Vision, conviction, and hype: How to build 0 to 1 inside a company | Mihika Kapoor (Product, Figma)

Vision, conviction, and hype: How to build 0 to 1 inside a company | Mihika Kapoor (Product, Figma)

Mihika’s background (00:00:00)

  • Mihika Kapoor is a design engineering PM hybrid at Figma.
  • She was an early PM on FigJam and is now leading the development of a new product to be launched in June.
  • Known as the go-to person at Figma for leading new 0 to 1 products.
  • Prior to Figma, she founded Design Nation, a national nonprofit that democratizes undergraduate student access to design education.
  • Also led several products and launches at Meta focused on commerce and creators.
  • A compelling vision should be:
    • Clear and concise.
    • Inspiring and motivating.
    • Realistic and achievable.
  • To develop a compelling vision, you should:
    • Start with a deep understanding of the problem you're trying to solve.
    • Talk to customers and users to get their insights and feedback.
    • Be open to new ideas and possibilities.
    • Iterate on your vision until you're confident it's the best it can be.
  • To get buy-in for your ideas, you should:
    • Clearly articulate your vision and the benefits it will bring.
    • Be prepared to answer questions and objections.
    • Build relationships with key stakeholders and influencers.
    • Be persistent and don't give up easily.
  • Conviction is the belief that you can achieve your goals, even when faced with challenges and obstacles.
  • To develop conviction, you should:
    • Set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps.
    • Visualize yourself achieving your goals.
    • Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you.
    • Never give up on your dreams.
  • Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.
  • Empathy is important for product managers because it allows them to:
    • Understand the needs of their users.
    • Build relationships with their users.
    • Create products that meet the needs of their users.
  • To develop empathy, you should:
    • Listen to your users.
    • Put yourself in their shoes.
    • Be open to feedback.
  • Culture is the shared values, beliefs, and behaviors of a group of people.
  • Culture is important for companies because it:
    • Creates a sense of belonging and purpose.
    • Motivates employees to do their best work.
    • Helps companies to achieve their goals.
  • To create a positive culture, you should:
    • Hire people who share your values.
    • Be clear about your company's values and expectations.
    • Encourage employees to collaborate and share ideas.
    • Celebrate success.
  • Change is a constant in the business world.
  • To deal with change, you should:
    • Be adaptable and flexible.
    • Be open to new ideas and possibilities.
    • Be willing to take risks.
    • Stay positive and focused on your goals.
  • To bring new ideas from zero to one, you should:
    • Start with a clear vision and a strong team.
    • Be willing to experiment and take risks.
    • Be persistent and don't give up easily.
    • Celebrate your successes.

Core attributes of great product managers (00:04:29)

  • Mika Kapoor is a product manager at Figma, one of the most successful tech companies in the world with one of the best product teams.
  • Lenny Rachitsky, the host of the podcast, wants to learn from Mika's experiences and knowledge to create more successful product managers.
  • Mika believes in focusing on her strengths rather than trying to be good at everything.
  • She fell into product management because it allowed her to combine her interests in both left-brain (technical) and right-brain (design) thinking.
  • Mika emphasizes the importance of having a growth mindset and constantly learning and improving.
  • Mika discusses the importance of having a clear vision and conviction in your product.
  • She believes that product managers should be able to articulate their vision in a way that inspires others and generates excitement.
  • Mika also emphasizes the importance of creating hype around your product, but warns against over-promising and under-delivering.
  • She suggests using data and customer feedback to validate your product ideas and ensure that you are meeting the needs of your users.

Crafting a compelling vision (00:07:34)

  • A compelling vision is crucial for product development as it provides a guiding force and keeps the team motivated during challenging times.
  • To create a compelling vision, it's essential to be inseparable from users and the team.
  • Cross-pollination of ideas from research, design, and engineering leads to a stronger vision.
  • Effective communication of the vision involves using visual aids, such as prototypes and mockups, to convey pain points and solutions.
  • When presenting a vision, focus on the "why" rather than just the "what."
  • Use data, research, and user insights to support the vision and demonstrate its potential impact.
  • Address potential objections and concerns proactively.
  • Tailor the vision to the specific audience and their interests.
  • Be open to feedback and willing to adjust the vision based on input from others.

The vision behind FigJam (00:12:12)

  • During the pandemic, Figma's FigJam team noticed the rise of whiteboarding as a remote collaboration tool, with brainstorming being the most common activity in FigJam files.
  • The team recognized that traditional meetings were often one-sided, prompting the vision of creating more democratic workplaces where meetings resemble brainstorms, encouraging contributions and collaboration from everyone.
  • To enhance collaboration, features like music and voting were introduced in FigJam files to help users achieve a state of flow.
  • A unified team that shares a common vision is essential when presenting ideas, and creating a single artifact, such as a deck in Figma, fosters a sense of ownership and passion among team members.
  • Figma's approach involves early-stage design and prototyping, even before project approval, allowing stakeholders to emotionally connect with the product's potential.

