their time in order to have us solve that problem for them. And so to me, that's the the focus on on outcome and business impact in product management is really one of the things that differentiates it from a project management focus on output.

Ash Roberts:

Well, I think Aaron's covered it all. So maybe, maybe I'll add some things here and I'm not sure how well this will go down but in my mind product management is the opportunity to connect dots. And what I mean by that is is Aaron's covered this is you have a user's needs you have business needs. And then you have people that can help solve that need. They can create a physical product or They can create a software product that can solve that need. And you're in the mix of those people trying to, to make sure everyone understands what the user needs, and everyone understand what understands what the business needs, and bringing all those things together to create something valuable for the user. And for the business.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, I think hearing both of your perspectives on that is is helpful and is aligned with how I've come to understand it and thinking about that in like learning designers world, or curriculum development. I feel like an instructional designer who's creating learning materials, is definitely doing similar types of things, but maybe on a smaller scale, or more narrow focus in terms of project management and trying to deliver a training program or some kind of asset, right. But then there's sort of a product management mindset, or I could take that on as I'm partnering with different stakeholders. You know, if Aaron's going to be launching a new product that we've and I'm the Training person supporting, I've got to kind of scope out his perspective as a stakeholder and in person with needs, but then my learner's are my kind of my users, and what do they need to be successful? And all of these mindsets and tools you're talking about, I feel like are very applicable. It's just sort of translating it in a different language. And there's a framework that I can't remember if, if it's in one of Marty Kagan's books, or some product manager is just telling me about it, but there's the feasibility, the usability, the viability and the what's the last one?

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, value, usability, viability, and feasibility. The four product risks

Greg Williams:

Yes, the four different, you know, things to think about, which I find really helpful. You know, it's probably doesn't perfectly cover everything in the universe. But um, anyway, I think there's probably a lot of little things like that frameworks and ways of thinking in product management that could be applied in other fields. So I'm wondering if there are mindsets or frameworks like that, that you use as product managers we could talk through and hearing examples, I think, is really helpful to kind of give a texture to what that looks like in practice.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, I kind of came from a teaching background, I had some training as a teacher was going to do that as a career and kind of shifted a little bit into instructional design. And that was sort of my, the beginning of my path and product, and it was sort of looking at how do you take these learners or you know, these students, and help them to learn and and change their behavior really was the impact that we were looking for. And and, and I realized, I really love that idea of making an impact and helping helping somebody change their behavior and learn and grow. But I wanted to do that at a wider scale than what I think instructional design could provide for me. But one of the one of the things that I realized, and there's there's a lot of overlap, as you say, between, you know, instructional design and the technology aspect, and product management, lots of overlap and similar principles. One of the big takeaways for me at the time was instructional design, you have to learn how do you craft? How do you break a complex subject? How do you break that down into bite sized chunks, and then sequence those in a way that makes sense for a learner and sort of guides them through an experience, right of learning and growing. And I saw two direct applications into the product management field of sort of that same idea. And one was, I have this grand vision for a product it's going to solve, you know, all the world's problems, right. But today, I have developers who need to work on code, and and what is the absolute most important next step that my developers need to be working on? Right. And so I have this grand vision, let me break that down into bite sized chunks and realize what's the most important smallest piece that we could be working on now. So that sort of that sequencing piece. And another aspect of that was, right, I've got this I've got a person, a human being, who has a problem that they're trying to solve in their life, like, let's take wheat, for example. Maybe I'm the front desk at a dentist office, how do I communicate with with my patients and my dentist office. And so learning as a product manager going and learning about that human being and then crafting an experience for them to interact with a piece of software or not, or interact with a piece of hardware or not, but then crafting that experience that helps take them from where they were to the progress that they are trying to make in that in that context, and solving that problem or meeting that need in their life.

