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Episode 149  |  45:06 min

Radhika Dutt, author and product leader: radical product thinking

Episode Thumbnail
Episode 149  |  45:06 min  |  10.08.2021

Radhika Dutt, author and product leader: radical product thinking

This is a podcast episode titled, Radhika Dutt, author and product leader: radical product thinking. The summary for this episode is:

Speaker 1: Hey there product lovers. Welcome to Product Love Podcast, hosted by Eric Boduch, co- founder and chief evangelist of Pendo and super fan of all things product. Product Love is the place for real insights into the world of crafting products as Eric interviews founders, product leaders, venture capitalists, authors, and more. So let's dive in now with today's Product Love Podcast.

Eric Boduch: So welcome over to Product today. I'm here with Radhika Dutt, author of Radical Product Thinking. Why don't we kick this off by a little overview of your background and then we'll delve into your book.

Radhika Dutt: Sounds great. Thank you for having me, Eric. So my background is I started my first startup right out of our college dorm room in MIT, and that was my foray into entrepreneurship. I've learned how to build products by making mistakes. And that first startup was a perfect experience. And one that I can talk about where I made these mistakes. Our startup at the time, this was back in 2000, we set out to revolutionize wireless. And tended to be just a very broad vision. That was, yeah, it's unclear what it meant to really revolutionize wireless. And the mistakes that we made along the way was that with this lack of focus, we kept switching directions, trying to find product market fit. And what's funny to me is that this was more than 20 years ago, but this is still how we build products today. So my background in the overview is that I built products, learned through hard experiences and worked in many different industries. Wireless was just the first one, but after that, I've worked in broadcast media and entertainment in telecom, even wine. And in fact, the funny thing about my background is that I've never held two consecutive jobs in the same industry. And so the background is having worked in large companies and small and startups and multinationals, I just kept seeing the same issues pop up over time, which brings me to where I'm today and that the book that you talked about, Radical Product Thinking, it came out as a result of all of these experiences and saying, well, how can we build better products? How can we build world changing products just repeatedly?

Eric Boduch: Yeah. So let's talk about your book, Radical Product Thinking, why do we need to think about product differently and why now?

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. So the biggest reason is back we have learned that the way we build products is through iteration. In the last decade as Lean Startup came out, as agile has become just ubiquitous, all of our investment and how we build products, how we build the companies has been on, how can we iterate faster? And the analogy I like to give is iteration and the ability to iterate fast. It's important, I'm not dismissing it, but it's like having a fast car. To get to your destination, it's helpful to have a fast car, but it's not enough. You can't get to your destination just by having a fast car. You need to be able to navigate to it. You need to know what your end destination is and navigate to it. You know very often in product we say, well, let's just ask customers what they want. We listen to customers and build what they want. But the analogy I use is asking customers what they want. It's like asking for directions, when you're in your fast car and you're asking for directions, you still need to know where you want to go. Your customers can tell you if you're on the right track or not, but they can't tell you where you need to go. They can't help you set your destination. And that's where the need for this book came about. Because until now all of these methodologies that we've had, they're focused on just how we can iterate fast, but there hadn't been something that tells you, " Well, how can you take this vision driven approach? How can you set the destination and navigate to it better?" There hasn't been this counterpoint to be able to invest in setting the direction and navigating to it that compliments our ability to iterate fast. And that was the reason I felt like we needed radical product thinking this new mindset to be able to compliment our ability to iterate fast and have a fast car.

Eric Boduch: And why now? Is it because agile is really changed the velocity of engineering is not one of the driving factors, or why do you think this is particularly important in today's day and age?

Radhika Dutt: It's two reasons. First, it is because all of our methodologies they've optimized as far as we can go just with a fast car, we're not going to see better products because we're going even faster. And if we look at the rates of failures of startups or of products a decade ago, that's not really changed now. It's not that most startups fail. It's hard to build products that get traction, that hasn't fundamentally changed even after all this time. So it's really time to do something different. The second reason was, and this is maybe we can get into this in more detail afterwards. But the second reason was the fact that the way we're building products, we really changing the world and affecting people through our products. And when we don't have a clear vision for the change that we want to bring about, we're just trying what works in the market. We create products that have unintended consequences on society. And we continue to build such products that have unintended consequences. It feels like we really need to take a step back and think about how we're changing the world through our products. Every product manager needs to think about that. And which is the second reason why I thought it was very important for us to take this new mindset.

