The Ant Murphy Hypothesis: Everyone is a Leader on High Performing Teams

Anthony is a Product Coach and Director of the Association of Product Professionals. As a coach, Anthony helps organizations succeed in product. His experience spans several industries and organizations of all shapes and sizes. He has shipped products at every stage of the product life-cycle and even sunset them!

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we cover leadership, scaling up startups into enterprises, consulting for personal growth, and how a product mindset can change people’s minds and habits.

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Questions We Explore in This Episode

We're taking a bit of a minimum viable bureaucracy approach. Wait until something is becoming a problem to introduce new processes, structures and frameworks.

How did Ant get into product? How did the military influence his career in product? How did company size affect Ant’s experience in product? How is finding product market fit different for a startup? How does product ownership between a startup and a large company? Where do startups benefit from a lack of process? What changes are implemented as a company scales up? What responsibilities do you have as a product manager to the product’s stakeholders in a startup vs a larger company?

How do enterprises release new products into new markets? How do you influence an enterprise to change their approach to product? How important is getting C-level support and buy in on a new product? How do you pick your battles in an enterprise? What compromises need to be considered between changing minds and keeping momentum?

How do similar titles differ between a startup and an enterprise? How does experience play a role with regards to your title? How does scope of work differ based on your title between a startup and an enterprise? How is hierarchy affected by the rate your company scales? Is having a hierarchy inevitable as a company scales? If you scale up with an organization, how do your responsibilities change?

What strategies can be used to help manage a company that is scaling up? How much pre-planning should be employed during a scale up? As a company scales up, is it better to get ahead of problems or implement changes when problems arise? How can you turn problems into opportunities for change in an organization? How can you leverage changing company practices and show that current methods are causing more problems? What percentage of time and investment should be given to your core products, adjacent projects, and new ventures?

How did Ant become a coaching consultant? How can consulting increase the rate you gain experience? How can consultants help validate ideas and further educate companies? Is a product mindset scalable for enterprise and startup alike? How do you break down the discovery phase of validating an idea? What insights can be gathered from exploiting an existing product idea? What insights can be gathered from exploring new product ideas? How do you explore new markets without over investing? How can you test ideas when exploring a new market opportunity? How do you use an assumptions map? What easily available tools can you use to explore a market?

What is a design sprint? What are some of the limitations of doing a design sprint? How does a design sprint help streamline the design process? How does a design sprint help you scale with clients? How much time do you spend interviewing in a design sprint vs traditional means? What information does a design sprint not reveal? Is a design sprint more useful when you are exploiting a tested idea or exploring a new market? Can you explore a new market without building a prototype?

What insights can we derive from behavioral economics? How do we know when a user’s behavior is rational? How can your product change a user’s behavior? How difficult is it to change a user’s habits? Is it enough for your product to be better than the competition? When building a customer persona, how do you incorporate customer behavior & patterns? How can focusing and segmenting customer personas better help you solve a problem? What value does story telling play in finding patterns in customer behavior?

What lessons can the military offer around leadership? How can teams better handle ambiguity? How can you be a servant leader? How can every team member be seen as a leader? How do you convey a commander’s intention and empower the team to autonomously follow through?

Quotes from this episode

The Ant Murphy Hypothesis: Everyone is a Leader on High Performing Teams Click To Tweet ”There's a difference between leadership and having a command appointment. As an officer, you have a command appointment, but that doesn't mean that your people aren't leaders and they need to be leaders because that's what a… Click To Tweet “I talk often about breaking discovery into two modes, you've got exploring and you've got exploiting.” Click To Tweet

Transcription

Holly:
Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast, where we’re helping startup founders and product leaders build high-growth products, teams and companies, through real conversations with the people who have tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host, Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science. This week on the Product Science Podcast, my guest is Anthony Murphy. Anthony is a product coach and director of the Association of Product Professionals. As a coach, Anthony helps organizations succeed in products. His experience spans several industries and organizations of all shapes and sizes. He has shaped products at every stage of the product life cycle and even sunset them. Welcome to the podcast.

Ant Murphy:
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Holly:
I always like to start by hearing a little bit about people’s journeys into product, and then we can dive into some topics of the day. How did you get into product?

Ant Murphy:
As with most people, accidental product manager. When I went to university, they always told me to become a business analyst, become a project manager or become a project director and then you’ll be CTO or something one day, and product wasn’t really a whole consideration. But I did do marketing in university, which piqued my interest in product. That was probably one pivotal moment. Then the next one was I actually … So out of uni, I became a software engineer. I did that for two years. I left that. I joined the military here in Australia. I went to the Royal Military College to train to be an officer. I like to say that the military taught me product, because it’s probably very true. A lot of the things I learned there, I still apply today from the leadership point of view, even just like execution planning, all those types of things. I left the military while I went to part-time to the reserves and I came back to full-time work and I ended up in a BA role because that’s what uni told me to do. Then I got retitled to a product owner role, which was my first introduction into agile and scrum and product development. Then from there, I got bit by the bug and I’ve had a series of roles in doing a lot of mobile product development in all different companies, AI machine learning, media companies, FinTech. Yeah.