Greg Williams:

And I love how you talk about that similarity and building learning experiences is, you know, that task analysis of breaking down a big thing into smaller chunks and into parts. You're doing more than designing an experience, right? You're coordinating with developers to build it. You're trying to appease a handful of women stakeholders from, you know, a financial perspective, you know, then of course, the the end user, the customer, right? And so are there some some tools or ways of thinking that you manage that big messy process? It's probably not as simple as we're just going to build this tomorrow. And then this the next day and on until the all the world's problems are solved? Yeah,

Ash Roberts:

I think there are there, there are quite a few frameworks or ways of doing product management, that align quite nicely with the instructional design field, I think. I mean, we have design thinking, we've got human centered design. Directed discovery is something that somebody in here in Utah networking show kind of came up with, and, and there's little bits and pieces in other books, as well. But I think, for me, I've always leaned to design thinking just because it seems to cover all of all of the the other bits and pieces. And so there's this, it's the opportunity to empathize, to define then to ideate, prototype test, and kind of just go through those that loop the whole time, where you are sitting with a customer in a med spa, like I did last week, and watching, observing, listening, doing some ethnographic research doing some, you know, questions and answers, as you're observing them, why did you decide to do it that way? And really understanding from the user perspective, the problems that they're having. And then defining and figuring out what are, what are some really key problems that we have solved. And what are some key ones that we haven't solved yet that we could that could add additional value to this user's day, but also to the business, and creating kind of some sticky stickiness with this customer, and with the business, our business that that that that they use, and then working with designers and developers in our circumstance, right. And in others, that might be video editors, or writers or copy edits. So whatever else is out there, to to come up with a lot of different solutions to that problem and trying to figure out an actual solution. And prototyping something putting in front of users seeing if it will solve the problems tasting that out. And going through that process. Often, hopefully, more than just once a week or once a day, but you doing that so often that you can get a lot of information back so that you know that you're you're creating something that will be valuable that will be used by by the users.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, and, and I don't know if this is so much a framework, as it is, I think, a natural trait or characteristic, I think of what separates great product managers from others. And that is just a thirst for knowledge, a curiosity about human beings and the world and why it is the way that it is. But coupled also, with a little bit of audacity to say, I can fix that I can change that. And so, you know, coupling these two traits, curiosity with a willingness to step into that void, I think is is a critical trait that makes

Greg Williams:

a lot of sense and goes in line with thinking about are there there are frameworks, right? You could use a specific thing to make a decision, a priority framework or something. But then there's a lot of mindsets. And that's kind of I feel like curiosity, or what in what you're describing, is right along that path. And I'm wondering if you could both talk to me a little bit about that. It's in the podcast, you're hosting, that seems to be a common theme, at least from the couple episodes that I've enjoyed. There's, there's one type of person maybe and there's lots of types, but not so I'm generalizing, who sees problems and things and can see them and so look at all these problems. And then there's another that is like, wow, look at all these interesting things. And why is this happening? Let me dig in here. Let me see what's in my control to change. And I feel like the product manager you definitely want the ladder right? But how do you start to foster that kind of thing? Because you can get overwhelmed by all the problems and then your backlog just never ends? Right? And it can be frustrating, I imagine at times.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, I have a friend of mine who is he used to be doing product management and was overwhelmed because he never felt like his job was done. So now he sells real estate and is much happier. And yeah, so it is certainly easy to be overwhelmed with with the amount of problems but I'm going to couple that I think with with another skill and there are a lot of frameworks for this and that is ruthless prioritization. Right. I mean, that's a, that's a principle that we talk a lot about in product management circles. And, and it's not just prioritization, it's ruthless prioritization. Every day, every day, I have dozens and dozens and dozens of, of requests for for the product. We have a fax product, and we need facts to do this, and we have a team chat, we needed to do this, and we need forms to do that. And on our mobile app, we need to do this, right. And sales has said it and marketing is saying this, and you know, 10, customers are saying this, right. And, and the CEO comes and says this, so it's, you know, there there, there is never a lack of ideas when it comes to product management. And so it's you have to learn how to be a ruthless prioritize. And, and that's not to say that you don't have empathy for all the different stakeholders that you don't have empathy, and you don't care about, you know, the human beings that actually use your product, you can care about those and have deep empathy. But you still need to have ruthless prioritization for them. And really focus in really on those opportunities that you feel will bring the greatest impact to your business, the greatest outcome to your customers, and that are actually within the realm of what you can feasibly build, that you can, that that is viable for your business adds value for your customers, and people can actually figure out how to use it, which is the usability going back to those four risks that we refer to earlier. And, and the beautiful thing about this is, you know, we kind of talked about frameworks versus mindsets is, I feel like in product management, there's dozens and dozens of frameworks. But not every frame framework applies in every situation. Right? And so to me, it's more of if you're a product person, can you develop the mindset to realize, in any given set of circumstances, I need to be applying this framework over that framework? Right, in this context, you know, maybe my business is really, really big. And and I have a really sophisticated privatization framework, or maybe my business is really small, and I just need to focus on how do we grow? Right? And so what principles apply and what situations, it's not always very clear. And there's not always a right answer. And in fact, there's many right answers. And so being able to look at all of those and ruthlessly prioritize and maximize that opportunity out of all the ideas, and just being able to say, no, it's really hard. It's really hard for people to hear the word no, nowadays, right. But as a product manager, you just you have to say it a lot. Right, and you just have say, That's a great idea. We're not going to do that right now. But you know, that's something that we can think about the future, it's, it's, we have to say that multiple times a day.