Eric Boduch: Yeah. I think the whole concept of product ethics broadly is something we definitely should discuss. We'll definitely get back to that because that's a passion of mine as people build products that maybe drive usage for the sake of driving usage, waste time, there's all kinds of things out there that people are building products in. And frankly we live in the social media days where there's a very divisive society. And a lot of that is probably exacerbated, I guess, is a good word by the way, certain products are built. So we'll definitely get back to that. But one of the things I wanted to dig into was this idea of product diseases that you write about, y tell me about product diseases and when and why products go bad?

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. Product diseases are this pattern of mistakes that I keep seeing where when we are iteration led, as opposed to being vision- driven, we start in our fast car without knowing our destination and how to navigate there. And what happens then is we constantly keep focusing on the short- term just because the short- time is what grabs the most of our attention. That's what feels urgent. And so the result of just driving without this clear destination is where we start to see product diseases. And I'll give you a few examples. I started talking with my example of my first startup. It was called Lobby 7. And I talk about this in my book, but one of the diseases that I had caught at Lobby 7 was what I call hero syndrome. Hero syndrome is where we're so focused on the scale of what we're building, on the scale of going big and trying to solve a big problem, having a big impact, et cetera, that we forget to refocus on what is the problem that we're trying to solve in the first place. And so in the example of my startup, the way we measured our success with being able to raise venture capital funding. And this happens to a lot of startups. In a product we might measure success by saying, well, I have so many millions of users or this much time is being spent on my product. And we feel like the heroes instead of really thinking about are we solving a problem in the world that really deserves to be solved? So that's one example of hero syndrome. Another really common product disease is pure pivotitus. Pivotitus is what happens when we keep switching directions, just trying one strategy after another, to see what works. And you can get to a point when you're building a product where even every sprint can feel like a different pivot because your customer is asking for one thing in one sprint, a different customer has different issue that's the most urgent thing at that time. And so you keep pivoting like this. And maybe I'll share one more product disease that is typically a pet peeve for most product managers. It's when your salesperson comes to you with a glimmer in their eye. And they say, " If you just add this one feature, we'll be able to win this mega client." And that's obsessive sales disorder. And it sounds mostly harmless when your sales person tells you that. So you say, " Yes, let's do it, it's going to be just this one feature." And pretty much by the end of the financial year, you're sitting with a stack of contracts and your entire roadmap for the next year is driven by all the things that you have to make good on. So that's one that not only have I experienced, but this is one that I've also contributed to. So that's obsessive sales disorder, but there are seven such diseases that I talk about in the book.

Eric Boduch: Awesome. Awesome. Yeah. I mean, it's interesting that the sales disorder, when I feel like I saw that a lot, especially in past lives, enterprise companies where there was always the, oh, it's often cloaked under this idea of we're being customer focused. We're going to build this because the customer wants, it's very customer focused that's customer centric. And how can you argue with being customer centric? But it often takes you away from your strategy or something that you feel like is innovative for the product. I saw it a lot more now, today it's interesting in a lot of startups, you see a lot more, I think of the pivotitus that you described, just because there's been a lot of this, you see a lot of successes and a lot of unicorns. And I think a lot of early entrepreneurs think those happen really quickly. If all of a sudden it's like right away, we knew this company was going to be successful. It was like, boom, boom, boom. And I've talked to a number to startup companies where it's two months in and they're like, " We don't have enough traction yet. It's not accelerating at a hockey stick. We need to pivot." I was like, it's been two months. I mean, come on, you got to let things play out a little bit. And you see that kind of mentality today of like, " Hey, we need to grow so fast" that people are just pivoting before they've given strategy enough time to work too?

