I don't just promote people to be managers because they're excellent. I promote people to be managers who can take care of the talent that is coming up.
In this episode
Should leaders be afraid of Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Rather than focusing on the fear, try using AI on a regular basis. AI tools will give you superpowers!
In episode #148, Oji shares insights on how leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams and become effective shepherds of talent.
Oji Udezue is the Chief Product Officer at Typeform. He has years of experience leading product, design, data and content teams. Prior to Typeform, Oji led product teams at Atlassian, Calendly, and Twitter!
Throughout the episode, we explore the inevitable influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on team dynamics and work structures. We also emphasize the importance of customer calls and how Oji capitalizes on his writing prowess in leadership.
Tune in to hear all about Oji’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
New manager mistakes
How can I build trust quickly?
Cadence of changes in a team
Prioritizing customer connections
Reinforcing team behaviour through rewards
Selecting vs. nurturing good managers
Parting words of advice
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Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:27
Oji, Welcome to the show.
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 05:03
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:04
Yeah, very excited to have a chat with you, we had a pretty interesting pre discussion as we were about to hit record. So I’m excited to get into some of that with the audience today. But you have an extensive leadership career, you’re a product leader, you’ve been a product leader at companies, like Atlassian, Calendly, Twitter, and today, you’re the chief product officer at Typeform. And one thing that actually fun fact, I don’t know if you knew this about me. But once upon a time, this was a long lead, right, you know, five, six years ago now, but I used to work at Survey Monkey, so Oh, very cool. Yeah. So that’s a fun fact that I had this company in the online service space, and then sold it to survey monkey, and you know, was there for a few years. So I’m sure there’s a lot that we could riff on there. But look, you’ve been doing this for a long time as a product leader. And one of our favorite questions is for guests on the show is Do you remember when you first started managing or leading a team? What were some of those early mistakes? Is there anything that comes to mind that maybe you do less of today?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 06:00
Yeah, so I became a manager and a lead when my manager went on maternity leave. And she looked around, and she’s like, Who’s who can be my stead, and I was her logical choice. So I became a lead in her absence. And then after she came back, I stayed in lead. So that was how I was off to the races and becoming a manager. And as you can imagine, I was at Microsoft at a time, I made a lot of many mistakes. Basically, I think the most interesting mistake I made was, my manager had a bunch of, you know, we were a team, just like most software teams that had dependencies, right. And these dependencies, some of them were not in Redmond, where we were, you know, somewhere in the Bay Area. And she had set up some arrangements and deals or contracts with these teams, the way she left, some of those contracts became a brittle, one of the first mistakes I made was that I didn’t realize how to manage transitions. So they became so brittle, that we couldn’t deliver. And then I had to take the team all the way down to sort of reestablish those relationships and those contracts with those teams, because we needed them to be able to ship anything. And what that taught me was, we are going through a point of transition, you should slow down. And you should re assert and check all the bolts and things if they’re still working. So I didn’t know that at the time. But I’ve never made that mistake again.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 07:30
You know, that’s super interesting, especially because you have been, you know, the senior product leader at a bunch of very well recognized names, but you’ve come in, you know, these are companies that were established, and they had a product and they had a culture and so and then you came in as to lead that. I mean, these are all transitions. I’m curious, like, just relating back to this mistake. What are the first things that you do when you when you do get into product or like as it relates to this contracts and being brittle? Like on that topic?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 07:59
Well, first of all, I think I’ve actually done more than just going into places with established cultures, and so on and so forth. Like, I built a company 2013 to 2015. So you know, just like you with fellow. And actually at Microsoft, even though it was a big company, when I was there, many teams function like startups. And so I actually had the opportunity to create many firsts. The first ad funded Windows app, the first services team, my services team was Services application services team that was combination of consumer and search now helped build some of the answers infrastructure at the time, I helped define what it looked like. So Microsoft giving afforded me actually a lot of first inside a very, very large organization, which helped me shape things that look like startups inside the organization. But yes, I have come into places like Atlassian, and Twitter, which had people and infrastructure and try to shape it to be better. And that’s maybe the last seven years of my life. So I think getting up to speed is a little bit like, you know, one of your priorities is getting up to speed quickly, I have this little competition with myself. Usually, when you take an executive job like this, it takes six months to really feel like you’re cooking with gas. And I try to always beat my speed records, like can I do it in three months? Can I do it in four, that kind of thing. So the first thing you want to do is understanding right? Being a good teammate, your first team focusing on the first things to do. Now one of the first things I tried to do is really understand the customers I tried to isolate the people in organization who understand customers really well and then I tried to spend more time with them than everyone else. And that’s what I’ve increased my customer intuition about who we’re serving the strategy we need to serve them and whether that’s good or not.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:46