Delivering a vision without design or engineering skills (00:18:25)

  • AI tools like Cognition's Devon can generate code, making it easier for non-technical individuals to build prototypes.
  • Replit can act as a technical co-founder, lowering the barrier to building something.
  • Figma can serve as a designer co-founder, enabling non-designers to create visual representations of their ideas.
  • Participate in hackathons to gain visibility and support for your ideas.
  • Don't let your lack of skills prevent you from pitching your ideas and seeking help.
  • Partner with designers to enhance the visual appeal and clarity of your ideas.
  • Ask for help from others; you may find someone willing to collaborate and contribute their skills.

Creating momentum (00:21:52)

  • Creating momentum is crucial for a PM to drive progress towards their vision.
  • Jeff Bezos's one-way doors, two-way doors framework emphasizes the importance of having an opinion and using it to anchor people and get reactions.
  • Product sense is about having good intuition, which can be built by having insatiable curiosity and talking to users at every opportunity.
  • Conversations with users provide powerful anecdotes that can be drawn upon when making product decisions.
  • Putting out an idea, even if it's wrong, is a better catalyst for getting to a good solution than starting from nothing.
  • It's important to have early conviction and be willing to communicate it, get feedback, and iterate.
  • Being willing to "kill your darlings" and pivot based on external signals is essential for agility and success.

The importance of strong conviction (00:26:36)

  • Strong conviction can lead to the perception that others don't have a voice or chance to influence.
  • Finding a balance between strong conviction and allowing others to contribute is crucial.
  • Strong conviction can have downsides, such as not achieving the desired effect.
  • Be open to feedback and willing to change your mind.
  • Involve others in the decision-making process.
  • Create a collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Direct communication (00:27:45)

  • Direct and honest communication is essential for successful collaboration and building trust.
  • Feedback should be a two-way street and acted upon promptly.
  • A compelling vision that excites people is crucial for successful product development.
  • Use prototypes to effectively communicate your vision.
  • Mihika Kapoor, a product manager at Figma, emphasizes the importance of having a clear vision and conviction in the idea, and being able to effectively communicate the excitement and potential of the product to others.

Building hype (00:32:48)

  • Building hype is essential for generating excitement and momentum around an idea or product, overcoming doubts and skepticism.
  • To create hype, genuinely believe in the idea, share your vision, and showcase your product at large company forums and events.
  • Gather valuable feedback and insights by pushing your product to its limits and putting it in front of people.
  • Internal hype is crucial for getting everyone in the company excited about a product and driving its development, while external hype involves generating excitement among users about product milestones and launches.
  • Creating an emotional connection with users through product features and experiences can drive hype, and tailoring the hype strategy to the product's brand is essential.

Immersing yourself in user insights (00:42:20)

  • To build a successful product, it's essential to understand the needs, pain points, and desires of your user base.
  • Continuously engage with users, both within and outside your target audience, to gain insights and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Pay attention to non-users and understand why they are not using your product to gain valuable insights for marketing and product development.
  • In early-stage companies, founders should actively engage with users to gather feedback and validate product ideas.
  • In larger companies, maintain a close relationship with the sales team to ensure that customer pain points are communicated to the product development team.
  • Building and maintaining a strong relationship between traditionally siloed organizations is crucial for effective product development.

Operationalizing user insights (00:47:16)

  • Figma uses FigJam for everything, including multiple FigJam files per day per meeting.
  • Initially, people outside the company were mostly using FigJam for brainstorms.
  • To scale the FigJam sales team, a recurring cadence was set up with the sales team to understand their needs and input.
  • Sales team input was used to prioritize or deprioritize items on the roadmap, and the sales team used this information to understand use cases they could push with customers.
  • A loom video was created to walk through how FigJam is used in different meetings, which was distributed to companies to inspire them on various use cases.
  • Insights from user conversations inform product roadmap prioritization and create artifacts that the sales team can use to evangelize the vision.
  • Sometimes conversations aren't immediately actionable, so insights and requests are stored in a backlog and groomed weekly.

Caring deeply about what you build (00:50:33)

  • Caring about what you build makes you a better leader.
  • When people disagree about product strategy, it's because they have different assumptions.
  • It's important to understand the assumptions behind a product strategy and ensure everyone has the same assumptions.
  • The more you believe in an idea, the more natural it is to be passionate about it.

Finding passion in your work (00:54:01)

  • If you're not passionate about your current project, take a step back and consider the vision of the company and your users.
  • Your scope is not limited to your current project, but rather the entire world.
  • Consider if your passion aligns with your company's goals and if not, explore founding something within the company or starting something new.
  • Founding something is not just for capital F Founders, anyone can found something within an existing company or from scratch.
  • Reasons to found something within an existing company:
    • Distribution advantage
    • Technical or platform advantage
    • Lower risk
  • Challenges of founding something within an existing company:
    • Harder to take executive decisions
    • Slower decision-making process
    • Different team composition and recruitment process
    • Different pitching process and audience

Building a strong culture (00:57:00)

  • Mihika Kapoor, a product manager at Figma, stresses the significance of fostering a robust company culture for team cohesion and collaboration.
  • Figma's traditions, such as "Hot Seat" and "Figgies," promote team bonding, understanding, and appreciation of individual contributions.
  • Understanding team members' motivations and strengths is crucial for building strong working relationships and a positive work environment.
  • Prioritizing fun and enjoyment at work, as exemplified by Figma's "play" value, boosts team morale and productivity.
  • A strong company culture fosters trust, resilience, and emotional connections among employees, enhancing job satisfaction and team durability.

