Exploring the Key Skills of Innovators, and Weighing up Job vs Mission in your Career Journey
Struggling to persuade an opinionated founder that their great idea needs a bit of discovery? Try telling them you're on their side and you're trying to prove, not disprove their idea.
Look sad when user feedback is negative and tell them they're a visionary. They're just too early!
A word from the sponsor - me!
Yes, yes, that's me. But listen up. I started One Knight Consulting because I have seen variations of the same problems plaguing growing startups, scale-ups and larger, digitally transforming companies again & again. These problems can cause friction between teams, slow product development, lacklustre sales, and ultimately lead to constrained growth. If you're scaling your product organisation, struggling with cross-team alignment or having trouble executing your product strategy to support your business goals, book a call with me and we can discuss your needs and how I can help.
New Podcast Episode: Learning the Bedrock Skills of Innovators & Entrepreneurs
It’s not often you get to speak to one of the foundational figures whose work permeates modern product design. So, I was delighted to have the chance to speak to Bob Moesta, the co-creator of the ubiquitous “Jobs to be Done” framework. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a product team that doesn’t at least talk about JTBD, and it’s quite likely that Bob’s had a hand in at least one product you’ve used!
Bob’s got a new book out, “Learning to Build” and we spoke about that book, as well as the origins of Jobs to be Done and his passion to pay forward everything he’s learned to the next generation.
Check out the podcast episode on your favourite podcast app, or check the episode link.
All the best innovators in the world have a core set of skills
The 5 bedrock skills of innovation are:
To have the best chance of success you must master them all or find people to help.
One Knight in Product (nearly) live: Is Product/Market Fit Really Dead, or Just Resting?
My good friends Andrea Saez & Dave Martin from Right to Left recently unveiled a spicy-sounding white paper entitled “Product-Market Fit is Dead”, something that is guaranteed to see VCs across the world spitting out their kombucha.
We wanted to do a Twitter Space on this but, about 10 minutes in, we could barely hear each other and then got kicked out. It seems Elon is having an impact on Twitter already! We abandoned that plan and popped out an emergency podcast episode with no cuts, and no editing, to try to get as close to the real experience as possible. Check it out (and make sure to download the white paper!)
Grab a plate of hot chicken, crank up the bluegrass, and talk about B2B Product Discovery
I was delighted to receive an invitation from the Nashville Product Meetup team to talk about B2B Product Discovery. I think it’s fair to say that B2B folks can often have it quite hard when it comes to talking to their customers, and I spoke about some of the reasons for this as well as some potential solutions. Check the recording here.
Weighing up Job vs Mission, and what it means for your career
I’ve pondered this a few times in my career. When choosing your next job (or whether to stay at your current job), there are a couple of interesting dimensions to consider:
Does the company do something that personally resonates with me? Is it something I’m passionate about, a problem I personally want to see solved, something I’d be proud to say that I worked on? Is it just kind of so-so, neither good nor bad, just kind of there? Is it something that I actually fundamentally object to, or think is a net negative on the world?
There are many interlocking factors here, but fundamentally the question is: Is the job the right one for me? Is it the best use of my skills? Am I going to get to work the way I want to? Is the company culture good? Is there psychological safety and an open, trusting atmosphere where the best idea wins and there are no sacred cows? Is it (does air quotes) a “proper” product company?
Now, call me a woke, liberal, metropolitan elite if you like, but there are some types of companies that I just don’t want to work for. Gambling. Weapons manufacture. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Probably many more. It’s not always that I’m against the thing they do (I’m quite fond of the occasional game of poker) but there are many “missions” that are ultimately destructive and I don’t want any part of them.
When it comes to the job itself, it’s important to call out that there are no perfect companies out there. All companies have their own problems! If you see greener grass it has inevitably been spray-painted, and there are probably thistles hiding in there. It’s not about seeking perfection, more about finding the right mixture of things that delight you and things that bother you. There’s also a “delta of despair” factor here - if we accept that perfection doesn’t exist, how far are you away from it? Is the distance getting smaller or longer?
This then led me to think about the characteristics of the Job/Mission quadrant:
If you’re working for a company with a mission that personally resonates, the company works in a way you appreciate, and you are able to contribute in a way that you want to contribute, you’re in a pretty good spot. Try to make the most of it!
Hold your Nose
The company does something that you care about, but you don’t get to work in the way you ideally want (and have a limited chance of changing it). You should still try to change it but accept your limits. There’s a certain “nose-holding” here, and maybe you can hold those nostrils for a while but, if you’re passionate about the craft of product management, you may eventually leave.
An additional interesting wrinkle here: What if the company’s ways of working are actively (in your opinion) holding the company back and stopping it from effectively solving the problem you’re so passionate about? Does that make it better (good mission) or worse (poor execution)?
Enjoy the cash (while it lasts)
I was speaking with a friend recently who once saw a financially lucrative opportunity in an industry that he was mildly against, and became more against over time. He was in a position to do what he wanted to serve that industry - his personal agency was high - but as he worked with potential customers he realised that, in many ways, the industry was reductive and destructive. He decided to bail out.
Personally, no matter how good the job or the money, I couldn’t work in a place like this for long.
Run for the Hills!
If you’re not working for a company that does something you care about, the company doesn’t work in a way you like, and your personal contribution is not what you want it to be then why are you staying? Get out of there!
The only caveat to “get out of there” in all of these cases is to acknowledge that mobility may be low in your market, or you might not have many options or any number of other mitigating reasons that make it essential to stay. Try to make the best of it (but I still think it’s worth investigating your escape route if you can).
One additional caveat that can affect any of these categories, and something I’ve yet to fully form an opinion on. What if you’re working for a great B2B company serving industry verticals (e.g. weapons) that you object to? A whole different discussion for a whole different day!
Thanks for reading, do please send feedback and let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to cover. And remember to share the newsletter with your friends!
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