Holly:
Awesome. I guess, one of the things I like to talk about is how the different companies and different sizes and different stages of company create a very different experience for products managers. Tell me a little more about some of the companies that you worked at, what were they like?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. I actually did a Mind the Product talk on this exact topic, and the company size shapes it quite largely. Because if you think about it in the context of a small organization and startup, when you’re a product manager, you might be the only product manager. You might own the whole product, everything. But even if you’re only one or two or three product managers in there, what ends up happening is you really own a very narrow product. It’s a single product. You might be still trying to find product market fit. That changes the way that you approach things. You’re still trying to find product market fit and really iterate your way there. You also just have a really narrow problem space, if that makes sense. You’ve got singular customer base. You’re quite focused there.

Holly:
I mean, you hope so, right?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Exactly. When companies start to grow, you get this scaling issue where before you didn’t have to have a lot of product process, a lot of framework, a lot of structure, none of that stuff matters because there’s two of you in a 10, 20, 50-person company sitting together. You’re just chatting all the time, communication flows. Even little things like getting clarity on vision and strategy and roadmap becomes very easy to do because you don’t need to put a lot of effort into communicating it. We’re so small, everyone just knows what’s going on. When you become 200 people, 300 people … And my client I’m working with right now, they’re at about the 200 people market scale-up and they’re scaling rapidly. So doubling their people every 12 months or so. Now you need to bring in framework. You need to bring in process. All the stuff that you think it feels like a waste, “Why am I documenting this? Why am I doing this process?” Is the only way you’re going to scale and grow. Then the other problem you now have from a product point of view is it’s not thin anymore. We now have multiple customer segments, multiple product lines. We’re trying to grow new product lines while maintaining the existing one. How do you keep existing customers happy while exploring what’s next? What’s a new market we can go into? How do we ride this wave to go onto that? You also have a lot of technical things. Scaling comes with a lot of technical foundation. How do we support a thousand customers, a million customers? Your work becomes less shiny feature stuff and you need to balance that. Then you’ve got a further end of the spectrum, which is that large enterprise where products become more mature. You start to plateau more, you’re not high growth, you’re more maintenance of the product. You’re still trying to extend it. You still launch new products. I launched a new product in a large enterprise and I’ve launched a new product in a startup. Although there was a lot of similarities, you still approach things quite differently. In the large enterprise, I had a team of 25 people to launch that product. I had a very large budget, but that also meant that I had a lot of stakeholders. I had to spend a lot of time working with the stakeholders, making sure that they were up to date on our plan and how we’re tracking. The MVP or the minimum product, the first launch iteration that we produced was probably much more well-rounded and design was nicer and those types to things than the product that I launched in the startup, because, A, we had the budget, but B, we also had the brand. We already existed in the market. We’re going to get a good amount of traction by leveraging our current brand and customer base, which means we need a higher experience and something they can support better and a little bit more refined than you would in a startup where I only had five people, not even. Five people, but they weren’t on full time, a very small budget and we’re trying to bring it in to market as quickly as possible, as quick and dirty as possible.

Holly:
Yeah. I’m curious if you could set the stage a little bit. When you say that you launched a product within a large enterprise, how large was the enterprise?

Ant Murphy:
A couple of thousand people. I wouldn’t know the exact number, I’d guess 4 to 5,000.

Holly:
Was the product that you launched there, something that they had done that type of thing before, or was it something new for that company?

Ant Murphy:
It was completely new, so which was really kind of exciting. There was a new product. This was FinTech. This was a FinTech product. I mean, it’s still related. It was still financial product, but it was new. It was different, completely different. It was targeting a different market than their traditional market set. That was the whole idea. How do we move into this new market over here and capitalize that? Lots of considerations there as well. Yeah. Even with the stakeholder thing, you have a million people with a million great ideas and even just getting focused to get something out the door becomes a challenge.

Holly:
Yeah. Absolutely. I think stakeholder management is definitely one of the difficulties the larger the organization gets. I also asked that question because I was curious about when I’ve launched a new product within an existing company and the new product was somewhat of a sidestep, it’s definitely something that’s hard because the people that you’re working with are all used to a certain way of building products or a certain set of parameters that they’re used to. Then you have to teach them, “Well, this one’s different. This is a different tech, this is a different area.” Did you face any challenges like that?

Ant Murphy:
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I will say one thing about it though. I felt very fortunate because I’ve done similar things after that experience. Especially in my role as a coaching consultant, I’ve worked with product managers in organizations to help them do that. I was very fortunate at that stage that I had the C-suite support. This was actually initiative that they really wanted, which was a pro and a con. The pro was that I had their support, which made it easier to have some of these conversations to say, “No, it’s different.” I had managed to build their trust too so they were extra firepower to help put out storms or things of people trying to push things. But the other con was that they were my primary stakeholders, and having somebody especially in a large enterprise, you don’t get a lot of screen time with those people. That was great for my career and great for me. Now I’m dealing with them every day and it was a new experience for me too. I never had to manage somebody so senior, I guess if you want to call that exec level. They made a lot of time for me, which was good. I felt very fortunate about that. Very fortunate about their support, which helped with those things. I did, but … Yeah.

