How to find fulfilling work by Roman Krznaric

I’m very thankful to be in a place where I have an enviable career history, a wide range of choices ahead, and a lifestyle that I enjoy. However I have a number of interests that my current line of work, and the current trajectory of my work, does not readily satisfy or necessarily co-exist with. So a mentor of mine suggested this book which as been a helpful guide for me think through what I want in life. Here are my five lessons, but I recommend reading it as well if you’re also on this self-discovery journey. The book elaborates on examples that give you insights or inspire new ways to think about your life.
  1. An important question to answer first: Are you trying to find fulfilling work, or are you trying to have work that supports a fulfilling life?
  2. There are a couple of exercises worth doing as you start your discovery of fulfilling work, they are
    1. Map of Choices - Map out your career thus far and note the primary motivations for each transition, your motivation list: Status, Respect, Talent, Making a Difference, Passions, Money. Then stack rank your motivations based on what you want going forward.
    2. Imaginary lives - Imagine you have 5 parallel lives, what career does each of your 5-selves have?
    3. Reverse JD - If newspapers do not have job descriptions but instead of people looking for jobs, what does yours look like? Share this with 10 friends from diverse work backgrounds and see what they’ll hire you for.
  3. Fulfillment is derived from 1) meaning 2) flow and 3) freedom (or autonomy). This is very similar to the Dan Pink TED talk. 
  4. Now that you have some idea of what careers you might want to try, do these to fast-prototype your ideas:
    1. Discovery Conversations - talk to people who do the work, learn about it.
    2. Branching projects - Take a few hours, a day or weeks to try projects in the careers you desire. Do internships, volunteer, or contract for someone.
    3. Radical sabbatical - Take months to a year off from your current work and do short stints at potential work you want. 
  5. Do the 5 Whys. This wasn’t mentioned in the book, but is an exercise inspired from my Six Sigma quality management training that I found applicable in conjunction with the Map of Choices and the stack rank of Motivations. For each motivation, ask the 5 whys. You might not get 5 answers but go as deep as you can. For example here is my 5-whys map for Talent. Talent —> Feel Useful —> Be included —> Social safety, relevance, camaraderie and friendship. Social safety and relevance had further whys —> survival —> shelter, food, clothes. Turns out the reason I wanted my talent used is because I wanted 1) a sense of camaraderie and friendship, and 2) I tied it to my basic survival. This help me eventually breakdown into source-needs that were more important than the motivations given in the book. Your 5-whys map will be different, but I encourage you to try it.

Ricardo Semler TED Talk: How to run a company with (almost) no rules

I greatly enjoyed Ricardo's talk. It was both entertaining and informative.  It will change the way you look at life, rules and business.
  1. "Everyone wants to leave a legacy. But why do you want to be remembered?"
  2. "If you are giving back you took too much."
  3. Have a terminal day a week, or two.  Imagine if your doctor told you that you had 6 months to live, you'd make a bucket list right?  Use Terminal days to strike down that list before the doctor ever gave you the news.
  4. The opposite of work is not leisure, but idleness.
  5. Free yourself from the anchor of past achievements so you can start something new.  Ricardo burned his life's achievements in a bonfire so that 1) his kids won't have the shadow of his footsteps to haunt them, and 2) he can start anew.

What every product manager needs to know about product analytics

This is a great blog post for Product Manager everywhere written by my colleague Sam.  Here are the 5 lessons I learned from it:

  1. Adding analytics generally involves adding a line of code here and there to fire an event when a user performs an action in your product. Some frameworks for adding analytics events and tracking them include Google Analytics and KISSmetrics.
  2. Empathy Debt = lack of information about the state of your customer's love (or hate) for your features
  3. "There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of an experiment and realizing you don’t have all the events you need. Try to do your analysis before you run the experiment using some dummy data so you can see any gaps in what you’re capturing."
  4. Create 2-3 very different versions of the feature you're trying to test.  The key is to keep them very different. Deploy all of them and track results.
  5. It’s great to be data-informed, but being entirely data-driven can sometimes leave you blind to the overall experience.  The data tells you how they are behaving but not why, so talk to the users as well to get a rounded picture. 


                    I've read Multipliers  by Liz Wiseman before. It's such a great short read that when it came out on audio this year I re-"read" it.  Here's a summary of the salient points:

                    1. There are two types of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers.  Multipliers scale by empowering people, whereas Diminishers are micro-managers who believes they are the smartest person in the room.  This concept strikes me as similar to Dan Pink's TEDtalk on how best leaders provide their team with Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.  The book Work Happy also echoes this sentiment.
                    2. Multipliers are Genius Makers who amplifies the genius of those around them.  Followers of Genius Makers repeatedly report that they have become 130% smarter and more productive from working for the Genius Maker.  Multipliers achieve this with a "growth" mindset.  This concept is echoed in another book I read called Bounce.
                    3. Practice "Genius Watching" to become a great Multiplier.  Genius Watching involves observing the inherent ability that a person has, labeling it, and leveraging it.  The inherent ability is so natural that he/she will perform the ability without being asked and with great joy.  As fish is the last to learn about water, so is the target person usually the last to discover their great inherent ability.  That's why labeling it for the person is important.  To leverage it,  place the person in a spot in the company that greatly draws upon their inherent ability. It's the same as casting the right person for the role in a film. This makes the person happy because he/she is contributing at his or her sweet spot, and the company benefits from having the highest possible job efficiency in that role. 
                    4. Multipliers are not roses and candy leaders. They have high expectations.  One common question Multipliers ask is "Is this your best work?".  This question gives the person autonomy to make a change but holds him/her accountable for the outcome. It is at once empowering and tough.  Multipliers believe 
                    5. Multiplier encourages group debate in order to develop collective intelligence. This enables people to feel empowered and work without the presence of the Multiplier. So the Multiplier manager can actually take a break.  What's not to like?

                    While I agree with many of the concepts in this book, I believe it makes the assumption that the workforce managed by your Multiplier manager is self-motivated and high-achieving individuals.  While there is an argument that all people want to feel a sense of belonging and contribute to a group in their sweet spot, I have met individuals who are either poorly managed or do not possess motivation of this kind towards work. They may fulfill this need for belonging through their contributions at home, and thus lack motivation for anything other than a paycheck at work.  While this book addresses many good points, I think it has an insular view of a specific type of organization where the majority of employees value work as an important part of who they are as individuals.  I urge you to keep this in mind when applying the concepts in your context.

                    Seeing the Forest for the Trees


                    As a Product Manager, a common challenge I come across is helping people see the big picture. It is common for someone to be so close to the detail that it becomes unnatural to step back and see the point of it all.  This HBR article explains some useful techniques to help someone see the forest for the trees.

                    1. Imagine physical distance
                    2. Imagine separation in time
                    3. Imagine it is not you involved, but a stranger
                    4. Imagine the outcome is uncertain.

                    Ability to see the big picture is a valuable skill.  Not only does it make what one does everyday become more meaningful, it also helps with communication since stepping back requires one to take in other points of views.