I am not afraid to admit I totally stole this title from James and Claudia Altucher’s upcoming book. It has a gorgeous cover which I could go on at length about but that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. Originally, this article was heavily inspired by a little video featuring a guy you’ve probably never heard of – Des Traynor.
Last year a group of tech-heads got together in Boston for the Business of Software Conference and Des Traynor gave a talk called Product Strategy is About Saying No. Not the sexiest title but it gets better from there. Although Des is speaking primarily about application products the insights he shares are perfectly applicable to any business, and really just life in general. Since one of my themes this year is simplicity his talk has become my personal life trailer. I don’t even know how many times I’ve watched it and I might be at risk of devolving into a fan girl.
Plus, Des has an Irish accent that makes everything sound good. He could be reciting the Lord’s Prayer and it’d be a riot.
The video is just shy of 8 minutes in length so if you don’t have a lot of time, here are a few key takeaways:
1. Be wary of input from other people. This is the first place where NO needs to be frequently applied. Other, well-meaning people, who may or may not have a stake in your business, will try to tell you what you should do. If you don’t have a strong, personal vision for what you’re working on it’s easy to try and integrate every pretty good idea you hear until you have a complicated mess on your hands.
2. You don’t need to do everything your competitors are doing. Often, your competitors don’t know what they’re doing either. They’re likely making things more complex than necessary and trying to figure out how to get rid of all the extra crap they’ve added. And most importantly, if you look just like your competitor, how do you differentiate yourself? One of the best quotes from the video is on this topic:
You’re delivering yesterday’s broken technology, tomorrow.
3. There are a thousand NO’s for every YES. This speaks for itself. According to Apple (who I’m sick of references to but will make an exception in this case) they throw away better products than most people launch. This might be true but then, as Des reminds us, “It’s an easy claim to make because they don’t have to back it up.” Either way, it’s a good reminder to say, “Thanks for the input but we’re not doing it.”
4. If you want engagement, build Tetris into your website. Okay, that’s not very good advice, but it’s true. The key to remember here is that you want to generate new, genuine interest in what you’re doing and not just spread it around so it looks like there’s action and engagement. A good example of this for most small businesses would be building a site that gets good traffic but fails to convert that traffic into sales. Another place where there’s often lots of action but few dollars is in the social media realm. It’s easy to spend a lot of time “marketing” via twitter, facebook or whatever poison you choose but if you’re not seeing a reasonable ROI from these channels it’s time to step back and reassess.
5. Don’t fall for blackmail. This is a huge issue for small business owners who need to put food on the table. If you don’t do everything your client demands, they might leave! Yeah, they might. It takes a very confident person to say, “Sorry, we don’t do that. Here’s the door.” This is closely related to the incredibly bad advice I was given early on in my career – Never turn work away. If you got into business to become a general supplier that’s fine but if you’re too busy cleaning toilets you’ll have a hard time doing the work you actually set out to do. I could write a short book on this topic but for now lets just say this leads nicely into the final point below…
6. It’s not just a small thing. If you’ve been in business for even a few months, you’ve probably heard this or even said it to yourself already. “This is just a small thing it won’t take a lot of time / cost a lot of money…” Those are famous last words, aren’t they? Even with 15+ years of experience I still have that little devil sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear, it just a small thing, what’ll it hurt? I’m now sensible enough to know that everything takes twice as long (if not longer) and costs twice as much (if not more) to accomplish than you think it will. An iceberg is a perfect (if not overused) metaphor for this.
There are plenty of other gems throughout the talk but I’ll let Des take over from here. If you have a few tips he may have missed or other great metaphors that don’t involve icebergs just leave a note in the comments. Here’s a final quote from Des:
The devil runs UX workshops for idle hands and he comes up with bad features.
Okay, you probably have to see the video to get that one. Have a productive day.