Holly:
Yeah. Having support from somebody high up is definitely really helpful, right? But it can also be difficult if it turns out that maybe they’re a little too in love with their ideas. Did you ever experience that?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Definitely. There’s one definitive thing that we did in my head, which was because they were really stuck on their idea and that’s always suboptimal. This is another example of, I guess, where it differs in different organization sizes. Obviously there’s an element of sometimes for me with stakeholder management, that’s like pick my battles because I’m playing a long game, right? I don’t want to become their enemy because I need them. I need to build an alliance with them. I need them as an ally. Whether I need them now or whether I’m going to lead them later in my career or something else, I need them. Obviously you need to push, obviously you need to influence, but sometimes in the grand scheme of things, things are probably small. It’s probably not worth arguing. Also, there’s an element of they’re paying the bill, if that makes sense. The budget’s also coming from them in a large enterprise. Smaller company’s a little different. You’re tight on budget so it’s a different conversation. Do we want to waste the money? Large enterprises can waste money. We don’t like wasting money, but it’s a true factor there. Yeah, I mean I did and we definitely got one thing that I can remember that I wasn’t too happy with us actually ending up putting into the final product, but we did for them, but grand scheme of things, yeah. You’re going to run into it. Yeah. It’s about, how do you get the right support data and stuff to build your case? How do you ground them back towards the vision and the strategy and what you’re trying to achieve? You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. You’ve given them all the information that they needed and why it’s not so much of a great idea and why we need to go down this path. If you’re still kind of at crossroads, then you’re going to have to change tack, or maybe if in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big then, okay, we’ll do it. Keep the ball rolling. Momentum’s important too, right? You don’t want to stall that.

Holly:
Yeah. Absolutely. You mentioned giving a talk on this topic at Mind the Product. Were there any other elements to your talk?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. There was a few. I mean I gave some tips and tricks for depending on which size you’re in, based on those three just broad categories of like a startup, a small-medium business enterprise that’s scaling, and then the mature end of the scale. I think the other thing that I touched on that is interesting, especially from a leadership point of view is how leadership changes across that. How do you scale? What I mean by that is, at the beginning, product manager, product leader in a small company, startup, is almost the same thing. You see it. Sometimes people give themselves fancy titles like CPO and they don’t have any direct reports or head of product in a startup. Whilst, okay title is largely true, because you are the most senior product person in the organization, it doesn’t mean that, okay, you’re a CPO of that startup, you can now go apply for a CPO role in Netflix. Totally different roles. Titles are great, but there’s an element of scope and what work you’re actually doing. In the small company, direct line to founders, potentially investors, all those types of things. You are doing it. Then as you grow and you scale, you now need to introduce the concept of product leadership. Not saying that you didn’t have it before, but formally, right? You need to introduce the distinction between, okay, we have a product leader that’s looking more at a portfolio and across all these things. Then how do we break the product up to have individual product teams and product managers that work autonomously and are empowered and can do great stuff? That’s a challenge in itself. Especially if you start scaling really quickly. Scale too quickly, now you need to put leaders on top of leaders. Now we don’t like too much hierarchy for hierarchy’s sake, but there’ll come a point in time where you need to do this. That’s just how you’re going to effectively scale. You’ll have to have the concept of a head of product and a group product manager or CPO, director of product, whatever titles you want to use, but you’ll have to bring that in, which then brings in a new challenge as well. If you were the person who went through the ranks, you now are no longer managing product managers. You’re now managing product leaders, which is a whole nother kettle of fish and another problem. Now you’re managing a portfolio of portfolios of products, if that makes sense, as opposed to a single portfolio or a single product line that’s broken down into individual places. Now you have multiple products. When you start thinking about what we were talking about before with launching new products, that’s some of the stuff that you’re thinking about, how do we launch these new product lines? How does our existing … So the three products over here, how do they complement the six products over there? Or do they? Or don’t they? Should they? Shouldn’t they? There’s a lot going on. Yeah.

Holly:
Yeah. What are some of the tools that you’ve learned along the way that you can employ to manage that complexity?