Radhika Dutt: Oh, I love that you bring that up and both points that you made. Let's go back to obsessive sales disorder for a moment. I love what you said. It's under the cloak of being customer driven. And you're exactly right. We often mistake being customer led instead of being customer driven. And that's the mindset that we need to change that customers are giving us directions once we know where we're going, we can't just completely follow customers for every kind of win that they might have. And that's where you catch obsessive sales disorder. But your point on pivotitus, there's one example I gave of pivotitus often, which is where there was a startup that I was part of and I was heading up marketing and we did exactly what you said. Every couple of months it was a pivot. And we started off trying to be the next Visa of the world. And that meant you have to both acquire merchants as well as consumers. And that's really hard. And so after a couple of months we said, " Oh, there's too hard problem to solve. We'll become a loyalty solutions provider for merchants." And then after a month or so we said, " Oh, that's just really crowded market. We'll become a credit solutions provider for merchants." But with each pivot, at some point I was so confused. I wasn't sure what I was asking people to sign up for on the website anymore. And it was just equally confusing for both our customers and merchants that we were trying to sign up for it. But this point that we tend to pivot too quickly and use unicorns as an example, when I teach this class on innovation at Northeastern, I often ask my students to do this exercise with me. Let's talk about whether something is an actual pivot or not. Let's use the example of Slack. That's one of the most often quoted examples of a pivot that worked so well. And to me, that's not a pivot actually at all, Slack was a massive online gaming platform before it became this tool for communication. When it was clear that that was not where the gaming platform was not working, they completely shed their baggage of being a gaming company. And although it was the same team, it was a very small part of that team. And they started a new company. So it really was not a pivot. Something very similar with Twitter. That's used as an example, it started out off as a podcasting company, but then iTunes came along and that business model was failing. And so they pivoted to this idea of Twitter. But again, it wasn't a pivot. It was really starting a new company. And so we have to take a moment before we keep pivoting like this and realize two things. One is as a startup or product company, it doesn't matter. You literally have two to three pivots at the very most, no matter how much money you have before you run out of money and momentum. And so you have to use those two to three pivots really carefully. If you wasted every couple of months, trying different things, you're most likely going to run out of money. The second thing is, even if you think that this is a pivot and you need to move, one of the best things to do is to first talk to your team about what have you learned, why do you need to pivot? And what is the new vision? The gravitas with which you craft a new vision statement, et cetera, makes you realize that it's not just a matter of, " Oh, let's just try something else," that you're really making a significant change. And it helps your team understand why you're making this change and help people come with you on this journey. And that's maybe one of the biggest things that we can do to avoid pivotitus.

Eric Boduch: I like that. I like that. Well, now we talked a little bit about the diseases and I know there's more in your book and we can't go through them all. We can't just read your book to everyone on the podcast. Right?

Radhika Dutt: Well, I don't mind. I'm happy to talk about more diseases too.

Eric Boduch: Well, let's jump into how you define radical product thinking in the elements. You defined five, the first one of which you were just talking about, in the case of a pivot, redefining your mission and your vision statement. So let's start by talking about vision.

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. I actually don't draw a distinction between a mission and a vision statement. And the reason for that is, I feel like there's just so much confusion and so many words, instead of making people remember different vision statements and mission statements and the difference between the two, et cetera, it just like in the Lord of the Rings, we say one being to roll them all to sound one vision statement to really get everyone on the same page. My idea of a vision statement is very different. And I challenge conventional wisdom where the idea of having a vision statement is one, it has to be broad and unchanging. If you're in the startup world, you're asked very often, what's your big, hairy, audacious goal or a beehive? My recommendation is that a good vision statement is not a beehive at all. A good vision statement is a problem that you're trying to solve in the world. That is a problem that you're really inspired to solve to the point where even if you take yourself and your company out of the picture altogether, that's a problem that you would be happy to see solved in the world. And so to me, a good vision statement, and this is what I talk about in the book, answers five questions. It answers the who, what, why, when and how. So whose world are you trying to change? What does that world look like? Meaning what exactly is their problem and how are they solving it today? The third, and this is probably the most important one to me is why does it need to be solved? Meaning why is the status quo today unacceptable? And unless we're able to answer why the status quo is absolutely unacceptable, meaning there's no place in the world for our product, maybe there's no reason for it to exist. Then the next question is, well, when will you know that you've arrived? How will you know that you've actually solved this problem? What does the world look like when you're done? And then finally, the last question is how you bring that about, and this is finally the point where you can talk about your particular approach or your product or technology or whatever it is that you use to bring about that world. So it's the who, what, why, when and how answers and to make it much easier to answer these questions, the radical perfect thinking approach is a fill in the blank statements so that you're not stuck on the words and wordsmithing your vision statement, because otherwise you play what I call vision bingo, in an offsite where if we start wordsmithing, we end up with words that sound very similar to the original vision statement. That sounded beautiful, but it didn't, maybe get to this level of details in terms of the answers to these profound questions. And so it's a fill in the blank statement that starts with this. So that's what I mean by vision.

