JAM is an annual conference that brings together the best and brightest minds in the product and design industry, for a jam-packed day (pun intended) of talks and panel discussions from industry experts.

It was our (Margarita and Louise’s) first time at JAM, and we were impressed by the quality of the speakers and how engaging the content was. We are sharing our key takeaways here for you all to enjoy.

Product Managers need to be excellent storytellers

Jeff Gardner - Head of platform partnership @Intercom

Story-telling is an essential part of being a great PM. It is a powerful tool for building trust within teams and getting stakeholder buy-in for product direction. However, mastering the art of storytelling is no easy feat. Here are some top tips:

  • Stories must be simple enough to be retold. Keep them short!
  • Make your stories emotionally engaging, focus on the feelings of the people you are telling the story about, and what feelings you want to evoke in your listeners. Remember: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel” ~ Maya Angelou.
  • Start your story with the point you want to make, and connect the dots throughout. Restate the point you wanted to make at the end.
  • Use dialogue in your story. Ensure it is simple language that’s emotionally charged.
  • Add a surprise/twist in your story to keep listeners engaged.
  • Adapt your story to the different audiences you tell it to, evolve it over time.

Product Managers need to be good at building trust

Chelsea Bullock - Product Manager @ MailChimp

Building trust within new teams is difficult. By successfully leading the team to deliver value to the business, as well as regular 1:1s or lunches with team members, trust can become established over time.

Creating a unified message helps the team trust each other to accomplish the same goals. One way to know if everyone in the team understands the vision is if they are able to repeat the message in their own words.

Always ask questions… why?

Jamie Nicholson - UX Research Lead @ Instagram

Talk to extremes of users, and keep asking ‘why’. Each time you conduct user research, take a moment to reflect and ask “What decision did the findings allow you to make”:

  • Clarity of mission?
  • Buy-in on stakes of profit?
  • Alignment on prioritisation?

Successfully asking and answering user research questions requires curiosity, vulnerability & compassion, and a clear vision.

‘Agile’ is a misunderstood word

Matt LeMay - Co-founder @ Sudden Compass

Most people have a love-hate relationship with agile, probably because of how often the term is misused and abused by companies (“Agile means no deadlines!” “We can change direction 5 times a day!” etc.)

In what was easily the most hilarious talk of the day, Matt’s key messages here were:

  • Agile is a totally made up thing and no one should care what its definition is.
  • Agile processes should change over time and adapt if not working effectively, just like the product features you are building and the metrics you use to measure them.
  • Each company and each team can do agile differently, and that’s ok. At the end of the day, agile means the ability to learn, adapt, change, and improve.

It’s ok to talk about failure

Maryam Mazraei - Founder & CEO @ Autopsy

We don’t often talk about failure or care to admit when it happens. This isn’t just a PM phenomenon, it is alarming how many failed start up founders do autopsy’s on why the business failed. Maryam Mazraei aims to change this, and publishes failures in a public forum for the learnings to be shared: Autopsy capturing lessons learnt from failed startups.

We need to build and design products responsibly

Payal Wadhwa - Service Design Principal @ Idean UK

We are in the midst of a climate crisis. The products we use and build can contribute massively to this, therefore we have an opportunity to change this with the products we bring into the ecosystem.

There is a cost to technical innovation: research found that the carbon footprint of training a single AI is as much as 284 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – five times the lifetime emissions of an average car(!!).

Designing responsibly goes beyond the direct impact on the planet. It also means we need to be more careful when building and designing products because nowadays technology goes beyond hardware. It has integrated into our day-to-day, work, personal lives, and into our homes. It is our responsibility to go slowly and gently into the future and learn from past mistakes.

Product management becomes increasingly complex when both software and hardware is involved

Sabrina Rzepka - Lead Product Owner @BMW

Imagine having to balance technology with the manufacturing of physical parts, where there is a PM team for each of the many components that makes up the car entertainment system.

Sabrina was new to BMW, and decided instead subjecting a room of 30 people to death by powerpoint slides, she would make a short video which conveyed her future vision for the product. It took 3 minutes and one click to align a colocated large group to buy-in to the vision.

This is not indicative of replacing verbal and face-to-face conversation with short videos, but it helps a great deal when trying to propagate context to a large group. We believe it was a great example of thinking outside the box (something PMs should strive to do often). After sharing the video, each individual will digest information in their own way and think of questions which spark productive conversations.

We need more visible female role models in product leadership

Jane Honey - Product Director @ Intercom

Jane gave an inspiring message to a room full of - you guessed it - 70% males. She said the hardest obstacle she has had to overcome is that feeling of being the only woman in the room, and having no women above her in the product hierarchy to look up to and be inspired by. Women should help each other succeed, wherever we can, and this will in turn help us move up the hierarchy together.