Include both books in your 2023 reading list!
At Octobot we are big fans of reading and learning new things. Last year we welcomed our CEO, Guillermo Perez, on Octobot Tech Talks, our podcast for the Spanish-speaking tech community. He participated in two separate episodes and told us about two inspirational books, which we used in 2022, for bringing and implementing new practices at Octobot.
The first one is “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott, and it provided fantastic cultural tips for improving our work relationships and outlined the business results we would garner. The second, “Inspired” by Marty Cagan, is about building successful and wise digital products – the roles, processes, and practices that result in winning products.
In this blog post we want to share the main points of each book and maybe inspire you to include both in your 2023 reading list!
A particular change in the company's culture
After listening to the team at Octobot and their request for better techniques for giving and receiving feedback, we started researching and dug into readings such as “No rules rules: Netflix and the culture of reinvention” by Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings. From there, we discovered Scott’s “Radical Candor” book, in which we identified some of the issues we were having in our company and learned how to build the feedback-based organization we want to be.
“Radical Candor” teaches a feedback methodology that results in better, more open relationships at work, and a culture based on continuous growth. It fosters a frequent feedback mindset in which all things must be addressed the moment they happen in a direct, assertive way in order to give the other person the possibility to change. This promotes both individual and organizational growth.
In which quadrant are you?
According to the book, giving feedback is a matter of caring about the other person and wanting to help them improve.
In order to explain the method, the author gives some examples of the typical positions someone could take when feeling the need to give someone feedback. These positions are highlighted in the diagram below:
- In the first quadrant, Scott talks about people who have a Ruinous Empathy. It means that instead of saying something directly to a colleague, they prefer to keep quiet because they don’t want to incite discomfort or hurt the other person’s feelings. However, by not providing feedback, the Ruinous Empathy folks are not giving their teammates any possibility for growth or improvement.
- The second one, the Manipulative Insincerity, is also about not saying things when needed, but not because of an empathetic feeling, simply a cold disregard. People who behave in this way don’t care about their colleagues’ personal feelings or professional development at all.
- The third variant follows people who are eager to say everything they have in mind, but they do so in an aggressive way; thus, this quadrant is called Obnoxious Aggression. This person also doesn’t care much about how a colleague will receive feedback. It is better than the previous two since it’s more honest, but it also generates a non-ideal working environment.
- The fourth variant, Radical Candor, describes people who give critique without holding anything back. However, they do so in a way to best reach the other person. Instead of making the other feel bad or frustrated, they do so in an attentive way, showing their care and giving ample context. This generates a much better chance that the recipient will comprehend and will feel motivated to work on improving.
How can I apply the Radical Candor correctly?
There are a few tips the book provides on giving constructive feedback:
- Be humble; don’t assume you are in a better place than the other person. Be open to the possibility that you may also be wrong.
- Be immediate; give feedback at the moment the mistake or situation occurs. That way, you can give the other person a better opportunity to change course. Also, you can explain yourself better since the situation will be fresh in your mind.
- Be helpful, but don’t solve the problem for the other person. It’s not your responsibility. Be clear and provide tips or ideas if you have any.
- Give positive feedback in front of the team. It is not only good for the person who receives the recognition, but also for others, who can feel inspired by the example.
- Give constructive feedback in a one-on-one scenario. Look for a chance to talk in person or over a video call. Don’t send feedback in an email or Slack message – tone can be misunderstood. Also, when giving constructive feedback, do not talk about the person, but rather about their work. Avoid things such as “you are irresponsible.” Instead, try “the latest reports were not delivered on time,” for example.
Benefits of Radical Candor:
At the end of the day, It is difficult to say difficult things, but when an organization succeeds in creating a culture where feedback is positively incorporated, it results in a sustainable growth path. Radical Candor encourages this culture and a feedback system based on the importance of building honest and caring work relationships. For that, our main learning points from the book are:
- Always give context
- Don’t sit on your feedback; give it as soon as possible
- Be open to give and also receive feedback
- Create comfortable, safe spaces to encourage your team to exchange feedback
- Give feedback in person
A final tip from Kim Scott is that if companies want to begin implementing Radical Candor, they should start with the leadership team. Leaders should start by asking for feedback from each other, not the other way around. That way, they’ll be motivating their team and encouraging them to talk without fear of how it will be received.