Ash Roberts:

Just to to add to what Aaron said, there, there are problems that are more important to be solved. Because it will provide more value to the user or the business, in our circumstance, right? And so that that's the reality in which we all exist. I mean, as a parent, right, there are problems that I can help solve, whether it's conflict with the kids, or you know, what school to go to all those kinds of things. But there are certainly problems in our lives that are more important to be solved than others. And we need to be willing and self aware enough to realize that,

Greg Williams:

as you think about those different problems, and all of those requests coming in to you on a daily basis. Like how do you? How do you sort that out? I know, there's no clear answer. Otherwise, you know, that would be great. And you could sell it like hotcakes to everybody. But I'm, I'm just curious if there's any examples you can speak broadly about that come to mind of how you navigated like a tricky prioritization situation for one of your products.

Ash Roberts:

So one of the ways that I like to look at it, I like to look at it from a point of view of Is there are there multiple problems that can be solved by a few solutions? And so just looking at it from the perspective of sure that, you know, we might have might have a number of different problems that we're working on. But could they level up to, to a single problem that we can work on and as we solve that problem, You know, it starts to solve these other smaller. Like somebody mentioned in the meeting yesterday, these child problems that come from, from from, from the larger problems. Mm hmm.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, I've heard it described by the author Greg McKeown in his book essentialism. And now effortless. He talks a lot about that of how can I make one decision now that will eliminate many decisions later, or even in a book called refactoring UI I'm going through right now to learn more about visual design, they talk about design systems, if you can set up a system right now that says we're, here's our color palette, that eliminates the need to choose the exact Hex code for every little thing, you know, for the next five months, because you've got your you've got your system, you got your style guide in places. That's kind of what I'm interpreting from what you're saying here is like, are there ways that I can I make one decision now that's going to help answer a lot of them later? Back to what you're talking about? Aaron? In saying no, that's, I've talked to a few guests about that. I've talked a lot with my team about that, because a very sort of common situation in the learning and development world or training world is training requests come in all the time. And maybe there's commonalities here with product and other design fields, you will let me know, but often the request comes in fully packaged, we would like a video, we would like a 20 minute elearning we would like this. And it's like, okay, and you know, I could be standing in the fast food line, you know, in here, order number four, and here you go. But that's, that's not product management, right. That's also not partnership, or discovery or empathizing and building and ideation. Right? That's, that's simply building. And so how to navigate that ask and get to the heart of what's going on, but ultimately having to say no to the thing on its face. I don't know, is there some things in there that you can unpack from your perspective?

