Sprint: Review of the book

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five DaysSprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp

In January 2018 I will be taking part in a Design Sprint, and I’ve been reading the book to dig into the details. Only then I will feel I have all the information needed to rate the book since it is basically a practical guide to put the methodology in practice.

Although there is mostly step by step instructions (well explained), there are also some good bits and pieces that are valuable on their own. One of my favorite was a chapter on prototyping where they talked about what they refer to as “The Prototype Mindset”; after listening to the chapter I ran a Google search and found this post by Eric Ries with an excerpt of precisely that part, so go ahead and read it yourself: The Prototype Mindset.

I will come back to this review after running the sprint and share here my perception of the book after putting into practice.

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“What did I learn today?”: On writing and self-reflection

Over four years ago I wrote a post in this blog with the title “What did I learn today?” (blog post written in Spanish). I started asking myself that question back then as a way of reflecting about my days at work. It was a period when I was embarking on a new career, so learning every day was an indication that I was making progress. But it was also a way of making sense of everything, as it very often felt I was just overwhelmed by the influx of things coming my way, and not actually absorbing any of it to be able to reuse it. I wrote the question on a notebook (paper, just the way I like it). Slowly the question started evolving into a wider set of questions used depending on the occasion: What did I enjoy today? How did I contribute today? What is making me feel frustrated? Why am I so positive?

My work notebooks

Doing this exercise helped me feel more relaxed. In the majority of the situations, I had the answers. I just had to take the time to reflect and find them. It also helped me plan, reducing anxiety in the process. It generated new questions, giving me purpose, keeping me engaged. If I did not have the answers, at least I started a thought process that would take me to them.

To date I keep on doing this. Sometimes monthly. Other periods daily. Mostly weekly. I still feel there is a lot of change in my life, and chaos comes and goes. It seems I like this constant change.

Being able to stop and reflect allows me to keep this lifestyle of change, without burning out in the process. It allows me to understand that even if I have not reached a goal, I have made progress towards it. It also warns me if I have stopped or slowed down on something I want faster. But it also tells me if I am biting more than I can chew. So it allows me to select what to keep and what to quit.

I do this in all areas of my life. I reflect about how my body is feeling, how is my relationship going, how are things with the family. Sometimes is just verbosity, because all I need is to vent out emotions, ideas or questions that have been keeping me trapped in my own head; other times is a very structural analysis of options, where I use rating systems and tables to make a decision. Each one when needed, and as it best feels.

Here are some tips to encourage this process of self-reflection, based on my own experience:

  1. Keep white spaces/pens/paper to write in the areas where you spend time working or reading or just chilling. For example:
    • A notebook on your desk or night table
    • A whiteboard (I have one at home)
    • Sticky notes
  2. Don’t let those moments of doubt, inspiration or eureka get lost in your thoughts:
    • Use Google Keep or Evernote to keep thoughts synced
    • User your phone memo app (if no internet)
    • Keep a notepad or other document type of app with a new file open in your browser tabs
  3. Book time in your calendar to remind you to take time to reflect and to actually do it
  4. Re-read stuff you have written in the past. It teaches you about who you were and who you’ve become (or if you haven’t changed that much, too) 🙂

Reflect. Be happy. Don’t ruin other people in the process.

Dogfooding as a Pipedrive Product Manager

Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to test and promote the product.[1]

I started actively thinking about how I ate my own dog food as a product manager when I started listening to the podcast This is Product Management. In there, Mike Fishbein (the host) always asks his interviewees a series of questions at the end of the show for their own reflection. One of them used to be “how do you eat your own dog food?” [it has been replaced now by how to learn about the topic of that episode].

It had always come naturally to me that if you work on creating, building, writing something, you always try it yourself to see how it came out. The problem is that you cannot always use a product for your own benefit because the product is trying to solve a problem that you don’t have. In this case, you have to make an effort and find a similar problem so you can truly feel you’re using the product with real purpose. Once you have a purpose, things start happening. You see the real value, you find the flaws, you think of ways to make it better. If you combine this with a constant effort to understand your customers point of view, their frustrations, what is important to them, etc… you almost start thinking like the customers, and so it’s easier for you to build something of value to them. You could also argue that thinking differently to them gives you a different perspective, which is also good.

That’s my experience with Pipedrive, where I work as a Product Manager: I am not a salesperson, so I don’t have a need to manage any sales pipeline in there. However, I do have people (colleagues, customers) that I have “deals” with (projects, events, roadmaps), for which I need to have an action plan. The action plan is my main focus at the moment: You see? My role has recently changed: I have more responsibility, therefore I am accountable to more people. It is critical to me that I spend my time doing the right things that will help my teams move forward, or that at least won’t get in their way.

Pipedrive allows users to create custom activity types, so what I did is I created activities matching the areas where I usually spend my time: Research, team events, planning, business trips, etc:

Pipedrive Custom Activity Types

Pipedrive Custom Activity Types

I plan my day and my week using the calendar in the app, and choose the corresponding activity type for each scheduled thing:

My weekly calendar in Pipedrive

My weekly calendar in Pipedrive

Whenever I plan an activity or mark one as done, this will be reflected in my activity reports. This is my favorite part. I can have a look at where I have been spending my time and make sure I adjust if I see I can be using my time more wisely next week. I can also take preemptive measures as I can also  see reports for planned things. So I don’t have to wait for things to go wrong before I fix them:

My activities report in Pipedrive

My activities report in Pipedrive

In the end I gain in two ways: I get to use the product I am responsible for in a really meaningful way to me, that allows me to learn about the product and about myself.

This is just one of the many ways in which I eat my own dog food. I do recommend product people doing the same if you are not doing so already.

If you are doing it, I’d love to hear some of your experiences and what you have learned from it? Or even better, do you think there’s something wrong with this approach?