One of the biggest things I’ve learnt from working in the startup space has been the incredibly intelligent and efficient way you can develop a product with the right team, the right attitude and the right resources.

We have a team of incredible Product Managers at Shazam, people whose role it is to be clear about what’s working and what isn’t, creating a roadmap of features to be developed, but continuously re-jigging that roadmap according to what our current priority is.

It’s their job to build amazing relationships internally and externally, so that they can bring together ideas in the right way, and make smart decisions for the evolution of our product based on data.

We operate in an agile environment, and it’s an approach that I have become a big fan of. The teams come together and blend their teams (almost seamlessly) to iron out how and when a feature is to be delivered, and frankly, whether it should be implemented in the first place. Decisions are taken quickly and we ship our product frequently, testing all the time that we are on the right path.

Recently someone close to me, having observed the way I move through life, gave me the nickname; ‘The Optimiser’. I laughed at first but then I realised it’s actually true. We all live our lives as ‘Optimisers’; working out which features are going to produce the most significant results and delivering them in the most efficient way.

Human beings are innately lazy, so will work hard to find the path of least resistance; the easiest way of doing things.

Even before I made any big life changes, I can look back and see that I/we optimise every day without realising. Discovering a new shortcut, sharpening that pancake recipe, and so on. Optimising has, at times, been the thing that has enabled me to be lazy, and to prevent myself from living to my full potential.

As the years have gone by my optimisation has taken on a new positive and pro-active form. I find the way to fit the most ‘stuff’ in to each day and keep working on building the best version of myself, each and every day. I have a ton of roadmaps for everything; the best way to get places, the best morning routine, the best way to manage my home. I had also found the ‘best’ way I managed my relationships; by keeping a lot of them at arms length, in order to preserve the world I had created for myself.

That worked. For a time. It enabled me to give myself the space I needed to grow in some areas that I was sorely lacking. Largely in terms of the love I held for ‘self’ and in creating the kind of life for myself that I truly deserve.

What I’ve recently learnt, however, is that it helps to work with an agile mindset, just like our teams at Shazam. It’s brilliant to have worked out the most efficient way of doing things, but you have to remain open to change, and to the influence and opinions of others. A fully optimised world doesn’t always leave enough space for others. And for me, that’s been where some of the most important development needed to happen.

It’s worth considering whether you might be an over optimiser like me. And if so, take the steps to allow yourself to soften enough to enable the kind of collaborative discussions I see at Shazam every day in our cross functional teams as they all come together to iron out a feature.

Those discussions can really be the place where the magic happens. The moments when we decide whether to pivot or persevere; to keep going at something or to let it go.

You are doing an amazing job of managing your ‘product’ already I’m sure, but just be mindful of when your ego gets in the way of you taking on some important information. Because that’s all that kind of blocker is; ego.

Small, frequent iterations truly are the most efficient way to build a magnificent product; one that innovates and stays current, one that builds the features that it in needs in the right way at the right time, one that tests different approaches and different ways of being, but one that also isn’t afraid to get rid of a feature that isn’t working.

Recently that feature for me has been my over optimising. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still iterating and optimising my finest pancake recipe, but I’m allowing others to have a little more influence over the end result. The ‘perfect’ existence I have created myself, is becoming much bigger and much more beautiful, now I have allowed the space for others within it; their voices, their presence, their ideas, their positive influence.

I am still Product Manager overall, I make the decisions. But I do so based on data, and that data comes from a variety of sources.

Sure, I’m proud of my ‘product’ today, but I’m even more excited by what is to come, and by what my ‘product’ might look like in the future.

Anyone for pancakes?

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