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By now, we all know that emotional intelligence (EQ) belongs in the workplace. Not only does it shape more aligned and connected teams, it’s also one of the most powerful ways to bring teams together behind their product. And in today’s more competitive product landscape, businesses have to prioritize meaningful relationships between products and people.  

After all, if the teams building the products don’t believe in them, how can we expect users to?

I’d argue that as Product Managers, our roles naturally demand a level of emotional intelligence. We have to communicate, empathize, and diffuse conflicts on a daily basis.

But in a product sphere shaken by the pandemic, we have to be more conscious to project that intelligence onto the teams and theworkflows that make our products — especially when emotional intelligence can arm people with the skills to juggle disrupted processes and remote work. 

Like any form of mental gymnastics, emotional intelligence has to be exercised through habits. These are a few of the ways I’ve personally brought EQ into product management:

1. Build with accessibility in mind

An appreciation for inclusion is directly linked to EQ. 

COVID-19 has meant many demographics who were not using online tools before, are now active users. It’s us Product Managers who bear the responsibility of ensuring the tools of today work for everyone tomorrow. We have to be highly attentive to the specific needs of people of all backgrounds and abilities, factoring in things like their mobility and digital literacy. 

With such an expansive user base to cater to, accessibility can’t be an afterthought. From the discovery phase to coding to the initial prototype, my team and I repeatedly check if we’re being inclusive. 

How? We test with a range of people who have different capabilities and we use accessibility tools like Stark. We also constantly strive to grow our understanding of accessibility, by conducting interviews with people and attending courses about inclusive design.

At the end of the day, we recognized that accessibility benefits all users. For example, we discovered that by being conscious of users with hearing impairments, we needed to introduce closed captioning in one of our products. We then realized that the functionality also helps able-bodied users who are in noisy environments or who aren’t native speakers. 

Emotional intelligence allowed us to see our products through a variety of lenses, which in turn, pushed us to develop not only more ethical products, but better ones too.

2. Encourage your teams to (over)share

Despite having worked remotely for over one year, communicating progress, revised deadlines, and takeaways across all stakeholders remains a bumpy ride for PMs.

We certainly had interpersonal skills before the pandemic, but recently those skills have had to be focused on keeping teams reassured and productive in choppy conditions.

I recently traveled to Madrid to meet my colleagues for the first time. While there, I realized what made the biggest difference to our team bonding was what happened outside of the office. Going for lunch and having after-work drinks was when we shared the most with each other.

I got to thinking: how can I recreate these moments in a remote environment? I started by setting up meetings that have no purpose other than for people to chat and share: virtual events like 15-minute coffee break calls, lightning talks, 5.30 pm beers on Zoom. 

Sharing is an inherent part of healthy, productive work culture. Giving people the time to be human — and not only an employee or team member — is how we really connect. The more we know about each other, the more we can empathize and cater to everyone’s needs.

For example, if a colleague mentions that their child is sick, my team now automatically extends their deadlines and limits the number of Slack messages we send to them

This empathy goes into the products we build too. We’re more conscious of the people we’re trying to serve, and if what we build reflects them. We’ve started to ask more emotionally-driven questions about our users, about their new scenarios and fears in the pandemic. 

By virtue of (over)sharing with one another, we’re learning to be more curious about our customers beyond the surface level and to develop products that matter to them.

3. Be prepared to change your roadmap at a moment’s notice

In 2021, being able to pivot at a moment’s notice is not only necessary, it’s the sign of a mature team that can react to changing markets.

And what does that mean for PMs…? It means we have to emotionally prepare teams to cope with 180 scenarios. Of course, no-one ever wants to throw away the work they have done, but teams that have high levels of trust will be able to do so and remain confident that they’re on the right track. 

“Unshipping,” where features are killed, can be just as valuable as shipping new features. For example, my previous company launched an annual 2020 strategy that was crushed by the pandemic and made all technical plans irrelevant. 

Yet by swiftly reversing those plans, teams could focus on building a COVID-19 insights system, which ended up being a product of its own. Because individuals had the flexibility and confidence that backtracking was the right thing to do, they delivered a product that was better and more relevant than the initial plan.