Eric Boduch: Awesome. Can you give us a couple of examples?

Radhika Dutt: Sure. I'll share an example of a startup that I had our vision statement would read as follows. So it would say today when amateur wine drinkers want to find wines, that they're likely to like, they have to find attractive looking wine bottles or wines that are on sale or promotion. This is unacceptable because it leads to so many disappointments. We envision a world where finding wines, who like is as easy as finding movies who like on Netflix, we're bringing about this world through a recommendations algorithm that matches wines to your taste and an operational setup that delivers these wines to your door. So that was the vision statement for a startup that I had in 2011 and I sold it in 2014. But I think the one thing that I'd like our listeners to walk away with is I hadn't said very much about my startup at all, but hopefully at the end of that statement, you knew exactly what we were doing and why we were doing it. And that's the key to a vision statement. Every time I say this vision statement, maybe a few words here and there might be different, but the point is not the exact wording. It's really, you get what we were building and why, and that's what you want in your team. You want every person on your team to be able to talk about your shared vision in their own words. And that's what the statement enables.

Eric Boduch: Thanks. I think that's a great example. And it also reminds me about pretty labels generally mean pretty bad wine.

Radhika Dutt: So true.

Eric Boduch: The second thing, second elements that can fill our strategy, talk to me about the strategy element of radical product thinking.

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. Once you have a good vision statement, the strategy is what helps you convert that vision into a set of actionable steps. And the strategy is where we focus on being customer driven, as opposed to becoming accidentally customer led and customer obsessive sales disorder. So there are four questions that the radical product thinking approach to strategy helps you answer. And this is really the key to a comprehensive strategy. And I'll share a quick mnemonic so that it's easy to remember these four questions. The first is, R for real pain points and real pain points is basically where you say, okay, what is it that makes someone engage with your product? What's the pain that makes them come to your product in the first place? The D is for design, which is what's the design or the functionality that solves this problem, or that solves this pain for the customer? The third is C for capabilities, meaning what is the capability, the underlying technology or partnerships, et cetera, that really powers your solution? And then finally, the L for logistics is how do you deliver the solution to your customers? And this is where you talk about your pricing model, your sales channels, your strategy, your plan for actually supporting the customer, training them, et cetera. And so the mnemonic is RDCL, or you can pronounce it radical so that you answer these four questions in detail. And the reason we came up with these four questions is because it's really hard to intuitively think of these four things comprehensively when you're just working on every sprint, et cetera. So it's helpful to take time apart and just think through your answers to these questions so that your execution and what you actually build on your sprints is driven by these. And I'll give you my own example. Very often when we don't do this kind of a comprehensive strategy explicitly, what happens is, especially in this L for logistics of thinking about your support strategy, your training plan and how you will do customer service, or actually deliver the solution, et cetera, all of that is often left as an afterthought. Let's just build our product. Let's first get traction, then we'll figure out how to monetize it, or then we'll figure out how to support it. And it's a lot like building a house when you're building a house, you think about are you building this house for a young couple, or are you building it for a family of four? Based on the answer to that, you might build two very different houses. And so your answers to these four questions are really integral to how you build a product.

Eric Boduch: And do you see, going back to the startup world specifically around strategy? What do you see most startups getting wrong? What are they missing from this model from radical?