Got it. So in terms of like the just going back to the lesson that you you were talking about so when you say first team, this is the executive team and so as part of that, a understand thing like what kind of promises were made cross team and making sure that those are almost still intact is that the way that you think about it?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 10:10
It’s almost like archaeology is sort of all encompassing, you have to get to know the people and get them to trust you. And you do that, not just by talking about by doing, you have to understand the history of that team, and what has gone wrong or right up to the point you got there. You have to sort of understand the ways of working the ways that work and ask yourself if it’s good or bad, and see if you can help improve it, if it’s not what you think it should be, in terms of your sense of what good looks like, without pissing everyone off, by the way. And so your first team is really, really important. And I think basically, if you had to pick one word is trust, you have to generate trust amongst them, and really understand where everyone is coming from so that you can be effective.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:51
And when you say you have to build trust quickly, what is something that people can think about doing in order to establish that I mean, you talked about, you know, beating your own record, and instead of six months, three months, is there anything that you figured out that helps establish trust more quickly?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 11:07
I think time is the base of human social trust. First of all, like, it’s hard to get in front of people you don’t spend a lot of time with, so you should spend some time so whether it’s executive meetings, or one on ones, and also paying attention to what you talk about in those meetings is really, really important. One of the things I do is, like I said up one on ones is very lavish one on ones with people, my first team when I first got there, and I keep doing that, you know, maybe for two months or a quarter, until you feel like there’s a vibe going right? Like you understand where they’re coming from, you get to learn who they are, where they live, their children, whatever tell, you know, when people start to tell you stories, that have nothing to do at work, you know, they’re starting to trust you. And so being an executive or leader, and especially if you’re coming from product is a little bit like social science, your social science has to be really, really high. Like, I’m sure people don’t think about this when they think about me as sort of the person with the highest EQ. But I think that’s a mistake. Like, I pay a lot of attention to humans, try to learn humans and how humans function. I think that’s the secret power of being a good leader.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 12:16
Yeah, super interesting. So one thing that, you know, typically on this show, we dive into all of the management topics. And one thing I wanted to do, and I think this is a unique opportunity, because you are a product leader, and of course your product leader at companies that care a lot about this stuff. We were just talking about this notion of generative AI, it’s something that’s, you know, everywhere, every you know, I think certainly my LinkedIn twitter feed is full of people talking about all of this stuff. But I’d love to maybe start just, you know, from from the very beginning to talk about, what is it? And is it something that’s important that everybody, all the listeners on this podcast should listen to, even if they’re not in technical fields?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 13:03
Yeah, generally they I think, Well, the short answer is yes, we are at a point in history where we have created a intelligences in the last year that not only can compute, we got to compete stuff down, but can understand humans and sort of reflect back to humans in a language that we understand that feels human. So basically, I think we have blown past the Turing test, if you know what that is, which is a test of humanity we’re computing. And so think about this, what can you do with 1,000,000,000,004 trillion more brains, that can relate in society will think much better and have access to far vaster knowledge than humans? I think that we had a huge inflection point in not just technology, and not just making software companies. But in the evolution of Homosapiens. I think, not that we will evolve faster, but I think that civilization is going to change quite a bit after this. And this is even before I get to what’s implications for type form, and so on, and so forth. So I’m excited and everyone should be a little scared as well, just because we just don’t know where this will go. And we don’t know. You know, humans are very complicated, and actually sometimes very wicked. We don’t know what people will do with this stuff. What programmable AI, which is what this is, you know, when you say prompt engineering, you just programming a computer that can do recursion that can learn, you know, with the plugins that sense the world. That’s quite a heavy idea. I mean, this is the stuff of, you know, some of the craziest science fiction novels. Yeah. And