4. Get comfortable with data and analytics tools

Perhaps the biggest EQ-charged change our team has seen is the reduction of our marketing efforts and shift towards product-led growth. 

Being product-led is about having a dialogue with our users, not a one-sided conversation — we have to listen to what they tell (or rather show) us, and then act.

Basically, we want to give value, not a sales pitch to customers — we want them to explain what does and doesn’t work. Still, we need concrete ways to measure this feedback and iterate accordingly. 

Enter data.

However, not having the luxury of sitting opposite a data scientist means team members can’t access metrics as easily, nor ask for a quick query to be run. As a solution, we’ve invested in teaching individuals query language skills so that there are fewer bottlenecks when it comes to data handling.

We’ve also hosted workshops on data tools like Amplitude or Mixpanel, so the whole team knows how to interrogate user behavior. And once the pandemic subsides and there are inevitably stark changes to user data, we’ll be able to interpret it faster and ensure that our products still have a place in the world. 

Being a Product Manager has always demanded spinning many plates at once, and in the midst of a global health crisis, there are more plates than ever turning in different directions.

In 2021, we need to move away from the technicalities of making products and put team management, inclusive design, and agility front and center. Doing so will prevent any plates from getting dropped, and it’ll keep both PMs and our products balanced for the future. 

Naabiae Nenu-B is a Medical Health Student and an SEO Specialist dedicated to flushing the web off fake news and scam scandals. He aims at being "Africa's Best Leak and Review Blogger" and that's the unwavering stand of Xycinews Media.

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Technology

Facebook is making glasses with Ray-Ban — but don’t expect AR features

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Over the past few days, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have talked about building an all-encompassing virtual world,  a ‘Metaverse‘ if you will. The hypothetical universe will live across AR, VR, PC, consoles, phones, and more.

While we don’t know what kind of devices the company will release under the program, it told The Verge that it’s planning to launch a pair of smart glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban. However, there won’t be any integrated display, so don’t expect any AR shenanigans.

Facebook told the publication that these glasses would be a step in its overall AR work. The company’s VP of reality labs, Andrew Bosworth, gave a statement describing a vision of the smart glasses, but it doesn’t tell us much: 

We’re passionate about exploring devices that can give people better ways to connect with those closest to them. Wearables have the potential to do that. With EssilorLuxottica we have an equally ambitious partner who’ll lend their expertise and world-class brand catalogue to the first truly fashionable smart glasses

Last year, Facebook gave us a glimpse into its AR vision through prototype hardware called Project Aria. However, because of the lack of a display, the firm called it a “sensor platform,” instead of calling it a pair of AR glasses.

Project Aria hardware prototype
Facebook Project Aria hardware prototype

In contrast, the new Facebook and Ray-Ban glasses are unlikely to host too many sensors. My hunch is that they might have only as many functions as Snap Spectacles, which capture video and take images. These glasses could be the first step for Facebook to gauge how people react to smart glasses and their features, and tune their first AR glasses product accordingly. 

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

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How to create an activity trail for your school

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Want to transform your tired schoolyard into a play haven?

With the school holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to start looking at new school playground equipment and asking your pupils what apparatus they’d like to see, come September.

Whilst you could choose a challenging climbing frame with a slide to whizz down, more and more primary schools are opting for adventure trails. Perhaps you could do the same?

These trails can be tailored to suit your exact specifications and allow pupils to practice a broad range of skills. For example, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) can develop low-level balancing and coordination skills whilst Key Stages 1 and 2 can challenge their physical and mental strength with climbing activities.

In this article, you can get some pointers on how to create a fun-filled activity trail for your school children.

Four factors to think about when designing an activity trail

  1. Space

Though trails can be linear in shape, they are great for joining irregular spaces in the playground. That means, if you have any unused spaces, you can transform them with exciting new school playground equipment.

How much available space you have can also determine what type of components your trail consists of, which leads us on to the next point.