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. Very often in a startup world. First we focus on the solution because we think we've built some really cool capability. One example I have is a lot of AI startups. Maybe you've figured out a really interesting algorithm, defined patterns, et cetera. And then they go about trying to first build a solution around that. So it starts with capability. Then they've built a solution and then they're trying to fit the solution to what's the pain point. " Let me go talk to lots of customers and then see what pain points I can address using these solutions." And so going through this kind of backwards means you end up pivoting from one customer to the next or one solution, one pain point to the next. And so the order in which we approach things has to be a little bit different, which is that we have to start with what is the real pain point? Because without that, perhaps there's no reason even for the product to really exist, if you can't figure out why someone is coming to your product. So starting with that point. And then going through systematically to the rest of the answers.

Eric Boduch: Okay, well, let's talk a little bit about prioritization because that's one of the elements.

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. So to me it means have that inaudible in our everyday actions and the vision and strategy is where prioritization or everyday decision- making comes in. I often think of our vision and strategy as the engine for the car. And prioritization is where the rubber actually meets the road. That's the tires that actually help you connect that vision to your execution and measurement. And so when you think about how do you prioritize? What do we do intuitively as experienced product people is we're balancing long- term against the short- term. So if you actually explicitly draw this out in an X and Y axis, you can think about your vision as the y- axis, whether something is good for your vision or not. And your x- axis, you can think of that as survival. That's the short- term, whether something is helping you survive in the short- term or not. Something that's helping you both with a longer term vision and your short- term survival. Well, of course that's ideal. Those are the easy decisions, things that are good for your vision, but it's not helping you short- term that's of course investing in the vision. For example, if you're refactoring code for three months, you're investing in the vision. And the opposite of investing in vision is where is helping your short- term, but it's not good for your longer term vision. This is where you're taking on what I call vision debt, which is like technical debt, except it's on the vision side where it's taking you further and further away from your vision. And going back to obsessive sales disorder. When we keep taking on vicious debt, constantly focusing on the short- term, winning those deals, et cetera, that's the quadrant that we keep being in, if we're starting to catch obsessive sales, just so that we are just starting to take on more and more of this vision debt. And so the reality is there's no bad quadrant, except maybe the danger quadrant, where of course it's not a good vision fit and it's not helping you in the short- term, but nobody is asking for those danger quadrant features usually. And so these other three quadrants, they were really all okay, but they all depend on what's right for your company at that given point. And what's the right balance between the short- term and the long-term. So as a product present, you're making a lot of these decisions just intuitively, but prioritization and using this explicit discussion of long- term versus short- term trade- offs and bringing your vision into those everyday decisions is how you can communicate that intuition that you've built with your whole team, because the reality is and this is what I've said for every product manager that I've trained. Our goal is to make ourselves redundant where every person on the product team should be able to make decisions like you would, even when you're not in that room, even when you're not next to them as a software developer someone's making a decision whether to hard- code something or not. There's no right answer for what to hard- code. I mean, you can say you should never do that, there are times where you take on technical debt, but when is the right time to do that? What are those right trade- offs? A lot of those trade- offs people are making on their own. You need to be able to communicate what's that, right trade- off? And by using this X and Y axis of the vision for survival, you help people make those trade- offs and you use those when you're doing sprint planning so that you bring your vision into your regular sprints.

Eric Boduch: I like that. It's interesting. Yo talked about vision debt and also the compulsive sales disorder. And it made me think too about how I like to think about whether we do something or not, that's a customer request or a sales request being driven by sales. And that's a question of is it part of our overall vision? It might be a quarter or two out. We might be accelerating something because it's driving a customer deal and that might be okay, and that's a trade off decision we can make, but it's the ones that aren't in that overall vision. Then we got to say no to, even if it means potentially not getting a customer. And the ones that are so far in the future on the vision side of things, that it's just a distraction are also the ones that we probably want to say, not yet to and see if we can sell the customer on the value we have today. I think that's interesting to apply those customer requests to this whole concept of vision debt and what it causes you.