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 14:45
so one of the things of course, it’s super interesting about, you know, everything that’s happening here, chat GPT I think one of the fastest company ever to get 200 million users. The rate at which it’s advancing and it’s becoming part of the mainstream is A quick I don’t think anyone’s ever seen something expand and get into the zeitgeist as fast as some of the tools are today. And then, of course, it’s advancing very, very quickly. So I guess one question I have for you is, you know, just from a cultural perspective, and like, if you’re a manager of a technical team sure, like this is something very relevant to you, and maybe you’re paying attention to it. What would you say to people who are sales leaders, or marketing leaders, or, you know, finance leaders? Is this something that we should all like? Should we all be spending an hour a day, maybe more? Figuring out what this means for our roles? And our functions are? How do you think about that, just from a cultural perspective, and what people should do?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 15:41
Yeah, I wouldn’t focus so much on the fear part of this, which is the whole replacement, you know, this is going to take our jobs, and so on, and so forth. I don’t think that’s how history has played out when we have major technology leaps. I think, what plays out more, you haven’t used an abacus in a long time, you just use like a Casio calculator or use a computer, like, what happens is humans migrate upwards to value added problems, right? There are lots of things in the world, still, trillions of things that are super manual, super, not fun to do. I think humans just go to the funner more complicated, more creative things. And so every role product management, sales marketing, will basically use this as a tool to do more complicated, more creative stuff, I think that’s what’s really gonna happen. And so the way we should pay attention to how we use this tool, so just like anything, you know, in school, they force you to do the math, use the latest tools, this will just become a tool that everyone has to know. And so yes, you should spend an hour at Typeform. We have like a Slack channel, where we sort of community educate each other about what’s happening in this space. And it’s sort of exciting, because we can only track what’s going on, figure out what’s relevant to us, but also jam on the most interesting things and things that are intersect our business a lot. And it’s kind of cool. And it we’re sort of teaching each other, and everyone can contribute to the same thing. So yes, spend an hour spend more than an hour because this is really important. But don’t be really afraid about your job, per se. This is gonna give you superpowers, which is the entire point.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:19
Yeah. So let’s talk about the cultural aspects. I think, you know, part of the things that make it very difficult as we all know, humans are also kind of resistant to change, we like doing things once we figure out a certain routine and a way of operating in our jobs, we just keep doing the same mold. But all of a sudden, we have this, like you said superhuman sort of tool that exists that can change everything. And that just means we have to change the way that we do things. And we have to think about it actively. Are there things that you have done with your own team. So like really challenge people to incorporate different ways of thinking or to think about the future of your product? Or how do you get people to action, the change that they’re seeing?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 18:01
Yeah, a couple of different thoughts on that. First of all, my biggest tool for getting people to change is to write like if you go to substack, or Twitter or whatever, constantly just writing because I feel this compulsion to give back. So because I’ve seen many inflection points, for the last 20 years and technology, I tried to use all of that, and contextualize, and write and say here, the possibilities, just the kind of conversation we’re having today. So even internally, organization, I actually write and say, here’s where this is going, here’s how we should think about it. And I don’t say that because I’m an Oracle, I’m just saying because I have some context, and I want to collaborate on that. The other thing is because I’m a leader, I can be more didactic. So when we’re actually talking about priorities, or roadmaps or ways to serve customers better, I can inject my understanding into that conversation. So it’s not just high level thinking about writing was also like, let’s make this important to us in a way that is actually tangible in a way that makes us money to me that makes our customers go well. So I think those are two ways that I inject that into the idea of space, either just in my personal life, but also at work. And that’s just a start tie form. Specifically, we’ve built some teams around these technologies, because we’ve been able those become super popular have been working on it for like a couple of years. And so we feel like given the time, we should start talking about some of these things we’ve invested in for some time, so that people understand that understand the level of thinking and depth that we have been bringing to product space with dirty the eye for some time, and etc, etc.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 19:40