The other book recommendation is very useful for those involved in product development at any stage. The “Inspired” book is centered on the processes and roles needed to design, develop, and deliver products that reach business goals and provide users with the solution they need.
It is a must-read for any role in a digital product company such as Octobot. Let’s see why.
The Product Manager role
By reading “Inspired,” we got to know more about an important and unique role.
The Product Manager knows a little bit of everything, from design, to development and even marketing, among other areas. Based on their studies and years of experience, they acquired a clear understanding of technology, business, and product skills. This allows them to lead conversations on many levels and with all of the roles involved in a product development project, from the designers to the technical engineers, and the business stakeholders, too.
Their experience and background can vary, but the book highlights that great Product Managers are those who have a true passion for digital products.
A common myth about the Product Manager is that this person is always on the client’s side. However, after reading this book, and based on our own experience, we can say that the Product Manager is, in fact, always on the business’ side. This professional is the one in charge of defining what things will or will not be developed and why, always prioritizing the decisions that make more sense based on the livelihood of the business.
Also, this person is in charge of making sure that the features are not only developed but also that they are successful. And what is success, you may ask? It’s when a product truly solves users’ needs while adding value to the business.
Main challenges in terms of value, usability, viability and business:
In the book, the authors explain that when you’re building a digital product, you may face four main types of challenges.
Value challenges are those we need to overcome in order to not add irrelevant functionalities. If the product doesn’t fulfill users requirements, it’s not valuable enough for use.
In terms of usability, challenges relate to how we can make sure the app is understandable to the user. Even if it provides a solution, it won’t be successful if the user cannot understand how to navigate it. For that, the product should be complete, but also simple.
Viability challenges are those connected to the technology behind the product, since we must be sure that what we are trying to build can be built in an effective way.
Last but not least, you must consider business challenges, since solutions should also bring value to the business behind it. In other words, they need to be profitable and match the business timing and other factors.
These four challenge groups help to simplify the team discussions and allow people to be on the same page. Also, they provide a clearer understanding of the problems and their possible solutions.
The whole book is dedicated to providing suggestions on how professionals in this industry can overcome these challenges. It’s filled with tips, recommendations, and even success stories to inspire the reader.
A new process known as “Discovery”:
Have you thought about a product idea? Before moving ahead with building it, you should live a Discovery process in order to evaluate if it’s feasible. These are some of the steps proposed in the book to have a positive Discovery process:
- Defining the problem: frame what the user needs to make sure you’re attacking a real issue.
- Planning the order of doing things: decide where to place focus and prioritize what’s most important in order to face the project development accordingly.
- Ideating: brainstorm with the team how you are going to solve the problem.
- Prototyping and testing: put your ideas in a simple, working MVP in order to collect feedback and adjust before embarking on the full product development.
- “Transformating”: receive input from the results, learn from it, and then get adapted and evolve. A product is a living thing, and should always grow and advance according to what we learn from users.
The Discovery process proposed in “Inspired” is an effective step-by-step to make sure you’re building the right features and minimizing waste of time and money.
The book recommends leaving roadmaps aside, and instead, going for a process in which the goal is the center of everything you do. With this mindset change, you’ll get closer to building the right product for your team, your business, and your users.
Also, “Inspired” mentions the benefits of working with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), but for that we’ll work on a specific article, since in 2023 we’re implementing OKRs in Octobot. We can’t wait to tell you all about that experiment!
These are some of the things we learned from two fantastic books. All of our team members were encouraged to read those, and a few digital and physical copies of both are around the office.
We hope you find the readings as inspiring as we did, and stay tuned for our 2023 book recommendations! If you are a Spanish speaker and want to learn more about these books, you can listen to our episodes of Octobot Tech Talks:
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