Mindfulness in Product Management

As we allow our computers to organise our lives or even make some decisions for us, we become disconnected from the physical world.

This didn’t happen accidentally. As we became busier, we asked software developers to go away, start programming and come back when they’ve built a piece of software. We ended up getting some really functional pieces of software that changed our lives, but disconnected us from each others’ human experience.

Being disconnected from the empathetic world of human experience has turned us into bullies, aggressors and introverts who suffer from rage, anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness practice reminds us to make real connections with our environment, bodies and minds, therefore allowing us to be more aware of what’s actually going on and hopefully become nicer, happier people as a result. Great….. Until you go back and immerse yourself in the virtual world that those software developers created. Some readers may roll their eyes, thinking this is “new age” rubbish, but it makes an important point that we are starting to miss reality and have had to create an activity that allows us to feel human again.

Clearly we shouldn’t regress to a pre-internet or even pre-electronic age, but there has to be something we can do to keep our humanity.

We must create software that allows us to make use of as many of the senses we have to connect with each other and make the experience real.

How many of us have received email with a level of aggression that the sender would never have displayed if they were communicating in real-time? Email is now (mis)used for dumping our thoughts, feelings and large files on each other without the immediate feedback that makes communication human. In hindsight, email was a useful tool given the costs and limits in data transmission rates, but it is a perfect example of a rigid product delivery that was difficult to improve once adopted, so it remained mostly unchanged since the 1970s.

Voice, video and web collaboration are great toolsets that allow us to engage in more authentic and synchronised communication that deconstructs the artificial barriers that the stressed and aggressive stand behind. The more “real” communication feels, the less the mind detaches from the situation and instead allows our humanity to flourish. We’ve also learned to create products that can be enhanced with new functionality in-life, because technology and people change at an astounding rate.

Today, Product Managers and Developers must engage with the humans that use their services and release product updates iteratively. Measuring and reacting quickly to occasionally unpredictable (human) behaviours in order to meet the changing expectations of customers will ensure that people get real joy from using their products and show loyalty in return. In itself, this too is an action of mindfulness of the product, the customer and the experience.

Continuous Integration and DevOps are tools that help facilitate this approach and ensures that we can quickly improve customer experience. In fact, businesses should never stop developing their products, which is why I stopped using the term “Final Launch” years ago. This changes the traditional, rigid approach to product development and management, which for many will be scary, but perhaps not as frightening as a world where technology stops humans being unpredictable for good.

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