Product Love Podcast: John Cutler

Published Jul 11, 2018

This week on the Product Love podcast, I sat down with John Cutler, self-proclaimed “product agitator” and, most recently, a first-time dad.  

John spent his twenties founding a video game startup, but even more, time traveling and listening to music. Since, though, he has worked in a variety of roles in product and consulted at companies like Zendesk, Appfolio, and Pendo. John is also one of the most active and prolific writers and thinkers, and if you don’t already, you should definitely follow him on Twitter.

Project-based to Value-based

We spent a good part of our chat talking about changes we’ve seen in product and also the changes that are still to come. John views product as moving from project-based to value-stream-based. Meaning,  people are now seeking a service rather than a product.

“I don’t think customers think to themselves, ‘Aha, I’ve bought the product,’…They’re entering a relationship with your company.”

Outcomes Over Outputs

Just because you’re moving the needle, it doesn’t mean you’re meeting your customers’ needs, John says, and that should always be the goal.

“Projects might be a vehicle for some level of investment, but ideally you’re investing incrementally based on the value that you’re creating.”

He supports the idea that product teams should be focused on outcomes over outputs, saying that while this requires the time needed to bet on yourself, it’s more effective than just pushing out feature after feature.

The Life-Changing Magic of Team Organization

When organizing a product team, John advises that you don’t limit yourself to an outdated model, and certainly not to what other people are doing. Sticking to the traditional organization may cause your production to plateau – a best practice is only any good if it’s a good fit for you.

He prefers a culture of collaboration over a hierarchy, where user experience, technology, and customer success all have buy-in on product.

In terms of who to look for when hiring, traits like humility, empathy, and the ability to de-bias were mentioned, with John adding that we need “more humble, servant leaders.”

We also discussed the limitations of OKRs, the notion that ideas are cheap, and how quickly products are being commoditized in today’s world.