Hey, before we move on to the rest of the episode, if you’re an engineering leader, whether manager, director or VP, all engineering leaders know that one on one meetings are a powerful tool for team engagement and productivity. However, not all leaders know how to run these meetings effectively. That’s why the fellow team just Released a comprehensive guide on the art of the one on one meeting. For engineers. It has over 60 pages of advice from engineering leaders at organizations like Apple, MailChimp, Stripe, GitHub, Intel, and more. We’ve also included expert approved templates for you to apply immediately to make your one on one meetings that much more effective. So head on over to fellow dot app slash Resources to access the guide and the exclusive templates. Right now. We’ll also link it in the show notes for you to check out there. But you can go on over to Fellow.app slash resources to get the guide and the templates today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. On the writing concept, so this is trying to make change. So part of it is to put it in writing, put the viewpoint out there so that other people on the team can actually a read it, understand that this is serious, and like this is going to be a core part of this company, but also to be able to give you feedback and help you evolve your writing. And how often do you do things like that? Just from a very tactical standpoint, other product leaders out there who are like, Oh, this is pretty cool. This thing it does, like, what is the cadence? Are it just very ad hoc?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 21:17
It’s hard, right? Especially if you’re really busy. Product leaders are generally busy founders are very busy. And there’s always someone to hire to take off some load from our for you. Well, I think you have to make it a priority. If you can, like you literally have to schedule it if you can, I don’t always succeed. But I always managed to write in some cadence, it’s better when I have my team full and I’m not hiring. And I can really focus on the right things. Also, it helps if you enjoy writing, I do, I’ve written forever. And writing is actually a catharsis for me. In fact, when I don’t write over a few months, like that’s a real problem. So I think that helps some people hate writing. So that’s very difficult. So you should use whatever works for you video async video messages, just talking about it. Otherwise, I don’t think that skills, you know, there’s a reason they said the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, I think one way to project leadership power and to gain influence in the world is to wait broadly and he works inside a company and outside the company.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 22:17
Okay, sure. And we’re getting very tactical here. But how do you know what to write about? Is it you know, whatever’s on your mind that day? Or do you make a list of things you’re curious about, and then choose one and go deeper,
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 22:29
I have three imperatives or things that I live by, right part of my code. One is wisdom. And one is curiosity. And the other one is originality. So I write, when I hit the first time, the third, when I feel like some font is dense enough to be considered wisdom, and original enough that it will make people think and open up like new visitors. And so what I do is, I have a topic list, both in my personal and professional life, and I collect the things that are original and wise. And then I create a list of those concepts, because usually is an idea, translate them into like a title and a sketch of what it is. And the key thing at work to do specifically, maybe not for like substack is to try not to make it complicated. I’ll make it like five pager or anything like that, like at work. It’s okay if it’s a half pager, a one pager so that you can focus on flow and throughput. If you’re publishing for the world, it might be better to take a little bit of time, so you can polish it.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 23:35
Yeah, got into as you come up with these things, you populate this list. And it almost becomes like a learning experience, too, because it’s a concept. But you know, it’s not like you know everything about it, you might have to think about it and research it. And, you know, by putting it into writing, or you might
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 23:49
have to go to Chad GPT. But no, you’re right, because what happens is, it’s an idea that is a synthesis of things you’ve known and things you want to know. And then when you write it down, sometimes it forces you to go do a little bit of research. Combine that with what you already know, and the history of what you know, and then you can put it out in words. Yeah.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:10
So from that perspective, okay, so the writing is a way that you help create change. So when you said that you were joining Typeform, one of the things that you also said is you can select to meet with a lot of different people. But one of the things that it seemed that you wanted to prioritize was people who were thinking about customers more, or were potentially closer to customers. And the question that I had for this is because I’ve heard a lot of product leaders and just in general, this is a thing that I hear often, which is every time someone listens to customer calls or reviews, customer material, everybody agrees that it’s something that’s good for you and when you do it, it gives you all these ideas, but for whatever reason in a lot of the organizations that have had it Contact with or talked about? It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen often enough. And so I’m just curious, like, is there anything that you’ve witnessed or put into place where you’ve made this more of a thing that people do to actually spend time with customers? Or listen to calls? Or, like, how do you make this part of the habit of the way people operate?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 25:20
