Apr 13, 2013

Role of emotions in product success

Marty Cagan in his book "Inspired: How to create products Customers love" talks about the characteristics of inspiring and successful products. Apart from the popular ones such as usability and visual appeal, one specific characteristic that struck me is the importance he has given towards human emotions and the role they play in creating a winning product.

Being a key enthusiast of marketing strategies driven based on consumer behavioral aspects, it felt like a "aha!" moment while I was reading the chapters on the role of emotion in products.

Marty says, "People buy and use products largely for emotional reasons".

It could be a positive emotion that is triggered by the product or a negative emotion that has been wiped off by the product. For example,
  • Facebook users might feel friendship, love and pride by being part of their social community and being in touch with their friends
  • Anyone who had to make an urgent phone call might have felt irritated if he couldn't locate a PCO/STD booth nearby. A mobile phone has helped to ease off this negative feeling.
The potential consumers of a product can be segmented based on the different emotional needs that will be addressed through the product. For example, an online travel booking portal addresses different emotional needs such as annoyance, frustration, apprehension, trust, amazement etc. Each of these emotional needs are addressed by means of various benefits offered by the product.

A mapping of such emotions and the corresponding product benefits are listed below:
Annoyance - higher product performance, usable interface, seamless booking flow
Frustration - booking from the comfort of one's home, transparency in the display of travel options available
Apprehension - secure payments, quick processing of refunds
Trust - booking receipts, confirmation calls
Amazement - discounts/cashbacks, loyalty programs

While ideating on a product, we should list down those emotions which are to be addressed. Personas can be helpful in segmenting the different emotions of potential consumers.

As part of product definition and conceptualization, we should work towards identifying how these emotions will be addressed through user experience, interaction and visual design, customer support etc. Prototype testing can be used to check if test users were able to feel such emotions (both positive emotions being triggered and negative emotions being shunned) through the product.

As humans, we are in a constant state of oscillating emotions and moods throughout the day. The various products we use / depend upon can also be a source of trigger for such emotions (ask anyone who tried to book a Tatkal train ticket through IRCTC first thing in the morning and how their day went after that experience). So it is important that product managers should focus on identifying and addressing these emotional needs during product ideation and conceptualization process.

Apr 6, 2013

Perspectives on organization culture

I was going over the recently published HubSpot's culture deck a few days ago and was mighty impressed and inspired by it. Many points resonated with my thinking in terms of building and maintaining organization culture.

I always believed that vision/mission/values statements shouldn't just be something that a firm creates for the sake of it, with some jazzy words and jargon laden phrases, stuck on the walls of every conference room in the office premises. It has to mean something and represent in everything the firm does.

I highly recommend you to go over this deck. Some of the points which I noted down for my future reference:

"Solve for the customer, not just their happiness but also their success"
This statement is relevant not just for organization culture but also while envisioning a new product. Understanding customer's problems and creating a solution through your product is just not enough. We should take a step forward in empathizing with the customer and understanding how the solution can help him/her to succeed in his various walks of life.

 "Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it"
Quite true. I have seen many people, especially veterans in software development teams who wouldn't want to share/disclose knowledge that they have gained over the years to a new software developer in the team. It could be an architecture overview, high level code walk through or simple tasks like setting up your development environment and build processes. Hoarding information doesn't make one superior or indispensable to the organization. Many man hours get spent when a new developer has to learn everything related to a product from scratch. If organizations incentivize senior developers/technical leads to share knowledge, it helps new developers to come on board faster and pushes the team to perform effectively.

 "We don't penalize the many, for the mistakes of the few"
This is exactly how I felt, when Marissa Mayer announced a ban on work-from-home policy for all Yahoo employees. There could be a few who might have misused work-from-home options to take care of their personal work and not even logged onto VPN. But there could be many who seriously had to be at home to attend to their sick child or elders in case of an emergency.

I agree that collaboration and interactions happen when teams are physically present in the office premises. But there could also be days when there are so many ad-hoc meetings and random discussions that prevent any focused attention needed for some tasks like research, coding a piece of complicated functionality, designing wireframes or writing product specs. Under such circumstances, I usually prefer to work from home the next day to get some quiet, peaceful time to make progress. A change in environment also helps if one is stuck with some issue or a nagging bug that needs to be fixed.

"Results matter, more than the hours we work"
"Results matter, more than where we produce them"
These two statement echo my hatred towards "clocking" certain hours everyday irrespective of whether you have work or not. Software development is not like a machine assembly line where work steadily keeps coming in from one side. Sitting in office just for the sake of getting through 8-9 hours is so unproductive. Most importantly, rewarding people who stay in office based on the number of hours they hang around is even more disastrous. Individual productivity should be measured based on the results they produce and the positive impact they have on the team and the organization.

One of the five attributes that HubSpot values in people is being humble. I'm glad that humility is still being valued in the world. This statement in the deck perfectly describes what humility actually means - "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less"

The other interesting points worth noting down are
"Don't hire to delegate, hire to elevate"
"We would rather be failing frequently, than never trying new things"
"Remarkable outcomes rarely result from modest risk"
"Simplicity is a competitive advantage"
"Influence is independent of hierarchy"

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