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, absolutely. The last thing that that you'd want to be as an instructional designer, or, or as a product manager is just simply an order taker, right? If, if that's if that's what you want to do, there are plenty of restaurant jobs open right now. And and and go, go go take one of those jobs. Right. And so there's, there's a number of things that go through my mind as a request comes in. Right, and especially when a request comes in, in the form of specified solution, right? I need this 20 minute video. Right? Well, okay, there's, there's a couple things that go through my mind, probably one of the first things is how does this idea align with, with the overall strategy of what we're trying to accomplish? Right? We have some strategic goals, we have some strategic outcomes that we're trying to hit. Does this idea align to those? And if it does, how so? And if it does not, then maybe I could, I could stop my line of inquiry there. Or maybe I could reevaluate and say, Well, is this something that's big enough that maybe I need to rethink my strategic goals and my strategic outcomes? Another thing that goes through my mind is as a request comes in, I usually like to ask several questions, just to make sure I'm understanding more of the context, right. So well, what why do you want that video? What are you? What? What are you hoping the video would accomplish? Like? What What? What progress can you not make that you feel like a video would help you to make? Right? And those are all different flavors of asking basically the same question, which is, what problem are you trying to solve? Right. And and that question is such a good question. It's also a cliche question, right? People ask that all the time. What problem are we actually trying to solve? It's a good way to derail a meeting. But But I think it's actually such a good thoughtful question, right? Like, okay, so you have a video? Well, what problem are you trying to solve is, is that the best way to solve that problem? Is there a different way to solve that problem? Or is that problem even worth solving versus, you know, the other 20 problems or opportunities that we could be pursuing? And so those are a couple things that come to mind as as sort of solutions and requests come in. And sometimes there are some actual real technical constraints that you'd have to work in. So let's say that you do decide, yeah, yeah. Let's create a video. Yep. We've we've done our problem assessment. That's great. We've done some experiments. Yeah, video would would be helpful here. And maybe there, maybe there is a constraint on well, you only have 30 seconds. Right? Well, okay, then if that's an actual real constraint, then then I have to work within that. Right. But for somebody just to come to you say I need a 32nd video, and you just say Sure, absolutely. Without really asking any questions or dive into the details. I don't know if that's the wisest course.

Ash Roberts:

Okay, can I add something here? Yeah. And this might be a little controversial, but I'll just throw it in there. But, you know, sometimes I don't think we should solve the problem. I think there are often situations where the problem actually doesn't need to be solved. And or the video doesn't need to be created, right. And we've, we've got to be able to be willing to, to obviously, say why. But I often think of the, and I just read an errand I kind of I shared this with with the team and we talked about this, there's an article that talks about how many billions of dollars is spent building software that doesn't get used. There are, I think that it was like the 19.1% of all software actually gets used, the other 80% doesn't really get used. And so the cost and time and effort that goes into building that, and it doesn't get used just doesn't make any sense. And so, you know, coming up, if somebody asks, you know, I want to build this video, or you need to do this, or whatever it is, you know, stepping back and saying, Okay, well, what's happening, right now, what happens if the, if I don't build the video, then what you know, and being able to have that kind of conversation, I think, is really, really healthy. Because it, it provides insight into what the not only what the outcome is that they're trying to get, but also, to see, okay, if I don't do this, it's not going to actually have that much of an impact. And so if I do this, then that means it also isn't going to have that much of an impact.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, when I hear you talking about impact, and that question around, it has me thinking about measurement. So I imagine every decision, you do commit to saying, Alright, of all these 1000 things, we're gonna do this thing. A natural next step would be and we'll know we're done. If and we'll know it's successful, when, you know, fill in the blank and so forth. How do you both think about that, as it relates to your prioritization and then communicating with the stakeholder about what you are aren't going to do in light of measuring success, because sometimes it can get squishy, and sometimes your data lakes aren't speaking to each other. And there's all sorts of technical issues and and suddenly, it's just kind of going on hearsay or people's feelings, and then it gets really messy.