I love that you asked that question. I think that talk, engaging with customers, is probably the hardest thing. And the most neglected thing that EPD or product organizations like extended for do, because we don’t really see it this way. But the frictions in front of it are quite large, right, let’s think about what it means to talk to a customer, if you are in a decent sized company. First of all, you have to generate a list of the customers. And it’s not trivial to do that you have to find the right customer, because you’re not building for everybody. And then you have to reach out to them. And then you have to schedule them, most of them are too busy, their software is in the center of their lives. And then you have to then connect them to the right person in the organization who’s asking, it’s really you want to do it at scale. My point being that this chain of this workflow is actually pretty difficult. And it’s not enough maybe to set up a panel. Although that’s possible, I did that at Twitter, with various panels of different kinds of our customers. point being that this is very costly, takes a lot of time. So what why I’m making this point, product leaders, first of all, should make customer connection a priority, I will push really, really hard at Twitter. But also everywhere I’ve been to make it a party, Twitter was difficult because we have millions of customers. And so people just give up. And that’s what happens with big companies. PMS should block off their calendars, basically. And make sure that there’s no interruptions for customer time, this is very important. What I try to encourage people to do is I give them license to do and designers by the way to do 20% of their time on customers. And that I will defend them. If people tried to break that 20% rule. Why do I do that, because I know that very few people actually spent 20%. But maybe if people spent 10%, then I’m being very successful. The other last thing is you should deploy product operations. If you have that as a role to make that customer connection easy. I’ve Calendly we will schedule customer calls on pm calendar automatically. So basically, it’s just on your calendar, it’s all set up, the customer has contacted, they’ve agreed, and it’s on your calendar. And so as PMS and creative people walk through the week, they just dial into and talk to a customer. And so it becomes more habitual. We even had all the r&d people, including engineering and design, every two weeks, go on support calls, and then those kinds of things. So I guess the point is, it’s hard. And if you make it like a little bit of discipline, oh, you got to do this and just be stern about it, it’s not going to work. As a leader, you have to address the actual frictions involved, and make it easy for people to do. And that’s how you succeed.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 28:14
Got it. So part of it is like I really liked how you broke down the tasks. So this is obviously behavior change. And we could have inserted many other types of workflows and other types of roles. But break down the tasks, find the friction points, make it super easy, you signified why it might be annoying to do this, because of all the hoops you have to jump through. And I really liked the mandate of you know, just kind of giving people a hint. Because most of the time when I’ve heard this, it’s been, you should do customer calls. And it hasn’t been like how many you know, what, how much time should I spend? How important is it for by saying that 20%? It really gives people that, you know, that’s one day a week like that is a lot like if you actually did do it, but it kind of gives you an idea of Wow. So are our leaders says that this is how important something like this is? And is there any way like that you would say? Are there other ways that you reinforce the behavior like when people are doing more of this? And do you want to reward it? Like is there any sort of loop on the other end?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 29:16
I definitely think that social reward mechanisms are good, what I at minimum, what I try to do is buy notice people have strong customer science and strong. I spend a lot of time with customers, I always celebrated now in my organization just because of who I am people care what I celebrate, because people want to be celebrated in that way. So I celebrate them. I think if you’re very thoughtful about it on your advanced product system, you should be giving out awards for people who have the strongest customer science and spending the most time with customers. But you know, ultimately what happens is shows up in accuracy and in picking the right bets. And that is the ultimate, I guess victory for you as a product leader but also for the person who built something that was completely on target. I have a short answer. So I won’t take too much time, it’s about giving a shit. Right? I think it’s about being good at being a good human to people. And being a good boss making actually being a good human, a good boss, your actual ambition is also being committed to learning and understanding, just like you said, at the top that being a good manager is a little bit like an athlete, you have to take it seriously. It’s not something you fall into, it has to be something that is a goal for you. My goal is to build teams that feel like the 99th percentile. And how does that what does that look like? People become highly skilled, people work on things that make a lot of sense to them and for their career, people who other people want to poach that successfully as a manager.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 30:47
That’s a very interest when people who other people want to poach. That’s awesome. I really liked that. So you’ve hired a lot of people. The stuff that you talked about, are these things that you select for are good human, good boss, people give a shit like, do you select for this? Or can you actually nurture this within your org?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 31:07