Ant Murphy:
From a scaling point of view, my tip is always, and same with the process and structure and frameworks, to introduce them as problems arise. Like my helping companies scale and going through it in my own experience as well, you’re always better off not trying to preempt too much. If you keep thinking, “Oh, we’re going to need this. We’re going to …” Like a design language system or something, “We’re going to need that. We’re going to need that.” Wait until that’s becoming a problem. Like, “Okay. We got inconsistency in design or we’re building the same thing over and over again, and this is painful. Can we just prioritize it or something?” Wait until that’s a problem and then introduce it. Twofold for that. One, we’re taking a bit of adjusted time approach to framework. We’re also taking a bit of a minimum viable bureaucracy approach as we go. The other aspect to it is you’re going to have to convince others that this is worthwhile doing. You’re essentially going to have to go to even the founders and whatnot in the C-suite to say, “Okay. All these brilliant features and these nice stuff that you want us to do, we actually need to pull the brakes on some of this because we need to invest some time into building a design language system or whatnot.” When it becomes a problem, that sell becomes easier, because you can to quantify these things. Okay. Right now we’re wasting 20 hours a week rebuilding thing, that is wasted. If we don’t do anything now, in the next three, six, nine months, it’s going to cost us X amount of dollars. We should do something now. The longer we wait that cost of delay is going to go up. Sure, you can do an opportunity cost inside all that as well, if you need that as an argument, but once it’s a problem, it will make sense. The same with process, like getting roadmap reviews and those types of things. People will buy into it more when it’s actually solving a problem. It’s almost taking a product mindset to how we scale. Same with structure, right? If you’re going to introduce that new layer of product leadership, okay, now we need group product managers in between, wait until that’s a problem. Wait until we’re at that stage where it doesn’t make any sense. I’m coaching a director of product right now that has eight reports and he’s about to have a ninth report. It makes sense for him to break it down. Like he has a real problem, like nine reports, even just his one-on-one in a week takes up half his week and he hasn’t even touched the other thing, so it starts to make sense. From the, I guess, product portfolio point of view, a really good heuristic that is widely used and widely adopted, it’s not a perfect one, but a really good one, is that about 70% of your investment should really be in your core products. We’re talking about the things that have generated 90 odd percent of your revenue, or more than 70% of your revenue. 20% generally should go to adjacent products or growing things or trying to pivot into those new markets. Then 10% is just that moonshot. Because we should always be putting money into those high-risk, but high-reward bets that are going on. Even from a structure point of view, if you’re thinking about structuring a product technology org, you can even think about that as well. 70 odd percent of our people and team structure, here core products. How does that look? Okay. We’ve got a few adjacent products that equates to these people and then you have this little potentially SkunkWorks if you want to have it that way. But something off to the side that is really looking at moonshot, because you definitely need to be investing into that.

Holly:
Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard of that as the three horizon model.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah.

Holly:
There’s a lot of different tactics you can use to manage that complexity as it grows. I love your idea about treating this like a product itself, like products managing the development of the process or the structure. I think that’s really valuable. I always like within the workplace to do things like even figure out if a meeting is effective by doing some research on the people who come to the meeting and finding out, is this structure working for you? And that sort of thing.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah.

Holly:
Tell me some more about how you became a coaching consultant. How did you transition from working in companies to this coach consultant lifestyle?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. I mean, kind of a happy accident in a way. I had a series of worked in companies and then I got a role at a company called ustwo. They’re a product development company, very big in Europe. UK is where they started and they have clients like Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, Philips, lots of great companies. That role even just fell into my lap, if that makes sense. It got sent to me by a friend and I really like the work that they’re doing. The mission at the time when I joined was to make meaningful products that make an impact to the world, resonated with me. People were great, even just their client base too. Like in my head, I was searching for a place where I could do product really, really well. I think a lot of product people do that. We want to find a place where they’re really excelling at it. I found it at ustwo. I loved my time there. Such a great company, but I guess shift that happened when I joined them was they’re an agency so they work for clients, right? I mentioned some of their clients. My role changed, which was more of a consulting role going out to clients and being more of a product consultant. I actually enjoyed it. I thought it was great, huge amount of experience too. Actually, anybody who’s considering it, one of the biggest pros I see to working on the agency side is in a very short period of time you think about if you spent six months on average at a client, in the space of two years you’re going to work at four different companies and work on four different products at a minimum. That ability to see different parts of product and different companies, different company sizes, all the things that we’re talking about here, it really will accelerate you and help you get that exposure. As an example, some of the things that I got heaps of exposure to while I was there that I never got before was really early idea validation. Some of the clients will come to us and say, “We have this idea.” Talking about that 10%. They’re thinking about that. They’re like, “We got this kind of moonshot thing. We don’t actually have the people and resources within our own company to look at it so we would like you.” Or sometimes it’s a skill set thing. They’re like, “We actually don’t know, how do you even validate this idea and whatnot?” They don’t know where to start. We would get a lot of that work and they’ll be very short discovery engagements, but doing heaps of that really early ideas. Is the idea worth doing or not? That was awesome exposure. Really what I’m getting at is I started working that client side. Then when my time came to an end there and I was looking for my next challenge and my next thing, I thought, “I think there’s a big enough need in the market, even just here in Sydney, Australia for people needing good product skills and learning how to do product better.” I think there’s a lot of organizations that are now starting to think, “How is Google and Amazon and stuff so successful?” I think they’re starting to peel back the curve and be like, “Hey, this whole product mindset, this whole product management thing, we don’t have any of that. Maybe we need some of that.” Yeah. I decided, “Well, I think there’s a big enough need. I’ll go out on my own and do it myself.” Yeah, so far so good. Again, I’m enjoying it because I’m still being able to leverage that benefit that I had before in the agency side, which is getting exposure to different companies and different challenges. It only makes me better at my job, which is the other brilliant thing, is the more companies I see, the more unique environments I see, the more product managers and product leaders I work with, the more my experience grows and my toolkit gets bigger too. I get to try the new things and even the same things in different contexts and be like, “Oh, okay. That worked really well there, but it didn’t work well here. Okay. What have I learned about that? Why didn’t it work so well there? How can I apply that to the next role?”

