There is a part of my career when I have to stop and take a step back. The following is one of the most important journeys I had to take. It was another paradigm shift in everything I knew, an extremely painful process and after it all, I felt like I had new skins and the tastes of the bearing fruit is sweet nonetheless.

I want to share with you the lessons on humility.

For the past few years of my career, I have always tasted success along the way. The journey was rough but I ultimately knew I would reach the destination and find success. However, in the year of 2017, nothing was ever enough; my plans, my execution, my ideas somehow seemed to have hit a limit. This is because I have stopped learning from the market, people and experiences. I have become a product manager that builds products based on my own dreams…

Lesson 1 – Why is the no. 1 question to ask

“Explain to me what are you building in 5 words”.  That was easy until I realise it was not.

‘Loyalty points to retain users’, I would say at that time.

‘How would points retain users?’

‘We gamify it so people would keep coming back.’, I retaliated.

‘There are many apps out there that gives more enticing points, why would they come to yours? What messages are you sending? Why? Why?’

Narrative is the key to anything and everything about a product. Good products cannot sell without a good narrative. More so, good products cannot be built without a good narrative. Building a good narrative is a start even before any constructs are created. Learning to address the why(s) are how good narratives are constructed as I learnt much later on. And you must keep questioning the motive and the relevancy until you or the people around you are convinced. 

In order to test the strength of your narrative is to keep talking about it and get real opinions. Many would succumb to selective hearing – especially to positive comments. It is the negative comments we have to be more attentive towards. If we find ourselves clouded, it means that there are clear gaps and holes in the idea. Not necessarily the idea is bad, but we must spend more time in addressing real concerns.

Lesson 2 – Simplicity does not mean less work

A lot of product teams make assumptions and build insights to fit their constructs which is why many products can’t launch and if they do, it remains stagnant. Ideas are formulated through market signals using data points or clear observations. Insights should be deliberated and debated long before product constructs are written on paper. It might not necessarily be a lengthy process, we just need to remember to keep slimming down the concept – keep it simple.

If you take too much time to explain an idea than it’s too complex. Ideas must be as simple as getting from destination a to destination b. Most of the work goes into building assumptions from a simple idea and validating them. For example: A simple idea on user rewards, like ‘Purchase a plan and get rewarded instantly’

The key assumptions on a simple thought is broken down into several tasks for validation.

  1. How much a reward to give?
  2. How easy to claim the reward?
  3. Are we de-valuing the consumer needs?
  4. What are the gains?

And it goes on and on until we have learnt enough to go-to-market with, and continue on our experiments.

Lesson 3 – Why should you choose me?

The art of storytelling is hardly ever practiced enough in workplaces because everyone ‘knows’ how to tell a story. Yes, everyone can tell a story but when you need to tell a story that sells and convince people to join you – that requires a whole lot of brain cells. From the first word you put on a slide to every message you send to your users, you are building a story to tell. The next step is to actually tell the story to your audiences without pictures, like striking a conversation.

Try this, record yourself, talk to your trusted counterparts, just to listen to your own voice. Does it feel natural, are you convinced? When you storytell, do people listen or look up and stop what they are doing? If they do you have told a compelling story.

In Lesson 1, a narrative is constructed and the key messages are drafted from what we know. This time, you need to make the message land directly to your target segments and have them remember you. Before you even start, the storyteller must immerse into the daily lives of a specific persona belonging to the target segment. This is when teams define the value proposition and craft a story that hooks people in. It sounds superficial but that is what differentiates one brand over another. Does your story resonate with the person you meant to address?

So what’s this point on humility?

On the course of my journey, the lessons above might seem rather common and easy – if that thought crosses your mind, then you have already lost half the battle in making anything great. That was the greatest lesson for me. No matter how high you climb up the career ladder, believe that you are not the smartest in the room and learn from everyone in it. What’s more, great leaders practices lesson 1-3 every time not succumbing to the fact that they already know-it-all because they know, a trick does not always work the same way as it did previously.

When you have humility, you will always go to the bottom to rise up – again and again.