Pivoting with grace and enthusiasm (01:07:07)

  • Mihika Kapoor has a talent for pivoting with grace and enthusiasm when things change and priorities shift.
  • She shares an example from her college days when she founded a national design conference for students.
  • Initially, she planned to build the conference within an existing organization at Princeton but faced skepticism about the business value of design.
  • Without formal backing, she reached out to industry leaders and designers via cold emails and gained support.
  • The conference grew over the years, bringing together students and industry professionals from around the world.
  • Kapoor emphasizes the importance of adaptability and resourcefulness when pursuing a goal, even in the absence of formal support.

Design Nation (01:11:48)

  • Mihika Kapoor's initiative, Design Nation, aims to increase the number of product designers in schools.
  • The program is open to college students interested in design, including design-minded engineers and marketers.
  • Design Nation has hosted notable speakers like Stuart Whitesman and Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb.

Mihika’s weaknesses (01:13:15)

  • Mihika acknowledges that some of her strengths can also be weaknesses.
  • Her strong conviction may lead to skepticism from others if there is a lack of collaboration history.
  • Her scrappiness and ability to thrive in ambiguity can be challenging for others who prefer more structured approaches.
  • Her tendency to get consumed by details can sometimes hinder decision-making.
  • Mihika emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and hiring for complementary skills to create a well-rounded team.

Building new products at larger companies (01:16:07)

  • To stay competitive, companies need to stay entrepreneurial and constantly think about what's next.
  • Figma has a culture of celebrating entrepreneurial initiatives, with many successful launches coming from hackathons and bottom-up projects.
  • The company encourages employees to be entrepreneurial in developing new products and improving internal processes.
  • A zero-to-one project is like a flame that needs to be kept burning.
  • The person or team pushing the idea is like the keeper of the hearth, responsible for stoking the flames and ensuring the idea spreads like wildfire.
  • Three things are necessary for success:
    • The right idea, gained through empathy and conversations with users.
    • Securing buy-in for the idea from leadership and the team.
    • Making the idea spread like wildfire, generating excitement and demand within the company.

Coming up with a great idea (01:20:50)

  • To come up with a good idea, two key elements are necessary:
    • User empathy: Constantly have conversations with users to understand their pain points and perceptions about your company, their tools, and the market.
    • Alignment with company goals: Ensure that your idea ladders into a broader company goal, such as expanding to non-designers and covering the entire product development cycle.

The key to going from 0 to 1 (01:22:49)

  • Understand the business, not just the product or feature.
  • Get buy-in from stakeholders.
  • Have optimism that borders on delusion and a reality distortion field.
  • Translate "no" into "not yet".
  • Build conviction by talking to users and having ad hoc conversations.
  • Pitch your idea multiple times until it gains momentum.
  • Don't be daunted by the scale of your pitch.
  • Be willing to take hits on quality or believability to make your idea feel believable.
  • Make small changes to existing products to communicate your idea.
  • Present your idea in a companywide forum to gain momentum and support.

Spreading the idea across the company (01:26:47)

  • Figma has a multi-month staging or dogfooding process.
  • Getting feedback from across the company helps the product mature and get ready for launch.
  • Putting something on staging early makes people invested in the product.
  • Involving people in the product development cycle elevates the quality of the product.

Closing thoughts (01:29:15)

  • Sharing unique insights creates an entrepreneurial culture within the company, inspiring others to contribute.
  • Understanding motivations of team members, leaders, and peers is crucial for running a successful team and driving ideas forward.
  • Different people have varying preferences for involvement in product visioning. Some prefer solutions, while others want to contribute to the process.
  • Directly asking team members about their preferences for involvement in product decisions is the best way to understand their motivations.
  • Making decisions in the open and giving everyone the opportunity to voice their perspectives and push back is powerful.

Lightning round (01:32:11)

  • Mihika Kapoor, a product manager at Figma, recommends reading the Harry Potter series, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
  • Her favorite recent TV show is Severance, and her favorite recent movie is Dune 2, which she watched in IMAX.
  • Kapoor believes the best interview questions are tailored to the individual and is impressed by the onboarding flow and attention to detail at Arc, a browser company, as well as the user interaction and manipulation of outputs in the video generation and editing software Pika.
  • Kapoor emphasizes the importance of having low expectations to fully enjoy experiences and shares her life motto: "Life is a game of expectations."
  • Kapoor invites listeners to attend Config, Figma's conference, where new product announcements and AI launches will be revealed, and encourages users to try out new products and share their discoveries with her.
  • Kapoor's new product will likely be featured in the opening keynote at Config and will be accompanied by a tweet from her. She also plans to release the original vision deck for the new product upon its launch.

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