Canvas 2017: Views from a Non Product Person

This was the year I finally managed to realise a long held ambition and attend my first Canvas Conference in Birmingham – a conference full of ‘insider stories from product people’ organised by the fab team at 383. I don’t really consider myself cool enough to be a ‘product person’, despite now owning a bag that proclaims to the world that I am. So here are the things that a ‘non product person’ took away from an amazing day with a stellar line up of speakers…

1.Getting out of the Building We heard a confession from Hamish Grierson from health tech start up Thriva that he had committed the cardinal sin of failing to get out of the building and talk to his customers. He assumed that a subscription model would be a barrier to customer adoption when actually his customers wanted a long term relationship with regular data updates. We heard from Hugo Cornejo from challenger bank Monzo how they have actually built a community of customers who they constantly engage with and even invite to birthday parties and milestone events.

2. Equanimity I learnt a new word – equanimity – from Jeffery Veen from True Ventures. Fundamentally its about grace under pressure and allows teams to deliver in stressful situations. I’ve not used it in conversation yet ..

3. Be a Comet Bo Ren from Tumblr has had her career described as a comet –she moves at velocity, moves on when she has made an impact and doesn’t always know where she is going next. I thought this was a great message for those of us who worry we haven’t followed a traditional linear career path and may stress about what next. A strong trend through out the conference was also the way people introduced themselves using three words again avoiding a traditional one dimensional approach. For Example Bo Ren – Investor, Writer,Traveller Haiyan Zhang – Engineer, Designer, Maker I’m inspired to find my three words and also to be proud about being more comet like…

4. The Value of Human Connections This was a strong theme throughout the day and it would have been so easy for a ‘product’ conference to miss that actually the real value lies in sharing the things we make and bringing people together. Jane Kelly from BuzzFeed captured it perfectly when she talked about tools that optimise for human connections – not easy when everything is constantly changing. Sarah Guha from Starling Bank recognised that human connections are essential for delivering trust, assurance and ultimately advocacy. Strong evidence for the role of design thinking in product and service development.

5. Purpose – find your North Star and navigate by it Many of the organisations had a clear purpose and bold vision which made me reflect on the purpose of my business.

Thriva: #1 Preventative health care and Starling Bank: Best bank account in the world.

6. Application of Gamification Beautifully illustrated by Duolingo and how they use ‘streaks’ to build up repeat behaviours and habits to aid the learning of new languages. They recognise that self directed study is tough to maintain but using ‘streaks’ they can reward consecutive days learning. They shared some emails from their customers asking for their streaks to be reactivated as unfortunately they had been in recent hurricanes. Recognising that ‘streaks’ are so important to their users they even offer ‘streak’ protection schemes.

7. Ignoring the Data Of course for a ‘product’ conference there was lots of talk about experimentation and following the data. But I also loved the ‘humanness’ of some of the decisions that were shared. For example Duolingo talked about choosing the style of their online reward badges for when their users reached certain levels – they just trusted their instinct. Monzo talked about the picking vibrant colours for their debit cards that customers just love – ‘we just got lucky’. Bo Ren talked about knowing ‘when to rip the band aid off’ for me that just means sometime you have got to go with your gut …

8. Finding the Fair Value Exchange So this was interesting, how do we reward customers for all that lovely data they provide and how do we make it relevant. Sarah Milton from All4 shared how they are using data to segment their audiences (who knew there is a Hollyoaks only segment ?!) but they are now developing curated content offerings to their segments. Also Monzo bank shared how they are group customers data into useful categories and then helping with savings targets. Although I’m not sure I really want to know how much I spend on coffee each month I think I should know…

So there concludes my personal reflections/take aways on Canvas 2017 – I’ve deliberately not repeated the key messages from every presenter as the videos will be available on the Canvas website and you can watch them for yourself. Instead I have tried to focus on common themes and things that resonated with me as a ‘non product person’ – despite the bag.

#Innovation #product


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