Aaron Airmet:

I am so glad you asked this question. I am like jumping out of my seat. Because yes, what let's let's talk measurement. So Oh, so many great things here. To me measuring what's going on with your product, how are people actually using it? Right figuring out you know, that 80% of your results are coming from 20% of your product, right? The Pareto principle, you know, the Agile different earlier, like, measuring that like, that is really what separates the great, amazing product managers from from, you know, the mediocre ones. Right. And, and it going back to the distinction between product and project management, it's easy in a project management, it's so easy to measure and say, we said we were going to do these 10 things, we said that we were going to do it in this time. And we ended up doing eight things in that time. And the two things in this time and this much money, right? So there's it's so easy to measure those things, because they're all internal metrics, right? When it comes to measuring product, it's not always easy. It's not always easy. One is you have to you have to collect the data. Right? Which, which, that's a problem in and of itself, right? Which will which which things do you actually need to start collecting? What What things do you need to start measuring? What clicks or events? Or paths or? or times do you need it? Do you need to start doing? And then the other side of that is, that's all external, right? There's nobody, you don't control the people who are using your product. Right? And so it's not like you can just whip up a report from some internal tool, no, these are external human beings, you don't have control over. And so that's, that's a challenge you're gonna have to deal with. And you also mentioned as well, there's like, some data doesn't talk with other data, right? And so how do you reconcile that I mean, that and that's all that's all really, really tough. But at the end of the day, measurement is so so crucial to know what is actually happening in your product. I remember a time early in my career where we had an experience in our product, we called it the give the give flow. And this was sort of a an employee to employee recognition tool. And so I was the product manager over the the giving experience of what did it mean to give recognition and there were a plethora of opinions right about how people were using this all people love to give, it's so easy. It's so simple, right? But then we started putting in some tracking metrics. And we started actually watch recording some user sessions. And you started to realize how, how difficult it was from a user experience as you we started measuring different points to actually give recognition. Right and and you start putting some numbers out there like While you guys think that this many people in a company are giving recognition while actually on a regular basis, it's like pretty dismal. Right. And so, and people don't like to hear that they don't like to hear that their product and their baby's ugly and that it's not being used like people are very afraid of hearing, when they start measuring, they don't want to know, the data, oh, people aren't aren't using our product, they're not using our software, they're not using those features. People are so afraid of that. And I don't understand why. Because for me, I look at that, and I start to say, Wow, here is an opportunity. Either we can kill the product entirely, or we have such an opportunity to grow. And, and thank heavens that we started to measure this and looking at this, because now we know what's actually happening. And now we can pinpoint certain areas that we can start to leverage. You know, as, you know, as we've said before, right, how do we maximize the results with the least amount of output? Right, let's let's start measuring some areas and focusing in on those areas. And let's measure and see, have we actually accomplished what we set out to do, right? And a lot of that also depends on you have to define really good success metrics, what does success actually look like? Right? A timeframe, a quantitative goal, an increase of X percent, or whatever it is, you have to have really good success metrics that you're trying to hit, and then measurements to go hit those those success metrics.

Ash Roberts:

So I would love to add, again, a little to what Aaron said, and maybe bring up something else that we haven't talked about yet. When it comes to measurement, sometimes in product, a release of a feature might only be able to be measured in the future. Because that feature, that future feature is reliant upon the feature that you release, to begin with. And so that's where the messiness increases even more, right, where I can't do X unless I have y feature. But y feature can only really be measured by the usage of the X feature. And so it's measurements is really tough, and fun, actually, to to try and figure out why people are using the thing and why they aren't and how, how do we get them to use it? And should we get them to use it? And, and so I think that's, that's something that isn't talked about very much of, of one feature that leads to another.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, I really love what you're saying here, ash, and especially, you know, taking a step back and saying the messiness of measurement is a fun problem. Right? And it is, it is we love, we love grappling with these sorts of problems. And to me, it's often I think, here's another definition of Product Management for you, Greg, right. And that is, it's this blend of art and science, right? I mean, sometimes when we when we come in, and we say, Yeah, we're gonna measure stuff, and we have data, right? And then we're gonna think, yes, it's gonna be 100% objective, totally scientific based hypothesis experience, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That's not always the case. Right? And sometimes it is, and and, you know, we, we feel fortunate in those moments, but many times, there's some art that has to go into that, right there's, there's some, some decision making some creative thinking some outside of the box, brainstorming whatever it is, right? That, that you have to blend the art and the science together. So when you have a measurement, and blending that together with some qualitative data, or some other some other input, in order to make a decision,

Ash Roberts:

Let me keep let e give a quick example of that if you don't mind. And that is think about when the iPho e was first released, there wasn t actually an app store. I don' know if we remember that. But here wasn't an app store, righ . So you release the iPho e, and you have enormous amou ts of sales, which is fant stic. But there wasn't a way ack then, because it wasn't avai able to measure the actual impa t that app store revenue coul have. Hmm, and so you rele se the iPhone, then you rele se an app store. And then you eally start to understand how uch impact that iPhone rele se actually had. Because now ou can access an app store, and ou can get App Store reve ue.

