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On being a Product Manager. Justin Chapman Interview

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 14:04:27 +0000

width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""> More great video interviews of Product Managers from Pono Labs here:…0a1LHlx0KA/videos

Navigating the Uncertainty of Innovation

Mon, 18 May 2015 13:55:37 +0000

Creating an innovative product? Turns out it is nothing like working in more familiar territory. Don't make the mistake I made trying to leverage the same people, process and attitudes to create and launch brand new initiatives as more proven projects. The trick is to acknowledge and be prepared for the inevitable uncertainties that can kill your idea and your team.

Here's my talk for Thomson Reuter's speaker series explaining how to navigate the uncertainty inherent in new product development. You can also download the ebook that inspired the presentation.

Highlight reel (3:37):
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The Product Design Sprint

Fri, 01 May 2015 18:29:23 +0000

The Product Design Sprint is a fast-paced, collaborative process for conceiving and testing new product ideas. An established company or startup might see an emerging opportunity around a customer need, or they might already have a specific new product or feature they are considering. A Design Sprint is the perfect tool for rapidly exploring, imagining and evaluating a solution approach without having to first build and launch a product or feature.

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How Our Non-organization is Slowly Taking Over the World

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 14:51:36 +0000

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In my lead-in talk for the Tufts Symposium on Innovation, I attempted to wake up the audience with a shocking tale of world domination.

Well, sort of.

We at the Awesome Foundation were surprised four years ago when our idea to give away money resonated as much with givers as with receivers. The very principles that directed our giving efforts turned out to be powerful facilitators for organizational growth.

Here are a few of them:

Low Barriers to Entry

What began as a desire to allow anyone, anywhere with a good idea to more easily pull it off translated easily into anyone, anywhere with a desire to start a chapter of the Awesome Foundation to do the same. No permission required. No formal organization to set up. We think of it like a highly portable brand anyone can own and use, an idea framework to extend, a set of tools to deploy, an excuse to join up with friends and make a difference.

Balanced Power Dynamics

A strict no-strings attached grant policy, a refusal to narrowly define what awesome is, and a lack of formal leadership or governance structure helps create an environment where work is driven by individual contributions, decisions are made locally, and anyone with a good idea doesn’t need permission to make it happen.

Constant Experimentation

We fiddle with things. Since no one needs permission, projects just happen (vs. a frenzied vetting of every new suggestion). This lets the best ideas gain traction while the less than stellar initiatives starve. This environment of experimentation works well on a global level as well. Each chapter imagines its own future, launches its own events, and sets its own rules. Then we learn from each other and steal the best ideas. Distributed ownership plus collective learning can be a powerful combination.

Interview with Inc. Magazine

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 00:29:07 +0000


Inc. Magazine reached out to discuss the Awesome Foundation. They were particularly interested in our iconoclastic approach to idea development and what lessons traditional businesses might learn from our approach. I'm particularly fond of our commitment to the "no strings attached" policy to supporting creators and their ideas.

Anyway, take a read!

Why 1,000 Opinions Can be a Good Thing

Thu, 26 Sep 2013 16:50:47 +0000

I am a Mentor for Techstars Boston, helping guide startup teams through the early-stage morass of product and business strategy. To kick off the program, the twelve or so founder teams set aside several days to tackle as many 30-minute meetings with mentors as possible – usually dozens. Dubbed “Mentor Madness,” this process initially struck me as an inefficient approach, since startups have to repeat their story over and over. Additionally, many Boston mentors come from different industries and backgrounds with different levels of experience and armed with a wide range of opinions. How do startups handle so much potentially conflicting advice? How is this not confusing and frustrating and (seemingly) a waste of time for startups, when time is the single most important resource they have? It turns out there are some surprising and powerful outcomes of this process that weren’t clear to me at the outset. First, stringing together a large number of back-to-back meetings provides a fantastic laboratory for testing whether a founder’s pitch makes sense and then refining it in situ. Did the mentors understand the fundamentals of the business, how it works, and the core customer value? Did they zoom in on the problem areas, and most importantly, were mentors able to quickly understand where they might be the most helpful? As demo day approaches, nothing may serve founders better than practice refining their pitch and effectively soliciting help (read: funding). Then, putting honed business ideas up against the musings of multiple new minds directly challenges a weakness many early stage startups have: the insistence that they’re already on the single best path to success. Self-confidence and faith is imperative; however the most successful early stage startups are not afraid to reconsider their strategy and pivot early enough to survive. The integration of repeated, tough feedback from mentors helps founders understand they should be open to changing course. I have a theory. If you get a few smart people to tell you your business or product direction needs help, you might brush it off. You probably ask yourself, what do they know that I haven’t spent a year already considering? But get an overwhelming barrage of thoughtful feedback all at once and a subtle attitude shift can occur – a realization that the current plan might have weaknesses. There may be better approaches, and these folks seem to be willing to help – why not let them lean-in? In this situation, good founders can take a step back and recognize that a diversity of opinion opens up possibilities. Advice can be a resource to tap where you pick and choose what educates and inspires. The best founders learn to not take judgments personally or throw up defenses to strong recommendations. Instead, they mine the diversity of input for gems, develop the patience to recognize helpful input, and stay true to their underlying vision. Finally, the sheer number of interactions with mentors increases the odds of finding a good connection between the founders and the mentor. I’ve stopped thinking of this as just a matchmaking process. Instead, lots of meetings increase the number of opportunities for a mentor to lean-in and help with more than spot advice. For some of us, mentorship involves interacting across multiple teams and providing one with timely advice, another with a customer lead and a third with a working session on development. In each meeting there isn’t always an obvious opportunity to leverage a mentor’s experience or connections, but the startups that are open to help and willing to overclock on interactions will maximize the chances that a mentor will eventually offer more substantial assistance. Something magical happens when startups are exposed to a big surge in input from helpful individuals. A recognition they are not alone, that possibilities open up when shields go down, and given enough inter[...]