I feel like that’s the bar for me. And that’s the bar for my managers, like my own bar is I feel like, you know, it’s like Superman. His strength is the red, the yellow sun. What makes me I think, I feel a decent leader, and a decent manager is the given a ship is that I have to constantly learn what it means to be great at being a leader. Now, how does that cascade to the people I hire? I look for that when I want people to be managers on my team. Actually, it’s weird. Like, I don’t just promote people to be managers, because they’re excellent. I promote people to be managers who can take care of the talent that is coming up. If that makes sense. There’s a subtle difference. But it’s almost like I want to make good shepherds, managers. Don’t mangle the talent that we’ve struggled so hard to bring into this organization, encourage them and nurture them. That’s the entire job. In terms of what I look for, if you’re not a manager, if you’re speaking specifically for product, it’s really simple. There are five things I think about creativity, leadership, acumen, which is just honestly, it doesn’t like a personality. It’s how to generate followership, I think of communication skills, I think of people who know how to deliver on results, basically relentless. And I think of people who I guess you could call it customer science. So it was pm craft. So five things. And those are the things I think about from a product perspective. So the point, though, isn’t picking my five, it is that if you’re a leader, you have to be opinionated on what that is. And you have to integrate it into your product system.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 32:44
Yeah, got it. And so again, just going back to this idea of like, if you really truly care, this isn’t performative, you actually really care. And are there ways that you’ve tried to figure that out? Like, how do you figure that out in an interview that someone actually gives a shit, like you said,
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 33:03
people will care will generally Telegraph that in the things they did, or how they talk about the things they did. You know, I was talking to the candidate recently, who was talking about their way of gaining consensus. And it was quite detailed, it was full of nuance, I thought I was listening for what I call scar tissue. When I listened when I hear nuance that feels like it can’t be gotten out of a book, I think about it as scar tissue. And so for managers, you pick up scar tissue that is about them, managing properly, because they will go into places and ideas and concepts and experiences that are real, or you can tell are real because you’ve also done the same thing. And so that’s what I guess if you boil it down as I listened for scar tissue,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 33:51
yeah, because you can’t make this stuff up. You were relentless. You kept digging, you tried to find different ways to do it. And you could tell that story.
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 34:01
Yeah, you can. You can tell authenticity. When people tell you certain stories, if I say, here’s how I confronted someone who was difficult, they hated it, they hated me, we went for coffee, they hated me just a little less. But this, you know, like, there are ways like when I tell a story about a real thing that I engage with, with as much honesty and forthrightness as possible, you can tell. So,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 34:24
along the same lines, I mean, we’ve talked about this in a few different ways, including, you know, how to get your company to pay more attention to AI. But this change management thing is, I think, really important, but also, you know, the customer discovery calls that we talked about and getting people to talk to customers. You know, I’m sure you do an audit, right? You get into your organization, like what are the programs are running, how are we doing things and, and you come across the statement, this is the way that we’ve always done things. So how do you think about this because again, like people start doing things and then you know, it’s the way that We’ve been doing things and we don’t really know why we’re doing it. But we’ve always been doing it. How do you treat things that have been going on for a long time as an outsider coming in? This goes
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 35:10
into the concept of what I think of as a park system. Every sort of shipyard, every r&d organization has a way to do things always. And sometimes it’s written down. And explicit, sometimes it’s implicit, probably most of the time, it’s implicit. I believe that good leaders try to make implicit explicit, so even if it just documenting what exists is really, really important, especially externalize that people can start to treat it as its own entity that feels malleable, changeable, because it’s just a factor of design, it just that sometimes is designed by multiple people over a lot of time. And as a Kimmerer. The easiest way to understand how things work is to ask the people who participate in it how it works, right? So when I come in, I asked the same questions, maybe like five questions to 10s, maybe hundreds of people. And what happens just like any customer discovery exercise, you start to see patterns, be things people hate things, people love, things that they don’t give a shit about, and so on, and so forth. So that’s one of the things you have to do. In fact, in the book, I don’t think I’ve talked about this when I’m writing a book on product management, because of the thinking around products systems right away, I think of Brock systems as the product abstraction of innovation. So you know, developers aren’t code. And then designers, and product people aren’t sort of the design of solutions. But above that, is the product system, how all that stuff works and gets together. And so one of the things we’ve done in the book is to articulate the discrete parts of a product system, the