  • Activities

From balancing beams and stepping logs to scrambling nets, rope bridges, monkey bars, climbing walls, and tunnels, you can make your activity trail as challenging as you like.

Of course, you want to encourage youngsters to set themselves targets – but you need to be realistic, so keep in mind their ages and abilities to ensure they can use the activity trail safely.

When investing in any new playground apparatus, you need to think carefully about how much you can afford to spend.

It’s worth arranging a meeting with the board of governors to explain your ideas and to explore your fundraising options. Alternatively, you may consider applying for a grant.

  • Safety surfacing

Although it’s perfectly possible to install an adventure trail directly onto grass, it’s advised that you opt for some type of safety surfacing – i.e. rubber mulch, synthetic grass, rubber bark, mats, or matting.

In doing so, you can relax knowing that your students can play safely in wet weather, without the play area becoming flooded or waterlogged.

Seek expert advice

By far the best thing you can do when investing in new play equipment for your school – be it a single unit or an activity trail – is to arrange a consultation with playground specialists, like Setter Play.

They have been designing, manufacturing and installing playground equipment for schools in Bedfordshire and the surrounding area for more than 20 years, and consider no job too big or too small.

During the consultation, you can share your initial ideas with their design team, and they will create a plan – taking into consideration you and your pupils’ requests. They can even offer tips and recommendations in this appointment to ensure that you create the most exciting activity trail for your students.

So, why not get in touch with them today?

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Technology

This is the Marvel-DC crossover movie that James Gunn wants to make

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There’s a new Suicide Squad movie coming out next week, and people seem to love it. Many reviews are praising James Gunn’s work on the famous team of DC villains. Now that Gunn is done with his Suicide Squad reboot, he’s returning to the Marvel universe, where he will end his Guardians trilogy with Vol. 3, which is set to launch in May 2023. Gunn might work on other comic book projects in the future. We have no idea what his schedule entails. But the writer/director just revealed that he would love to do a Marvel-DC crossover movie. That might sound impossible right now, as these are two separate universes belonging to two different corporations. But Gunn already knows what his Marvel-DC film would be. And he even pitched the idea.

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There’s no question that Marvel’s MCU is the more exciting superhero ecosystem right now. Warner Bros. stumbled along the way, rushing out its own superhero team-up movie before it even introduced all of the heroes. But DC still has plenty of potential, as Gunn’s The Suicide Squad seemingly shows. And Warner has several DC movies in the works, including its own big multiverse story that might rival Marvel’s.

Bridging the two worlds with a Marvel-DC film or a series of movies would give fans the kind of event that we’d never expect. Marvel and DC superhero teams could fight teams of Marvel and DC supervillains. The sky is the limit. Bu the red tape makes it sound nearly impossible.

Gunn’s Marvel-DC movie pitch

Talking to YouTube channel Jake’s Takes, Gunn explained that he pitched a Marvel-DC film to the heads of the two studios. He said that he would love to do a Harley Quinn and Groot movie:

Well, I would be really happy to do a Harley Quinn and Groot movie. That would be exciting for me. And not only have I thought about that but I’ve actually talked about that to the heads of both Marvel and DC. But, you know, it’s like, they… you know, everybody’s open to everything, but whether anything would ever happen, who knows? But the idea of being able to bring Marvel and DC together in a movie is, that would be really fun for me.

Gunn acknowledged the “Berlin wall of lawyers” that he and other people partial to the idea of connecting Marvel and DC heroes via films:

And I know it’s exciting for even the heads of Marvel and DC to think about. Kevin Feige over at Marvel and Toby Emmerich over at Warner Bros. You know, it’s something we all like to dream about. Whether we could ever get through the barrage, the Berlin Wall of lawyers we would need to get through to ever make something like that happen, I don’t know, but it would be a blast.

Gunn also put forward a second idea that he could get behind for a Marvel-DC movie: A team-up between Rocket and Groot for Marvel and King Shark and Weasel for DC.

While we wait for these pipe dreams to come true, The Suicide Squad launches in theaters and HBO Max next week. Gunn’s interview with Jake’s Takes follows below:

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