Sunday, June 21, 2015

Races for Peace

Last week ended with the news in Charleston where hate took the lives of too many people...yet again. 

The violence in Charleston seems like a never ending cycle of violence based on hate and the undertone of racial divide in the country (although the hate runs much wider than race - just ask the friends/family of Mercedes Williamson). The events in Ferguson, Baltimore, NYC, Charleston... seem like a never ending wave of violence.  It ends up in the same cycle:

  1. Outrage
  2. Social media debates
  3. Community protests
  4. Key politicians and entertainers speak out
  5. And eventually back into resignation that nothing will change

This time a friend of mine decided to do try and stop the cycle.  She posted on Facebook enlisting friends to work with and raise awareness and respond with something other than resignation.  She decided she is going to organize "Races for Peace".  She plans (or "is") to start a series of 5K's around the country raising awareness and let folks know this has got to stop. Several of us have signed up for in this journey.  I do know posting messages on social media doesn't help and definitely sitting on the couch binge watching the latest TV doesn't do any good - so it's time to step up.

Someone posted that money is the primary way to get change.  It worked in Indiana, financial pressure led to the religious freedom law being modified (and likely stopped other states from adopting something similar).  Similar pressure could (and should) be done in South Carolina to remove the confederate flag from flying at the capital building.  But that isn't solving root cause, I would also say education isn't the only answer either.  I was volunteering yesterday and missed the last one due to a vacation. Many of my clients commented on the fact that I missed the prior weekend. They noticed I was gone.  One remarked about the rookie driver not having a clue about where she was going. I serve those that on the surface appears that I have nothing in common with...yet I do. That's when I realized it is about connection.  We all have a tendency to stay in our lanes, in our comfort zone...for things to change, we need to change and get out of our lane.

What are you going to do?  Are you going to volunteer outside of your community in a way that breaks down this divide?  Are you going to work with the kids in your family/community and educate connect?  Are you going to start a Races for the Peace 5K in your city? #DoSomethingThatMatters

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Geeked out! My Day at the Mind the Product Conference

Last week I was able to attend the Mind the Conference for the first time. It is now one of my favorite conferences of all time – I felt like I was with my tribe.  It’s like ProductCamp but exponentially bigger.  I’ve come back jet lagged and inspired.  I’m motivated to continue to learn, get better and to take some of what I learned and infuse it into my day-to-day job as a product leader.

The diversity of speakers resulted in a diversity of topics for the day.  They ranged from the immediately actionable to inspirational as well some good reminders of what we often already know but too easily forget. Topics included Embracing Conflict, Learning to say No, Rapid Prototyping, Story Telling and Product Failures. My favorite topic of the day was by Kathy Sierra.  Her talk was inspired by her book BadAss Making Users Awesome.  It was a reminder that our products are supporting our users in a much larger context.  To support them we need to help them find flow through challenges and to help them feel more like a human being.  It was about reducing “cognitive leaks” and not making our users think about the wrong thing.   My co-worker has a great post on this topic and the overall experience for a user. This book is now at the top of my reading stack! 

A theme throughout many of the sessions is the concept of testing your hypothesis (your problem statement), creating experiments, getting feedback and pivoting.  Getting feedback throughout the process…not waiting until the end.  Most organizations believe they’re practicing agile development but are only applying it during the build process – this is something that needs to be expanded throughout our processes.  It’s a great opportunity for us to get back to the basics of agile and take our product teams to the next level. The speaker, Marty Cagan, posted about it after the conference - it's a great read.

Finally, my favorite part was the people.  The networking was a-w-e-s-o-m-e.  So many great folks that were willing to share their ideas and what they’ve learned.  I met many product people that I’ve been reading their books/blogs for years.  This would be the equivalent of someone meeting Sandra Bullock (or for me Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black fame) but for the product space.  In addition to big names, it was so great to meet product people across industries.  I met a product manager also navigating through ACA but for the education space.  Who would have thought?  I can't wait to go back next year!