people system, the direction system, and the execution system. And I’ve produced a little checklists to help people to make this more explicit. So you can prioritize the checklist, you don’t have to do every single thing and that things are at the top, you can literally say, is this thing, a six over 10 for this organization? Or is it a mine over 10 for this organization. So it turns out that with that kind of checklists, you don’t have to sort of doesn’t have to be touchy feely, you can say, here are the 10 things I should care about. Here’s a rating my rating for some of them. And all this stuff needs to get two points up. And then that’s a way to start being really intentional about going from, oh, this is always what we’ve done it to say people, Hey, listen, we’re building an operating system, this part that we’ve done is bad. And here’s the score. And here’s why I think is a score, and it needs to get better. And people can actually grapple with an amorphous concept in a way that feels performance driven, if that makes sense.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 37:43
Yeah, I mean, I really liked it, it almost sounds like when you go in, you’re almost trying to define the model or the system by which product gets built at that organization. And like you said, you’re you’re giving scores. And so you’re understanding what should be overweight and underweight. What is doing well, currently and what may need help? Do you draw this out? Like once you figure it out?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 38:06
I do. I do. Usually by myself, I just created the checklist literally the last couple of years. And so I use it myself and say, check, check, check, check or not checked, what score is this. And I use that as the language between me and my product ops people on what to focus on and what to build. But I also use a language for the people who resist change. Because what happens is they are thinking about the implicit system. They’re thinking about explicit systems. You know that that’s the great thing about frameworks. They really help people interact with an idea at a much more specific and granular level. So this park system concept on the checklist is a good externalization. That helps everybody.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:49
Yeah, yeah, I really liked that. And I look forward to reading the book once it comes out. It this has been an awesome conversation. We’ve talked about so many different things, obviously, starting with generative AI. We talked about making sure your contracts between teams don’t become brittle, how great leaders make the implicit explicit, and I love the 20% of time with customers and what actually makes a good operator people who give a shit. So so many different concepts. You know, before we jump into the last question that we ask all of our guests is, if you were to choose someone that you would love to listen to on this podcast, as a guest that you might recommend that we reach out to that you admire, who would be a good person that we should think about bringing on the show, one of my
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 39:35
early mentors, Cher Murata, he’s the CEO of coda. He was a little bit of a informal mentor for me when we were at Microsoft, and he went to become the highest executive at YouTube. And then he came out of that and he’s working on quota. He’s very smart, very wise, too. So, yeah. Well, your show
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 39:55
he is awesome. And I’ve checked out some of the frameworks that he’s put Gather around how to just start, like his own personal operating cadence of how to operate. So yeah, no, that’s really cool. Okay, so now on to the question we ask everybody who comes on the show, which is for all of them managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft, are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 40:21
Two, one is get good mentors, right? Especially if you’re in the product, or even let’s call it the shipyard right meaning multiple, multiple skills, but especially in product management, what oh, COVID design engineering, it’s got good mentors, there’s still a little bit of an apprenticeship quotient, especially in product specifically versus a design engineering. And so having good people who work with you can learn from is really like the big power boost for you work for companies that are good at product, right, because what that means that they’ve hired really good people, and you can learn from if it’s not just your mentor or your boss, if that makes sense. You’ll find good practitioners there, which will level you up. I also think the last thing I will say is, the second thing is customer science. Plus creativity is the sum total of being good at product. Customer science is interesting, because we often neglected and we just transact on good ideas. And those are never enough to win a market. What and what creativity we often people get so obsessed with with the pm craft, and they forget to be creative, they forget to create experiences are to build things like open AI, an LLM that understands humans, you can get an LMS and the users by studying customers, you have to take a leap that is creativity took years of discipline to do that. It’s the both is a sum of those things. You know, GPT three was available for while open source before decided to create a product that could chat, chat GPT. And then it became popular, if that makes sense. And so that’s creativity as well. And that’s also understanding customers, if that makes sense. So that’s the sum total of products. Learn both, if possible to get good at both. One isn’t going to do it for you. You need both.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 42:12
That’s awesome. That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Oji thanks so much for doing this.
Oji Udezue (Typeform) 42:17
Thank you. It was really enjoyable.