Holly:
Yeah. One of the things you mentioned along the way in there that I’d love to hear more about is validating ideas early. What kind of approach to that do you like to take?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Definitely. I’m working with one of my clients on this right now. Really it’s just about early-stage discovery. I talk often about breaking discovery into two modes. You’ve got exploring and you’ve got exploiting. What I mean by that is exploiting is often what people think when they think discovery. They’re thinking, “I’ve got this new feature idea. Let’s go interview some customers, build a prototype, do some user testing in front of it and do this work. Does this resonate? Then ship it.” Or maybe the thinking A/B testing. Let’s A/B test it and see which one’s going to be the clear winner and then we’re going to run with it. All of that is anchored around your existing product and something that you already have, an existing customer base. As a result, that’s all exploiting. That’s just exploiting what we have and making it better. Yes, we’re extending sometimes and whatnot, but we’re really exploiting in that sense. Exploring on the other side or explorer as the name suggests, it’s going really wide it’s, we don’t have an existing customer base in this space. We don’t even have a product in this space. Let’s uncover and discover and work out, is this new market, this space, et cetera, worthwhile for us? Is it actually something that we could do? Going back to what we were talking about before, that 70/20, the three horizons, exploiting is going to be 70%, that’s all exploiting. Definitely. The 20/10 is where you start to get more of that exploring. The 20% will be a bit mixture of both and the 10 is definitely exploring. What I’m getting at is really it’s a different mode of discovery, but you still do things very similar. The first thing I always like to start with besides getting very clear on what it is and what the thought is. Now, this can be an idea coming from a stakeholder or from maybe you already had some research that came up with an idea, or it could even just be an inkling. It could be like, hey, Facebook and everyone’s talking about the metaverse or NFTs. I want to just spend some time looking at NFTs or the metaverse, right? It could even just be a space that you’re curious about. It could even also be an opportunity. It could be, I think there’s a problem over here. Let’s go work that out. Obviously, first step’s getting clear on that. What I really like to start all my discovery with, whether it’s explore or exploit, is an assumptions map. Assumptions map is out of the Testing Business Ideas book with David Bland, brilliant framework, brilliant tool. Really anybody who’s not that familiar with it, you’re basically brainstorming at a high level, brainstorming all the assumptions or risks or questions or things that you’re making about that. NFTs, what assumptions we’ll make here. Well, our first assumption’s probably a big one is that there’s a viable business for us in there, or it’s going to take off, right? Like it’s going to be a thing, et cetera, et cetera. Then really that tool’s great because it helps you prioritize. Then from there, you need to work out, okay, we’ve got all these assumptions, let’s create a research plan, formulate hypotheses off the back of that. Then with any good hypothesis, we’re going to have a way that we’re going to test that. Now, that could be let’s interview some people in that space, that could be, let’s do a survey, but in explore it looks more like that. It’s not that typical that you build a prototype, although you could in explore, but you’re spending more time … Because it’s problem space. You’re spending more time talking to people really and gathering data in that space. Other things that you do a lot in explore is like competitive analysis, market research, classic PESTLEs, stuff that people we always talk about but we never do, those types of analysis and frameworks and tools, right? Like one of your assumptions could even be how many people are working in that space. You might even just jump on LinkedIn and start looking at, well, how many companies are in the NFT space as an example and how many people are working in it and how big is that industry? It could be that kind of market research is what I’m getting at as well.

Holly:
Yeah. There’s a lot of different tools you can use to find the unmet needs in the market and really explore.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah.