Greg Williams:

What I think is a great connection to this is you know, you might see some something in the future some thing that does not yet exist that you want to bring, you know, make it concrete in the real world. But there's a lot between here and there. And using kind of that blend of Art and Sciences the experimentation which we we haven't talked a lot about here but I think ties directly to this idea of measurement and, and holistic thinking. So You don't have this grand hypothesis with the app store for this particular example. But you got to break it down into small experiments that have success metrics, is that an accurate summary of a lot of what you do as product managers?

Ash Roberts:

Yes.

Greg Williams:

How do you determine, you know, the size of experiment that you're going to run, and I guess, a piece of stakeholders have, yes, we're still going in that big direction that you want, badly. But there's information we need. First, in order to get there seems like it could be a rock and a hard place situation.

Ash Roberts:

So the idea of running, what kind of experiments to run, and how quickly we can get that information. In my mind, I've always tried to run as many small experiments as possible. And adding those together, helps me kind of get a bigger picture of, of the, of the potential of the solution. And so that that's one thing that I've always liked to do is, you know, if we're changing the UI on something to get get some increase in usage, or increase our feature adoption rates, or get user retention, or whatever it is, breaking those down into smaller experiments that we can test more quickly. And then piecing it all together.

Aaron Airmet:

Yes. And add that I mean, these these smaller experiments, right, that aggregating all of these small improvements, small experiments into into large changes, you know, it's it's like Lego bricks, right? I mean, you can build the most amazing structures in the world with these tiny, tiny Lego bricks. And it's, and it's amazing and, and a long time ago, Ash was peer to another person who got hired who was sort of in this instructional design vein as well. And one of the pieces of advice that Ash gave to this person was, as soon as you get an assignment or, or a request or an idea put to you try to put it a try to prototype it right away and start getting feedback that same day. Right. And, and that prototype can take many, many forms. Sometimes it can be a very high fidelity prototype, where you are actually looking at screens, and maybe you might be able to interact with some of those elements. But it's not actual code. It's just a design. Sometimes that prototype can be extremely low fidelity. And you're you're verifying some ideas with the customer. Like, for example, I'm doing some early discovery on a on a new feature a new problem for my product. And in my earlier interviews, I kind of have this idea. And as I talk with the customers, they kind of give me feedback, yes, no, that would be good. And so my idea morphs and it changes. And those are like little mini experiments. So by the time now I'm getting to my, my later interviews, I can start to say, hey, we're thinking X thing, and it's going to do Y thing, and it's going to have z result, how does that match for you? And they're saying, oh, yeah, that works well, or no, this doesn't, or that works perfectly, except for this piece. Right. And so even just talking with people through an idea, is is a form of mini experimentation, because our idea has completely molded from, from interview number one, to interview 10 to interview 100. Right, and all of those are little mini experiments, as we go along, to get closer to a solution that we feel would actually work.

Greg Williams:

I love that, I think that is there's a lot of ways to, to apply that. But number one is to start getting stuff out of your own head, or your own perspectives and begin to get get perspective from others. We've talked about a lot of different things. And I know, we haven't covered everything, but um, whether it's in the podcast that you run, or other things in your own daily work. I'm wondering if there's anything I haven't asked you both about you feel is really important for people to understand about product management.