Radhika Dutt: Exactly. And I love how you described it. Those are exactly the discussions that are important to have. And there's no right answer. If you're a startup that's bootstrapping and you're desperate for cash, you may have to take on more of this vision debt and acquiesced to customers asking for things that only they're going to use, but at least when you have these discussions explicitly with your team and if you're taking on vision debt and you recognize it, what's helpful for the team is it helps reinforce that your vision, you still believe in it. You recognize that you're taking on vision debt, so it's not a top- down loss of confidence in the vision that, oh, let's just do this. You're being very clear that I don't want to do this in the long term. Here's what we're doing short- term. And here's how eventually we want to invest in the vision and you have to make good on that. But those discussions are really useful and they make taking on vision debt, less demoralizing for the team.

Eric Boduch: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I mean, no one in a software company wants to think of themselves as it's just a drive through where customers roll up and say, " I want this. And I want that." I mean, you ended up having this Frankenstein of a product in that kind of environment. Even if you do get some of the short term sales. So part of this all leads to execution and part of execution is measurement. How do you guide people in this radical product thinking paradigm when it comes to execution and measurement?

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. The idea of execution and measurement does that, that's your opportunity to validate whether your vision and strategy are actually working. And so the main point out of that is creating hypotheses for every single element of your strategy saying, " This is what we believe is the right strategy. And here's why we think it is, here's what we expect as a result." And then using measurement as a way of checking whether this hypothesis is true. And if it's not, then you can go back to your strategy and say, " Oh, you know what? Here's what we learned from our measurement and what we need to do instead." So this is where you have this feedback loop between your execution and measurement and your strategy to say, " Okay, here's, what's changed as a result and what we're going to do differently." But what this really means is that what we measure has to be driven by our vision and strategy. And I think that's the biggest takeaway for our listeners. What happens often is that measurement is based on popular metrics. We measure what's popular for example, ARR, or we might measure the time spent on site and the number of active users and so on. And those are all metrics that exist. But one of the product diseases that I call hyper metrisimia is where we measure so much. And yet we don't think about whether those are the right metrics that indicate progress for our product and for our vision. And so the right approach to execution and measurement is deriving the right metrics from your vision and strategy based on hypothesis that help you understand whether you're on the right track or not, if that strategy is working or not.

Eric Boduch: Yeah. I like that you talk about that as what's the right metrics for your company? Because a lot of people think there's some perfect answer to metrics that's usable by everybody and it's not true. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, if you look out hundreds of years into the company, future, it's going to be revenue and profitability and back those kinds of metrics, but how you get there and how you're successful is picking the right underlying metrics that are going to drive those things. And a lot of that is really company product dependent. Right?

Radhika Dutt: Exactly. And you know what you mentioned about trying to optimize for revenues and profits, increasingly what we've seen is that companies are more short- term driven and we do end up focusing a lot on short- term revenues and profits, but in the long- term, that's not necessarily what makes companies profitable. And so that's not the right metric to optimize for in the short- term to begin with. And this is why it's so important to derive those metrics from your vision and strategy.

Eric Boduch: Yeah. And investors are savvy to that too. I mean, even though it's really important that you hit your short- term revenue metrics, there's definitely a concept of good and bad revenue. The simplest one might be if you're a software company and a lot of your revenue is coming from services, that's not good revenue. You want that reoccurring revenue, even if the services engagements were reoccurring. You want to make sure that, that base of software. So I think investors are savvy enough to know that there's underlying metrics that are important even if there is a short- term push to ARR. And those underlying metrics are going to be very specific to your particular company and making sure that you're building something that will continue to grow because it's one thing hitting a quarter's number. It's another thing making sure you have the systems in place to hit all of your numbers moving forward and continue to grow. And then I think that does emphasize picking the right metrics and what's specific to your company.

Radhika Dutt: Exactly. One example I talk about in the book is General Electric actually. And they did exactly what you talked about. This example of what's good revenue versus bad revenue. Their goal was to be number one or number two in every market and to meet short- term revenue goals, one of the things that they did was they leveraged GE capital more and more to the point where at some point the markets recategorized GE from a manufacturing company to a financial company. And one of the things that at some point GE capital made up like 42% of GEs revenues. And they had started with like GE capital being only 6% initially. And by the time GE capital was growing to that point, that level of GEs revenues, one of the ways that they were growing GE capital's revenues was by investing in subprime mortgages and GE was dealing with the fallout of that until just a year or two ago, even.