Holly:
One of the ideas that I came across in your writing that I’m curious to hear more about is design sprints. I really liked the article you wrote about making your design sprints longer. I’ve long had sort of an opinion that design sprints are catchy, but not the right way for every environment. That there are some environments where it totally makes sense and there are some environments where you can do those activities, but you can do them on a different cadence. I’m curious to hear more about how you’ve developed your thinking around that.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Definitely. I mean, I was fortunate enough. John Zeratsky was one of the co-creators of design sprint and he wrote the book. I actually did his one-day design sprint course. There was a bit of a penny-drop moment during that, when he was talking about how they came up with it. Really they were industrializing the design process because they were working in Google Ventures and Google Ventures portfolio had grown to 200. I can’t remember the number, but like hundreds of companies and their team wasn’t growing at that rate. It meant that they were doing a lot, probably similar to what you do and what I do working with clients where you sit down with them, spend time with them, understand their problems, guide them, help them, coach them through it. That was just not scalable because they didn’t have enough hours in the day. The design sprint ended up being a really good tool and they built a whole playbook and whatnot out of it. But a good tool that was scalable, that they could teach and people could run with it. It also kind of compressed their time too so they could spend these rapid weeks with organizations as opposed to like a month or more. When you also think about it in that context, there’s an element of things in it that are built for speed and for industrializing, but sometimes that’s great and we want to be highly efficient and effective. But I mean, some of the things I’ve touched on in that article is there are spaces where that efficiency is sometimes detrimental in the long term or maybe not that detrimental, but I think you should consider changing it. One of them is how little you speak during a design sprint. Now, that builds a huge amount of efficiency because we’re using tools like dot-voting, like silent voting and doing sketching and those types of things, which is great. But especially in a product team, you’re working together for a long period of time and you’re trying to become a high-performing team is really the goal there. You’re spending time understanding different people’s points of views and how do they perceive it? Why are they thinking that way versus why are you thinking that way? Is very valuable. We can learn a lot about each others and we can learn to work with each others a lot more. Making things longer in that sense has benefits. The other aspect around it with design sprints, if you think about back to that explore versus exploit, design sprints, to me at least, fits much more in the exploit space than the explore. It fits more in the, okay, we understand a space to a pretty well degree, well enough that we can build out a journey map, well enough that we can pinpoint apart on that journey map to then go build a prototype and test it. We also know enough about it to be able to get customers to test with in the space of five odd days, right? There’s a whole kind of behind-the-scenes recruiting and stuff that goes on there, but it sits more in the exploits base. That’s not to say you couldn’t use the tool in explore, but I definitely want to think about my own experience of using design sprints. I’ve pretty much predominantly used it in exploit. Not sure if I could say a hundred percent, but probably very, very close, if not a hundred percent. When you’re thinking about what I was talking about before, like NFTs, how do you draw out a customer journey map and then pinpoint something to build a prototype on that? You might not even know how to code and you might know nothing about blockchain right at that stage. That’s okay. That shouldn’t stop you from doing your research and that exploratory research and that market analysis. As I said, things start to look quite different. I use LinkedIn HITS for market research. I think it’s such a wealth of knowledge or data I should say. You can do a lot of searches and find out a lot of things. As an example, just a bit of a story. We were sourcing people for a B2B product to do customer interviews, small startup, didn’t have enough existing customers. They’re looking for basically finance managers, a very specific role within finance managers. You can essentially go into LinkedIn, look at companies and find people with those roles and you can work out even market sizing, right? Like how many people in the UK? This is European company. How many people work in this role? Okay. How big are their companies on average? Okay. We realized that this role doesn’t exist in really small companies. Okay. Then we know that our primary targets are already on the larger end of the spectrum, which also impacts your pricing, because pricing for larger enterprises, you can charge them a lot of money and that company did, and they pay for it, especially if you’ve got the right value exchange. It looks more like that. Then you’re interviewing people and you’re not really putting a prototype in front of them to test them with. You’re really just trying to understand, what are their behaviors? What are they doing in this space? Using the NFT example again, you might just interview people and ask people if they’ve ever thought about buying an NFT. Have they bought one? Why did they buy one? How much did they pay for it? How much is the top ceiling that they’re willing to pay for it? Do they have friends? What have they done with it? You’re trying to understand those things. That’s why it’s more exploratory because you’re not looking for a definitive yes or no proceed. You’re gathering data to be like, “Okay. What have we learned about our assumptions? What have we learned about this space? Do we continue?” You start to move from problem to solution at that stage, but you’re not worried about prototyping. You’re not worried about, can I even code on blockchain? Or you’re not worried about any of that stuff, yet.