Aaron Airmet:

We we talk in product, about never stopped learning. I think that's important. You know, I was thinking earlier today I like I feel like some of the best teachers and instructional designers at their heart are really good learners. And I feel it's similar principle in the product management space. And, and that's I think that's important for a lot of reasons. One is we have no idea all the brand new technologies that are that are going to be created tomorrow and next week and next year. And it's our job to learn about those new technologies and think how could this provide value for my customers? Another thing that we are constantly learning about is what are the preferences of the market? How are people looking at products? What What problems are they trying to solve? What problems have they solved? And what's the next set of opportunities are what's the next progress that they're trying to make in a given set of circumstances? So this idea of constantly learning, I think is very important for both instructional designers and product managers. And I think in life in general, right? And just to always be curious to always ask questions and always go out and try to learn something new.

Ash Roberts:

This might sound funny, but I think product managers sometimes are. I had a salesperson tell me this the other day that salespeople are divas, I think product managers are the same.

Aaron Airmet:

No, we're not (laughing)

Ash Roberts:

Where so often, we tell others not to look at the world, in black and white that there's a spectrum, ri ht? There are a number of so utions that can solve this p oblem. And then when we look at product management, or p oduct managers, we black and wh te them, right, it's this is w at makes a good product mana er. And this is what mak s a bad product manager. And so, I think, in life, realizin that we're all divas, in some w y, right, where that we, we don' always get our way. But th re are ways and solutions when orking together with a lot of ifferent people using a ot of different perspectives hat can solve a problem in in a powerful way. And it might no be the perfect way. But it does solve a problem or a need, o teach somebody

Greg Williams:

These are great points. I know, I can't speak for other instructional designers. But I've had my moments where an external stakeholder for my team is suggesting something for a learning solution. And I have that diva thought, as you haven't studied learning theory are some stupid thought like that, right? Like, you can't have an idea that's valuable, which is so silly. And yet, I think you're right, to a certain extent everybody in their own capacity can fall prey to, to that kind of thinking where in reality, to solve problems, and to also build a world that we imagine that's better than the one we're in now is gonna require recognizing the complementary skills and perspectives of everybody as a part of the process. Was there any other pieces that have come to your mind that you wanted to touch on? Including, like, Are there any resource recommendations that you'd have for people to learn more about some of the things that we've discussed today,

Ash Roberts:

I, I think a couple of resources are out there. I might not provide the the usual recommendation of books for for product, people or that product people would usually recommend. But one that I've really enjoyed recently, it's called Borrowing Brilliance. And it's this idea of nothing is actually unique. And it's all all these ideas are added or connected to each other. It's actually a really great book, I think, for anybody generally, to understand of when they're trying to solve a problem, or when they're looking at an opportunity of what, what has been done in a different field that I could borrow from, and take some some learnings from and apply it to this problem, or this opportunity that I'm trying to work on.

Greg Williams:

It's fantastic. I think that's really relevant to this audience.

Aaron Airmet:

I'm also recommend a resource that is somewhat unconventional, and that is video games. And in particular, and this is why I say video games. One is because video games are very much like a learning journey, right? You have to learn the mechanics of the game, you have to learn how to go through that. And it's very much an experience in that way. But also, especially some of the more complicated games require a lot of creative thinking like there. Let me let me plug one game in, in particular that I really enjoyed. And that's it's on the Nintendo Switch. It's called Breath of the Wild. It's a Zelda game. But I really have enjoyed playing that game in the sense that there are problems, there are challenges in the game. And there is literally 100 different ways to solve those challenges. It's just whatever your creative intelligence can come up with, right? And so, learning some of those resources, I think, is somewhat unconventional, but also very helpful and very fun.

Greg Williams:

I think Nintendo needs to start sponsoring my podcast because I actually play Breath of the Wild with my son every Friday for like 30 minutes. And I've mentioned that a few times on the show of, of how it's it's taught me a lot, not only from things you've described, but in communicating with my son to active listening and other things. So I think those are both wonderful plugs and appreciate you sharing a little bit about product management. Folks can definitely check out your podcast to learn more, especially if they want to transition into it. Create your own path to products. But again, thank you so much Aaron and ash for taking time to share your perspective. I really appreciate it.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, thank you. It's been fun.

Ash Roberts:

It's been awesome. Thanks so much for having us.