In this Ferris Wheel episode, I speak with Cindy Alvarez who runs the research team at Yammer, a Microsoft company. She talks about Slack, understanding users and suggests an alternative to coming up with ideas – ask customers.

Who is Cindy Alvarez?

Cindy Alvarez runs the research team for Yammer (a Microsoft company), and helps other teams across Microsoft get better at customer interviewing, being more Lean and experimental, and bringing research and analytics into product management. She’s the author of Lean Customer Development: Build Products Your Customers Will Buy.  Cindy spent a dozen years in leadership positions at startups of various sizes and continues to mentor and advise early-stage companies. She’s a frequent speaker on UX, Lean, and tech culture, and tweets as @cindyalvarez.

What will you learn? Ask Customers?

  1. Who, in Cindy’s mind, are the most unorthodox product makers?
    • Slack
  2. Who Cindy thinks are the most impressive, lesser-known teachers in customer development and lean?
    • Laura Klein
    • Janice Fraser
  3. What makes Cindy different from other product makers, and who have had the biggest influence on her?
    • Crooked path to PM – UX and Interaction Design
    • Peter Hazlehurst
    • Hiten Shah
  4. Have you trained or coached other product people to do what you are doing as a product manager, designer and maker? How successful have they been in being able to replicate the results?
  5. What are the biggest mistakes you see these product makers and startups make in making products? What do you see as a waste of time in what they do today?
  6. What are your favorite books & other resources on customer development and lean? If people had to teach themselves to make awesome products, what do you suggest they do?
  7. If you had to coach me to make a successful product in 4 weeks, and you had a million dollars in the line, what would the coaching look like?

Useful Links

  • Cindy’s Twitter handle @cindyalvarez
  • Blog –
  • Video courses on O’Reilly by Cindy Alvarez
  • Books
    • Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy (click to buy on Amazon)
    • You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney (click to buy on Amazon)
    • You are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney (click to buy on Amazon)
    • Creativity Inc by Ed Catcall & Amy Wallace (click to buy on Amazon)
    • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (click to buy on Amazon)
    • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (click to buy on Amazon)
    • Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (click to buy on Amazon)
    • The Myth of the Garage (click to buy on Amazon)
  • People

Listen to Related Episodes

  • Visual Thinking and User Experience | Kate Rutter (click here to listen)
  • User Research to Build Better Products | Laura Klein (click here to listen)

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