Holly:
Yeah. Absolutely. Very aligned with your approach. I love it. One of the things you mentioned there was customer behavior, and I know that you studied behavioral economics for some of your schooling. Tell me more about your perspective on behavioral economics and how knowing that impact your work in product.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. This is probably the only stuff that I learned at uni that has actually been useful in the real world, as often with higher education. I actually wasn’t excited to do marketing at uni. I did a business and IT degree and I was like, “Oh, marketing. They just try and convince us to buy stuff that we don’t need. I’m not that fan with that ethics.” I’m sure that’s true for some spaces, but I got really interested into it because naturally inside that course, we did a topic around consumer behavior and behavior economics. Then I ended up doing basically a master in marketing as part of my degree because I got super interested into it. That was probably a small pinpoint that I didn’t realize that I’d come back to years later and is something that I think planted a seed for me to end up in this career, because I went back to that. I was like, “Actually, I really enjoyed that.” Understanding customers, like there’s the problem of understanding, how do they behave and whatnot and then solving that for them. But it plays such a key role. One of my favorite books is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and that’s a whole book about behavioral economics as well. He just talks so much about just the fact that we think human beings are rational, but really when you study behavior, in many cases, we’re very irrational. So irrational that it is often predictable, which means that that’s probably the more common behavior and rational behavior, but it plays a huge role because when you think about our products, often we think, “Oh, we’ll just do that. That makes sense.” Then suddenly you realize, “No, that doesn’t make sense. Not at all. People really don’t get it.” The other things that it has a huge impact with is if you’re launching a product into a market or competing even, right? There’s an element of behavioral economics around the willingness to change. Just because your product’s better is not necessarily enough to make people change. You think about things like bank accounts, that’s a simple one, and we all have bank accounts. There’s plenty of differences. One’s with some benefits, more than others, but the cost associated to changing banks is actually so painful that it’s one of the major reasons why we actually don’t do it. What I mean by it’s painful, it’s not just going and filling out the paperwork and some banks are archaic that you still need to use wet signatures and print stuff off and that’s just a pain. But it’s also things like if I just go through my monthly statement, I’ve got Netflix coming out of it, Spotify. How many reoccurring payments do you have coming out of that account that you then need to go and update? There’s all of this cost associated with it. When I say cost, talking about human time and effort cost, and we’re naturally lazy. Unless we have some other motivation, we’re probably not going to do it, or, at least your benefit of getting them to change to your products and services needs to outweigh that. It can’t just be better than the competition, if that makes sense. You need to also outweigh the cost of change. There’s other aspects in behavioral economics too, around like habits, right? People are used to doing things in a certain way and you now require them to do it in a different way, that annoys people. Small one, iPhone, anyone who has that with the search bar moving from the top to the bottom in the latest phones and the latest updates, that pissed a lot of people off because they were so used to taping the top and you’re changing a behavior. You need to consider that. If I’m going to change a functionality, even inside the product, you need to understand or recognize that your current customer base is used to taking that flow. Even if they came from another product, like moving from Android to iOS, there’s common patterns that are common inside society as well. Search bar’s at the top. Common pattern. You change that. People are going to get it and they’re going to struggle to find it. They’re like, “Oh, there it is, down the bottom.” There’s a lot, I mean, this is a whole topic that you can spend the whole day on.

Holly:
How have you been able to apply the behavioral economics when you’re working with clients?

Ant Murphy:
It’s often applied in small things. I mean, sometimes it’s, okay, we want to do this thing, but let’s spend some time about understanding how customers are currently doing it. How frequently are they doing it? Those types of things. High frequency tends to lead to a more well-established habit. That’s how habits are formed. If people are doing things more frequently, then you’ve got to recognize or at least have the assumption that it’s a stronger habit and it’s going to be a harder habit to break, if what you’re aiming to do is to break that habit, and often products do. Like a habit of mine is writing things down on Post-it notes. I was just picking a Post-it note on my desk on hand. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never really adopted a digital notes program, which is better. It’s far superior. I can access my notes on all my devices. I can access them when I’m not at my desk, but what do I do? I still grab a Post-it note, write my note down on it and stick it on my desk because that’s the habit I’ve formed and it works for me, so changing that is hard. If you want someone to adopt your product, as an example, if somebody wants me to adopt their notes product, they’re trying to break this habit, which is quite a strong one. You can have all the features and benefits you want, that doesn’t matter because this is my habit and I’m going to continue to do this until I have some other compelling reason as to why, or a new problem. This is part of how you bring it into it. A new problem could be, okay, we’re now working more remotely or maybe I start a new job and I’m traveling a lot more than I am today. Now I’ve got a new problem. Now when I travel, my notes on my desk are useless to me because I’m far away. Then as a product, if you know that that is a habit of a large portion of your market or a new market that you’re trying to get into, how do we position a product as solving that problem? As opposed to just saying, “List of feature benefits.” Like an online note thing. The other aspect too, is something I just touched on there that you might have picked up is think about how you segment your market building customer personas. It’s not about demographics. I mean, demographics plays an element sometimes, but it’s about behavior. When you understand that and you start to apply even just these concepts to it, behavior in the sense of, well, what habits do they have? Are they a Post-it note person? Are they not a Post-it note person? Are they a diary person? Are they people that have a running journal, or do they use a competitor’s online note product? You can almost segment that way. Now you segment it based on their behaviors. Then you’re going to have a better chance of targeting one of them, solving for their problems in that space and therefore winning them to come over and use your product. If you just segmented another way, you wouldn’t, because you’ll probably segment across all of them. You’ll only have the people that are probably using a competitor’s digital product move across and you’re wondering why you’re not winning more people. You’re like, “Our product’s so much better. Why aren’t we winning more people?” Well, it’s because you haven’t really spent enough time understanding the behaviors and habit of your customers or your potential customers.