Eric Boduch: Yeah, no, absolutely. It's an interesting story looking at the history of how GE has changed over time.

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. And by the way, it all started with a vision that was just way too broad. Their vision was touted as fantastic for a long time. Their vision used to be being number one and number two in every market. And that vision really leads you astray because it's just too broad. You're not articulating what's the problem that you're solving in any given space.

Eric Boduch: Yeah. I think if I was going to think about the elements of product thinking I would have thought about vision, strategy, prioritization, execution, measurement, those kind of four pillars with execution and measurement being one or one element together. But you also talk about culture and I might be a little bit unexpected for people. Now, we all understand the importance of culture at least I think a lot of us do. But the fact of that you think of that as a primary element of product thinking, talk to me about why culture is a primary element of product thinking and why it's so important.

Radhika Dutt: Yeah. I think for all of us, we're building products, not just by ourselves, if we were the only person building that product, the culture element isn't important. But the reality is when we work in a team, whether it's the vision, the strategy or any of these elements, each person needs to buy into it. And they're contributing to it. When you create a vision for a team, that vision ends up being translated into each individual's personal vision for how their work is contributing towards what the team is working on. And so the culture element is so important in terms of how we can all gel together and deliver our best work altogether. And I found that the whole radical thinking process of creating the shared vision, strategy, priorities, et cetera, all of these are tools that are designed for communication and bringing the team together so that we can deliver our best work. So it reinforces the idea of creating a good culture and having a good culture helps you do better in each of these elements. But what I realized in addition to this, is that just like a product, culture is also something that we can very systematically engineer. So just like we can build successful products, we can build successful cultures and it requires the same elements of product thinking, meaning you need a vision for culture. And by the way, that's one of the hardest things for culture, because culture seems like such a nebulous and abstract idea. What does it mean to have a good vision of culture? You can say, I want an open culture, transparency and so on, but what does that actually mean? That's really hard to describe. And so the first thing is developing a clear vision for culture, and this requires a slightly different approach. And I talk about that in the book and I'm happy to get into this in just a moment. The second thing is then once you have a vision for culture, how do you systematically engineer change in the team to be able to bring about that culture? And so doing that systematically means taking this radical product thinking approach. And at the end, you can also measure whether you've executed on your culture effectively. And so maybe I'll talk a little bit about the vision for culture since that's a little bit different. The way I think about culture in our team is culture is the cumulative set of experiences that we go through in our workday. And the way we experience our workday is on two dimensions. I think about our workday as being fulfilling or not. So this is stuff that we're working on, that's fulfilling or not. The other dimension is stuff is either urgent or it's not. So if I think about tasks that are fulfilling and not urgent, that feels like the most meaningful work. This is where you have mental and emotional bandwidth to be able to think through problems and work on purposeful stuff. So those are the meaningful tasks. The second quadrant is what I call heroism. This is stuff that it feels fulfilling, but it feels urgent. So if you're firefighting customer issues, you're happy to have made a customer happy, and it adds a little bit of spice to your day to do this firefighting. But if you're doing this all the time, you're engaging in heroism and it's exhausting. The next quadrant is work that's not fulfilling, but it feels urgent. So this is the stuff where you need to order a new laptop, but you need so much paperwork to get that done. It's like punching through a field of cactus, it's just painful and slow. So if you have to keep getting a lot of consensus on relatively minor decisions from a whole bunch of stakeholders that feels like organizational cactus. And the last quarter does the soul- sucking quadrant. This is stuff that is not fulfilling and it's not urgent, but it's like a low grade fever that's just ongoing. And so if we think about what makes a good culture, the vision for a good culture is one where you are meaningful work time is maximized. And the time you spend in the other three quadrants is minimized. You'll never find work that has absolutely zero in the other danger quadrants, but the work that's best that you enjoy the most is stuff where you have the most time in the meaningful work quadrant and less time in the other three quadrants. And then your strategy is about how do you bring about such a workplace where you can maximize meaningful work and reduce the other quadrants? And then your execution is executing on a lot of the hypotheses that you've created in your strategy, and then measuring whether that's actually working.

