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3 Different Methods to Define amp; Build Awesome Products

Page history last edited by Dave Nielsen 8 years, 11 months ago

3 Methods to Define & Build Awesome Products

Session 1 - 10 AM

Presenter: Mike Harding


follow: @mah1

Click here for the slides


Note Taker: Kyle Warneck (@KyleWarneck)

Standing room only - And tons of folks pouring out the door into the hallway.


Why are there so many bad products?

  • Microsoft's BOB
  • The ISmell (Smell the internet!)
  • Xervac
  • Chest hair toupee
  • Edsel
  • New coke
  • color.com (great team- no actual product idea)
  • Santa Dreidel (Facepalm!)

Serious thought, money and PM methodology went into these products


3 approaches for building products


Approach 1: Best imaginable product

  • Peter Wilton (Haas lecturer)
    • satisfied customers irrelevant. Loyal customers invaluable
    • Start with a blank sheet of paper and imagine the best imaginable experience
  • ex. Air travel for business
    • trips suck
    • jetBlue tries to address has emphasized in seat entertainment as a way to improve the experience But are they best imaginable???
    • but what are travelers trying to accomplish? best imaginable experience is probably not to have to travel at all!
  • ex. PowerPoint
    • the tool is a big distraction (crashed on Mike last night)
    • but the goal is communication and that's important


Approach 2: Design as a product

Book: Design is How It Works by Jay Green
recommended read by Mike
Example: Ace Hotel

  • identified segment that is cost sensitive and community motivated
  • heard people complain about the lack of options in downtown Seattle
  • Came up with the feel for the hotel. Took photos of other hotels as inspiration and treated hotel as a movie
  • each room is distinct and furnished with vintage stuff (lean!)
    • room w/ bunk bed and no restroom for $75 - perfect for the kids
    • put record player and records in room - customers loved it - began bidding up price of those rooms

But Ace had some failures too

  • Ace bought a vintage work table and had a furniture maker mass produce replicas
    • the result was not awesome- hugely expensive fail
    • They scrapped all the tables and then reassembled tables from the scraps

Question from audience: Is this design driving or really knowing a demographic?
Mike's answer:

  • yes, but they started with a purpose and then came up with the look/feel
  • and they're pulling customers from outside their demographic

Question: what about apple? don't they do this? Answer: Highlighted apple brand loyalists in the room

Question: what was their process?
We don't know

Question: wasn't this really price point driven? Vintage is cheap?

  • but got to price by going in a different direction
    Ace outfit's hotel for $15,000 per room vs industry standard $40,000 per room

Question: but what about the labor cost of finding cool buildings and old vintage stuff?

  • definite question about scalability

Audience member notes: NYC rooms start at $300 - $400
Mike says the Seattle one was <$100, but somewhat minimalist


Approach 3: Self as a customer

Mike left Juniper in 2011 and started looking for new gig

looking at his resume - thought the format felt archaic


Thought : As a hiring manager, what do I want to see?

    • treat resumes as a chronological list of lies
    • used only to disqualify people- not to pick who he wants
  • looks for 3 things:
    • skills
    • passion
    • fit w/ culture
      and traditional resume doesn't answer those questions


Mike partners with a designer and makes a personal infographic and got a gig and lots of positive comments about the resume

met with Stephen Years to create a product to let anyone do this without a designer

Create re.vu



  • Survey of HR pro's: "Yuck, breaks my tools! (but I'd contact anyway)"
    • lots of feedback like this
    • dis-intermediates HR - connects candidate with hiring manager
  • Candidates: say "when can I get it"
  • Hiring managers: " a breath of fresh air"



  • Entered 59 days of code comp- and they won!
  • Launched Re.Vu in Sept 2011.
  • tens of thousands of users today (in 6 months!)
  • Between Jan 2012 - March 2012 increased users 2.5 times


More examples of self as customer:

  • Mint.com
    • Design as product approach
    • 1/10th of quicken features - but Mint does the work for you
  • Electric power production - internoch (sp?)
    • Rewards clients for conservation- as if they were producing the power, but without having to build a plant
  • Angie's list
  • experiment to clean Salton sea
      • used shrimp famring as test procedure
      • became a successful shrimp farming business
  • Jazzercise
  • nest - thermostat
    • honeywell explored years ago and decided not to pursue
    • nest is selling like crazy


  • Escape from normal mode
  • get perspective 
  • experiment 
  • Succeed - create awesome projects

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