Holly:
Yeah. Love that. I definitely always coach people that when they’re doing the interviews and research that they’re trying to find differences in habits amongst different groups of people and so to really understand how those habits impact how people solve their problems.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. I always like to say, think in terms of collecting stories, because if you can always map out or replay to me what you saw, underneath that will be some underlining behavior or habit. If you could layer enough of them on top of each others, you’ll find patterns.

Holly:
Yep. Absolutely. Are there any other topics that you’re passionate about that we didn’t cover today?

Ant Murphy:
I mean, I’ve several topics, but I think it’s … I mean, we could talk a bit more about leadership if we wanted to.

Holly:
Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think one thing that I would love to hear a little bit from you on, on leadership is I’ve always been fascinated by what I’ve heard is sort of modern military leadership about being comfortable working in ambiguity with fast-changing situations and how maybe military isn’t as command and control as people perceive it to be. I’m curious what your thoughts are on that.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. I mean, I’m fortunate enough to live it. At least in the experience that I had. I could speak quite confidently for the U.S. military, the British military, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, because there essentially the Five Eyes and they’re also essentially very similar. We do exchanges between each military college, but it’s definitely the case and that’s something that surprised me too. I walked into it with this real naive point of view of what leadership was. I remember when I got interviewed for it, because to go to Royal Military College and to be an officer, there’s a whole selection process for it. The thing that I thought when I went to the selection process was that they were assessing my leadership abilities. Really what they’re doing is they’re actually assessing your aptitude and whether they can mold you into the leader they need you to be. They’re not actually expecting you to be that person. That was something I didn’t realize. I walked into it with a really naive view of what leadership was and management was and it really flipped it all on its head. I mean, there’s simple sayings that comes out, like leaders eat last is a common saying in the military, and Simon Sinek wrote a book about it using that title. My exposure to it was in the military and they mean that literally. Like you eat last. If somebody under your care, like in your platoon goes hungry and you’ve got a full belly and you’ve eaten, then you’ve failed as a leader, you’ve failed to care for your people. What you did was put your needs before them. Now, also paradoxical because you’ve got to look after yourself because you’re useless to your team if you’re a mess. There’s like a look after yourself to look after them, but look after them before you look after yourself. It’s paradoxical but it works. It makes sense. Yeah, it’s definitely very different. I mean, like so leadership is more about if you think about Intent-Based Leadership and Turn the Ship Around, that book, ex-Navy captain. A lot of what he pioneered with intent-based leadership and stuff is, is the predominant doctrine of how leadership is taught these days. It’s all about, yeah, how do you set a commander’s intent and then enable your people and your team to have the freedom within that to solve it and to achieve it? You are really creating this leader construct, at least in Australian military and while I was there, they regularly talk about that. That everyone’s a leader. There’s a difference between leadership and then having a command appointment. As a officer, you have a command appointment, but that doesn’t mean that your people aren’t leaders and they need to be leaders because that’s what a high-performing team looks like. It actually looks like everyone being leaders. I was actually at a CC Train having dinner last night and my wife was watching them prep all the food. She was like, “It’s blowing my mind.” She was like, “One of them started the grill and then she was cutting something up. Then she walked over and then started moving the things. The guy that started it walked over and did something else.” She was like, “It just looks like chaos. How the hell do they know what’s going on?” What’s happening there is actually a high-performing team. That’s how high-performing teams look like. They don’t look like a division of labor. They actually look like everyone doing everything. When everyone acts as leaders, everyone’s thinking critically, everyone’s thinking about the goal. Everyone’s thinking about all the tasks that need to be achieved and they’re filling the gaps, that’s one of the things you get taught and that’s what you want. You don’t want a soldier to just do what they’re told and to blindly go and cover this corner in this direction. Because if they get to the corner and somebody’s already covering it for whatever reason, because it’s chaos and ambiguity and things happen and things don’t go according to plan, you don’t want them to just sit next to that person and have two people covering that way and then nobody covering the rear. You want them to think critically and say, “What’s the problem here where we need to pull security? What are we trying to achieve? We’re trying to achieve this. Okay. What’s the problem right now? Well, we need to pull security. Okay. Where are we vulnerable? Okay. Nobody’s covering the rear. I’ll cover the rear.” No communication needs to happen. Nobody needs to give him or her a command to say, “You go cover the rear.” That just doesn’t happen these days. You want to build a team that does that themselves. You want to build a team that thinks and are leaders.

Holly:
Excellent. I really love you sharing that story. Well, I think we’re about out of time. Where can people find you if they want to learn more?

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Definitely. I mean, you can go to my website antmurphy.me. I’m also director of Association of Product Professionals, which is productprofessionals.com. I’m also going to be launching a bit of an e-learning thing called Product Pathways, productpathways.com. It’s kind of work in progress right now, but you can actually go to and sign up if you want to get updates. Yeah. You can also find me on socials, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium as well. Read my articles.

Holly:
Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Anthony.

Ant Murphy:
Yeah. Likewise. Really enjoyed it. Really appreciate it. Thanks.