Eric Boduch: I like that. I feel like we could spend a lot of time talking about culture, but we're running out of time. So I did want to make sure we got back to product ethics. Because you put a whole section in your book about product ethics, it's a passion of mine. Why do you include it?

Radhika Dutt: To me, I keep seeing the world changing in a way that reminds me of environmental pollution, just as industrial growth has led to environmental pollution. I see that in the digital era, our carefree growth in the tech industry has led to what I call digital pollution. And there are five main types of digital pollution that I identify in the book. And I'll mention a couple of them. Through our products we often create an increase in wealth inequality just through business practices. Let's think about Amazon's eroding of worker rights for example, but the more wealth inequality you have in society, the more erodes democracy. You talked about ideological polarization through social media that also erodes democracy. The more polarization we have, it's harder to reach agreement on anything. Another really important one is erosion of privacy. We tend to collect so much data in our products so that we can do a better learn insights, et cetera. But every time we erode privacy, we are contributing to surveillance and that erodes democracy as well. And maybe just one last example I'll share is the misinformation that comes out of products that also erodes democracy, because knowledge is what's needed for democracy to thrive. But when we have misinformation, we make it easy to collect lots of information. You just have a very hard time, even if you do research to tell whether that information is fact or fiction. And so in creating products, it's important to not just have the superpower to build successful products that make us a lot of money and taking this vision driven approach helps you do that. But it's important to think about the responsibility that comes with building successful products. And this is why I wanted to talk about the ethics and help us first recognize the forms of digital pollution that our products may be inadvertently just contributing to. And then also start to see how can we do better?

Eric Boduch: Yeah. I think that's a good overview. I think we need another hour to sit down and go through a lot of those things you touched on like how we can do this better? How product managers, how product leaders should think about this differently? How we should approach misinformation, why it's such a big problem? What we do about this polarization impact on social media? There's a lot of things there, like how can we build better social media companies whose algorithms don't seem to amplify polarization? And maybe that's a good way to talk about it. I feel like we have another hour there. inaudible another day. Why don't we wrap up today by talking about what your current favorite product is? What is it?

Radhika Dutt: Okay, I'll first talk about my definition of product. My definition of product is your mechanism to bring change in the world. So really anything can be a product. If you have a clear vision for what's the change you want to bring about whether it's activism or a nonprofit, government any of these can be your products. So at the moment my favorite product is the country of Singapore. I describe in the book why Singapore was engineered like a country, aside from the fact that it's a tropical paradise. I love how well it was organized and how well it was engineered. And so at the moment, I would describe that as my favorite product.

Eric Boduch: Even though wine's expensive.

Radhika Dutt: Even though wine is expensive in Singapore. Yes.

Eric Boduch: Being a wine lover like you are, I assume, since you had a wine company, that is one downside to your favorite product. It's a rather pricey.

Radhika Dutt: That is true. There are definitely other downsides. The food there is amazing.

Eric Boduch: Yeah, that's what I've heard. I've heard that. Well, final question for you today. Three words to describe yourself.

Radhika Dutt: That is definitely the hardest question of the day, but let me have a try. Three words, so one is a compound word. Vision- driven and I feel like in the book, I had a clear vision for the change that I wanted to bring about. It was getting us to think about building our products differently and changing how we build products. The second is, I guess I'll say determined. I am persistent in what I do. And third is probably thoughtful. I think this is one word that took me some time to embrace because being thoughtful is often not embraced in the startup world for sure. But even in industry. And I think that's really important for us to be is product people.

Eric Boduch: Awesome, well, thank you. This has been a blast and your book, Radical Product Thinking it's out when?

Radhika Dutt: It's out on September 28th. And as people will read the book and have thoughts, et cetera, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I would love to connect.

Eric Boduch: Awesome. Well, thank you again.

Radhika Dutt: Thank you so much for having me.