How a Startup Uses Innovation Technology (Part 1)

Kindling was born to address a need — a growing group of designers and technologists were finding it difficult to keep track of ideas and the discussions around these ideas. We were trying to address the problems that were emerging as we scaled the business. We didn’t have a way to centralize ideas, to manage the feedback from our customers, to communicate with our remote employees, or a non “gut” way of determining what development items should take priority over others. Email was failing us (click here to learn more about a free program designed exclusively for Start-ups).

Kindling owes its success not just to selling our software, but also to using it. This post is an introspective on how we at Kindling use our own product (or dogfooding, in context of software). From Product Management to Development to Sales & Marketing, we all find benefits from being connected to the centre of our business — ideas.

Part 1 – Product
The first part of this series is an interview with CEO and Product Lead focused on how he and the Kindling Product Team use Kindling to engage with employees, partners and customers to help shape the product roadmap.

Q: What is the primary way the Product Team uses Kindling?
A: To Listen. This is the main value we get from Kindling, listening to the people who use Kindling the most — our favourite customers and employees — about what they want to see in the product and which areas could use improvement.

We also use Kindling to keep people informed, manage expectations and provide transparency for our decision-making. Whenever we decide to move an idea forward to design and then ultimately to development, or if we decide that we’re not going to move forward on an idea, we clearly communicate the reasoning and any expectations for scheduling to the group. This way, everyone feels like a part of the product development process and people do not become disenfranchised.

There’s an important balance to strike when designing a product – you want to do what feels right and to satisfy your vision, but of course you’re also taking it to a market. Design is ultimately about empathy, you can’t just exclusively build what you want to see, because in the end of that you would have the most amazing product… for yourself. Listen to where others are struggling to use the tool. What are users not understanding, especially those things that are obvious to you.

Q: How has feedback shaped your approach to the product?
A: When you build a product, one of the most important things you can do early on is get feedback. It’s obvious, but proven time and time again, the best method of design is to spot a problem and then look for patterns in devising a solution. And as quickly as possible, get something in front of people so you can start receiving feedback (see the Lean Startup movement). Spot a problem, build a solution, and get it in front of people so you can start listening. This is the magic formula for product development.

Q: How often do you use Kindling? Twice a week? Once a day? Once an hour?
A: Many times a day. I start in the morning on my commute, where my pattern is to first open Twitter to see what my industry is saying and then to open Kindling to see what my company and customers are saying. And then multiple times a day I visit it and check out what’s been going on. I follow key conversations. I disable all email notifications for Kindling, because I’m in often enough where I don’t miss anything.

The Product Team also directly participates in some of our customer’s Kindling Accounts, where the customer has set up an area for the entire organization to suggest ideas for the product. We love this, as we not only get great feedback, but this gives us a chance to speak directly to all of the employees at a customer, not just the key stakeholder or buyer. We also get to demonstrate how to use the product effectively, by listening, being transparent with our decision-making and keeping people informed.

Q: Discuss any proud wins you’ve had from using Kindling.
A: The Assessments feature came directly from listening to our customers. We kept hearing repeatedly the same pattern: “We really like Kindling, people are engaged, the conversation is great and voting is useful but then we have to figure out how to evaluate these ideas.” We observed a similar pattern, that decision-makers would export data to Excel to find a way to ask experts in their company specific questions about the idea. We identified that there was a huge hole there, and built the Assessments feature to fill that hole. This is something we might never have seen ourselves had we not been listening to early customers. Assessments is the biggest part of our app that is 100% from customer feedback – we want our software to be software that people enjoy using.

Real-time content translation is another one. It addresses a need that we don’t have. We’re a small team mostly located in NYC with a few remote workers, where everyone speaks one language. This came from customer feedback and has been a huge benefit to our multilingual customers.

Q: What have you learned from other teams in the company from using Kindling?
A: All of the other teams are important inputs to Product. Product doesn’t exist on an island – it’s what Services is telling us from our customers, or what Sales and Marketing is telling us they’re hearing from the market. Product is the listening agent of the company, turning all of this information into decisions and decisions then into action.

Q: Has Kindling helped you feel connected to the company as a whole?
A: Absolutely. Yes. It’s such a big part of our culture. We build products under a theme that generally takes place during a season. We might have a season around evaluation, or security, or performance. Getting everybody motivated about that theme or initiative…that’s a big part of the culture of this place.