26 Miles of Awesome

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 14:50:32 +0000


Dear Fellow Bostonians,

At its core, The Awesome Foundation is about community. And for Boston, the marathon represents our city's community at its best. It'd be a real shame if violence is all anyone thinks about now when they think of the Boston Marathon.

So we're collecting awesome stories and memories from Boston Marathons past to showcase this incredible community event. Let's remind the world about the 116 years of amazing memories, not a single sad one.

Read, share, and contribute here:

Sharing a story can be as simple as completing the sentence: "The Boston Marathon is awesome because..."

Here’s to making the 2014 Boston Marathon the most awesome one yet!

The Awesome Foundation, Boston

What it Takes to Innovate at a Legacy Media Organization

Mon, 01 Apr 2013 00:15:17 +0000

At the SXSW festivities this year, I moderated a panel on Innovation for NPR's Digital Day on March 8th. Panel included John Keefe - Senior editor at WNYC, Nico Leone - General Manager at KCUR, and Shazna Nessa - Deputy managing editor at Associated Press. I am grateful to the amazing panelists, who at my consistent urging shared stories of taking risk and bringing about change at their respective organizations. As you can imagine, change is not always easy at these sorts of places, and I'm enamored with the stories that smart people who can bring about change always seem to have.

The new ideas and experiences these three made real are quite different from one another, yet there are patterns to be found here; for example, in leveraging small victories, having big dreams and believing in your people.

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External Story Roundup

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 01:52:00 +0000

Over the last few months, I've blogged in a number of places other than here. So a round-up is well overdue.

The biggest splash probably came from a post that Eric Athas and I did on our Facebook geotargeting experiment through invitational cross-post on Neiman Journalism Lab's site. We saw some amazing engagement around localizing content through NPR's 2.4 Million followers and are now in the process of testing out scaling this experiment into new markets. Stay tuned!

Also of note was Steve Mulder and I's post on why mobile web matters to NPR. To cut to the chase, we're seeing big growth on mobile web nationally and think there's some great potential in engaging sideways traffic from in-app browsers. Our superstar Product Manager Erin Martin did a post outlining our very lean-startup-esque mobile web pilot we just launched to test some of these core assumptions.

Finally, I highlighted some great stats from one of our member station in St. Louis that is really hitting it out of the park with our publishing tool.

Using Prediction Markets to Follow Election News

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 15:12:49 +0000

There are scores of news sources covering the elections, but which provide us with a clear picture of how things are progressing, especially when so many sources these days rely on sensationalism or political bias to build audience? One potentially under-valued way to understand what’s happening in our world is to take a look at online prediction markets. Online prediction markets are sites where individuals can place bets - usually non-monetary – on particular outcomes of world events. These "bets" take the form of either/or outcomes, such as whether a particular movie will be number one in the box office or whether a political candidate will win or lose an election. Bets are then traded much like on a stock market. If you bet wisely on a particular outcome, then you stand to "profit" on your bet. As individuals buy and sell on potential outcomes, the collective prediction fluctuates in real time. As bystanders, we might gain some insight into predicted outcomes and their underlying drivers by watching the fluctuations in predictions as they unfold. But are these predictions accurate? Markets such as Iowa Electronic Market have been recognized as being a fairly accurate and effective predictor of past elections. While past performance is no indicator of future outcomes, it can be enlightening to watch the outcome percentages fluctuate over time. Behind shifts in predicted outcomes lies the aggregated knowledge of all the market traders. In other words, when a percentage shifts there might be new information driving that shift. In the case of an election, this shift might represent the punch of a campaign ad or the release of a new piece of potentially damaging candidate history. Because traders stand to benefit if they move quickly on a piece of new information, outcomes in exchange markets often represent the very latest information and can be used as a bellwether of sorts around particular events as they occur. For example, perceived performance during the course of a live debate might drive real-time market predictions. Additionally, as bystanders we can gain a better understanding of important events without first having to track down and analyze the underlying facts. The underlying information is still critical of course, but instead of finding it and determining what it all means we might do the opposite – look for impacts and then find the information behind it that might prove meaningful. Monitoring outcome percentages in prediction markets might be useful for the casual news consumer. I have pulled prediction numbers from three online prediction markets on the web around the upcoming presidential election in order to explore whether this theory might be correct. Specifically, I include predictions in real-time from Intrade, Foresight Exchange, and the Iowa Electronic Market around whether the incumbent president will secure a second term1. Once per day, I will automatically pull the prediction numbers from the three respective markets and publish them to my Twitter feed. My hope is that these percentages and their fluctuations over time might help the casual news consumer get a slightly better understanding of not only the election outcome, but of meaningful news information that might be happening surrounding the election without having to wade through a sea of potentially conflicting reports. I’m curious whether this experiment might be useful or the predictions accurate. I have no idea – perhaps you can help me understand. I’ll be watching responses on twitter and reporting back if interesting stuff arises. Latest Results: 1 To be clear, I could have tracked whether Obama will either win or lose the election (% chance of losing = 100 - % chance of winning for those keeping score at home). The decision to track the chance of a reelection and the decis[...]