Mind The Product Conference 2017, London

On Friday I spent the day at the Mind The Product conference in London. This was my fourth year at this very well curated, single-track, one-day conference covering a broad range of product management topics. Below are a few key points I captured. Definitely a WILTW (What I Learned This Week).


Martin Eriksson opened the stage. He reinforced the key messages from his recently published the Product Leadership book: Product management is all about people. We traverse the product life-cycle as a team.

Product life-cycle:

  • Product inquiry
  • Product discovery
  • Product delivery

This was the first time I noticed the term Product Inquiry and I will pay more attention to this moving forward.

Jake Knapp – Design Sprints

One of the high profile speakers at this year’s MTPcon was Jake Knapp who wrote the book on Design Sprints.

Jake provided a number of very practical examples and summarized the book’s concepts:

  • Get all people together
  • Work with them on a key moment
  • Work alone, together
  • Be fast and decisive
  • Fake it
  • Work with quick & dirty, available data
  • Take big risks

Jake mentioned that there will be a new book soon.

Blade Kotelly – Experience Centerlining

Blade opened his talk by asking: Does user experience have a strategic role at your company?

He then followed up with a 10-Step Design Process:

  1. Identify needs
  2. Gather information
  3. Stakholder analyses
  4. Operational research (looking at things you could be limited by)
  5. Hazard analyses
  6. Specification creation (“Specs that are too specific limit innovation, specs at the right level can be inspiring.”)
  7. Creative design (“Lots of yellow stickies”)
  8. Conceptual design
  9. Prototype design
  10. Verification (usability testing)

Teresa Torres – Critical Thinking for Product Teams

Based on her experience as Discovery Coach Teresa came on stage presenting the Opportunity Solution Tree:

  • Start with a clear desired outcome#
  • Map out the opportunity space
  • Solutions can and should come from everywhere
  • Experiment to evaluate and evolve your solutions

More details can be found on Teresa’s MTPcon microsite.


Jane Austin – Great digital products

Jane‘s key message was to run product teams with consent, not consensus.

In addition she mentioned a number of team and process aspects to build great products:

  • Designer as facilitator
  • Autonomous cross-functional teams
  • Design at every step of the process
  • Build the right thing (“Do they want the button”)
  • Build the thing right (“Can they see the button”)
  • Right people with the right attitude

Scott Berkun

Scott spoke about his latest book The Dance of the Possible. His take on creativity:

  • All ideas are made of other ideas: Study the history of a problem to find new ideas for solving it.
  • Great ideas often look weird (at first): Allow weird ideas to stay around.
  • Our minds are naturally creative: When suitably motivated by a hard problem, creativity is unavoidable.

Amber Case – Calm Technology

The scarce resource in the 21st century will not be technology, it will be attention. Amber presented a number of Design Principles for Calm Technology:

  • Technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention
  • Technology should inform and create calm
  • Technology should make use of the periphery
  • Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity
  • Technology can communicate, but doesn’t need to speak
  • Technology should work even when it fails
  • The right amount of technology is the minimum needed to solve the problem
  • Technology should respect social norms

Sarah Nelson – A place of our own

Sarah spoke about (work) spaces’ influence on team culture.

She identified the following habits to build great spaces:

  • Say YES! (Allow for participatory, human-centered design)
  • Prototype
  • Be opportunistic
  • Be scrappy (Figure out how to do things on the cheap, see book “make space”)
  • Ask for forgiveness

Josh Clark – Design in the era of the algorithm

Josh‘s talk focused on design for Machine Learning (ML) space:

  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Design systems that are smart enough to know when they are not smart enough
  • Signal uncertainty. Ask for help.
  • Improve the data
  • The machines know only what we feed them (garbage in, garbage out)
  • Responsible data gathering
  • This is a UX research at massive scale
  • Make it easy to contribute (accurate) data

Lea Hickman – Transforming to a Product Culture

Lea highlighted a number of themes establishing great product culture.

A critical shift is from:

  • From tasks to goals
  • From output to outcome
  • Alignment of business and product goals

Barry O’Reilly – Lessons deploying Lean Enterprise at scale

Barry‘s talk was entered around the Lean Enterprise book and some of its key messages.

Software is eating the world (The 5 imperatives of innovation)

  1. Technology as a strategic capability
  2. Willingness to support experimentation
  3. Iterative, adaptive working processes and practices
  4. Reduce learning anxiety across organization (i.e. people not be afraid to try new things)
  5. Ability to innovate at scale

Success factors to create high performance organizations

  • Purpose: clarity of purpose and outcomes
    • Principle of Mission
    • Provide the “what and why”, trust the team to figure out the “how”
  • Big changes start small: design behaviors

ROTI (Return On Time Invested)

This year’s MTPcon gets a ROTI of 4 on a scale of 5. Teresa Torres talk would probably have been the highlight had it not been corrupted by the clicker malfunction. Also, the amount of talks was too much. Ten strong, high-quality talks is a lot after a short night (I usually take the first morning flight from Munich). Last year also had 10 talks but one of them was really weak. The previous two years saw 9 slots for talks which is easier digestible.

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