Early in my career as a product leader, I learned to execute quickly, leading to success in building games and children’s software. But two things reinforced the value of strategic thinking for me. One good, another bad:
This essay details Netflix’s progress from its launch in 1998 to the recent launch of its “I feel lucky” button — a merchandising tactic where Netflix members rely totally on Netflix’s personalization algorithms. It’s a messy journey, with an evolving personalization strategy propelled by Netflix’s ability to execute high-cadence experiments using its homegrown A/B test system.
In 20 years, Netflix has gone from members choosing 2% of the movies the merchandising system suggests to 80% today. In the early days, a member would explore hundreds of titles before finding something they liked. Today most members look at forty choices before…
(Note: This essay is from my free “Ask Gib” newsletter on Substack, where I answer a few product and leadership questions each week. You can sign up here.)
Given rapid changes in product management roles and technologies, most of my learning has come from bosses and peers.
To answer this question, I created a list of learning from my thirty-year career. The list reinforces how product leaders can accelerate both their learning and career growth:
Over two decades, Netflix improved its subscribers’ monthly cancel rate from 10% to 2%. They did this by balancing delight against margin (profit) while building a durable, hard-to-copy advantage. I call it the DHM model: Delight customers in Hard-to-copy, Margin-enhancing ways.
Today, Netflix’s hard-to-copy attributes are:
A challenge along the way: How do you evaluate trade-offs between delight and margin? When might you choose to lose money to delight customers?
Below, I answer both of these questions…
As a product leader, your job is to delight customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways. On the face of it, a Netflix Party feature seems to combine all three elements:
(I’m not convinced that all Medium readers know this.)
I look through my data, and there are so many single claps. I recognize that the clap on Medium borrows from real-life behavior — you clap more for something you love.
But online, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter perpetuate a one-clap system. So it’s strange to clap more than once on Medium.
Go crazy, clap all you want!
As companies grow, product strategies evolve. Here’s how Netflix might communicate its product strategy today. The purpose of this mock strategy is to:
Earlier in this product strategy series, I outlined how Netflix hoped to “Get Big,” “Lead,” and “Expand” during its startup phase. Below I have added the company’s current focus, as well as a speculative next step, which may have substantial traction in five to ten years:
1. Get big on DVDs
2. Lead downloading
3. Expand worldwide
4. Original content
5. Interactive storytelling
Like product strategy…
Like many, I have moved very quickly from in-person to online events. The challenge is to create engaging experiences when you can’t see your audience, they are distracted (by email, Twitter, and COVID19), and the online tools are both flaky and hard to use.
Below are my learnings from this transition. I describe the tools I use today, how I make them work together and the principles that are common to both in-person and online presentations.
My Webinar Tools
I have been hacking with several tools and have had good luck with the following combination:
Three years ago, I gave my first talk at a Greylock Partners event. When I asked the product leaders what they wanted to talk about, one answered, “I just want to know how Netflix made the wicked hard decisions.”
Figuring out how to make tough decisions is a topic that’s always worth revisiting as you develop as a leader. To help you make these decisions more quickly and confidently, I’ve compiled ten decision-making habits I’ve learned over the years about people, products, and business.
Early in my career, the head of product at Electronic Arts asked me, “What would you…
Here’s a quick 30-minute webinar video I created for product people who want to deliver great product presentations. Here’s the outline:
Click here to watch the video and to download a PDF of the presentation. As always, remember to give feedback using the SurveyMonkey link at the end of the video. I also provide links to a few articles I have written on how to deliver impactful presentations on my “Speaker Tips” page.