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VP of Product and Platform Assessment

The task ahead
Asked by Solstice: Describe how you would lead the team in evaluating the problem below with consideration to the business objective, your team’s resources and needs, team process and growth, and your approach to product discovery. How would you prepare for and anticipate needs for additional or different resources?
Context, Problem, Solution (click toggle to open)
Over the years, Google has had numerous communication apps and platforms. You can read a history of them
. Imagine you’re put in charge of the future of Google’s communication/messaging strategy and given the long-term business goal of making Google as dominant in the chat/messaging consumer space as they are in
email.
Given an existing team of six devs, two PMs, and one UX designer, how would you approach this problem as the VP of Product and Platform? Please describe how you would lead the team in evaluating this problem with consideration to the business objective, your team’s resources and needs, team process and growth, and your approach to product discovery. How would you prepare for and anticipate needs for additional or different resources?
Not give a single great idea, but a strategic vision and plan for creating a team that is self-teaching and self-healing and a process that is scalable and repeatable in finding and evaluating ideas.
Call out and note areas where you would “go deeper” or “expand upon” if you had more time and resources for this assignment.
Be concise, effectively communicate your answer, and address the core of the problem.
Framing the answer
I’ve decided to structure my answer as a philosophy and framework discussion, with a concrete example of a structured online ideation program I’ve used in the past. Comments at the bottom on the gaps in this example for this assessment.
The underlying problem in team work
In my experience, most teams who struggle to ideate successfully suffer from fear or lack of experience, not from lack of ideas, ability or motivation. Systematically removing fear tends to result in higher levels of productivity and greater numbers of ideas.
Philosophy of resilient team work
Creativity and resiliency go hand in hand. Creativity requires vulnerability and failing at trying something new. Resilient teams are those who are challenged and empowered solve, embraced when they fail, who look inward and outward for guidance, seek ways to improve every step of the way - and ultimately choose to take action, again and again. Solutions to challenges are where resiliency and creativity collide.
Developing creativity and resiliency in a team requires leadership to encourage, challenge, guide and validate, but also step back, support failures and carefully temper enthusiasm. The interpersonal interactions I’ve found that work for fostering an environment where creativity and resiliency flourish include:
Public recognition and personal story telling within the team and externally for how hard it is to be creative, and the importance of action and failure.
Internal team frank idea discussions that include humor, support and constructive feedback.
Regular changes in problem and process ownership to bring fresh insights and keep momentum going.
Example environment
The link below is for a persistent structured brainstorming environment for a product we rolled out to large Pharma. I built this process and environment from some standard brainstorming processes used throughout consulting. Comments and branding have been removed for confidentiality purposes and commenting and editing have been disabled, but I believe it’s a reasonable representation of one of the more structured ways I go about setting up teams for repeatable and consistent ideation (although there are others as well). A version of this environment is currently applied to major Pharma brand ideation sessions with HCPs.
For the purposes of this assessment, there are a few things that are missing, and would need to be fleshed out more:
Process embedded in the system for self-identifying how we improve as a team - and how we measure whether we’re getting better (even if it’s subjective).
Process for reward allocation to increase incentive for participation.
Links to check-in meetings and notes from check in meetings.
Methods for planning resource needs (eg: how many more development hours would this take) and checking if those needs are realistic (although this is a bit a part of phase 2).

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