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Do you have an inspiration buddy?


Some of the best product ideas I had as a novice PM were born while playing FIFA with my boss. Yes, you heard it right, collaboration might take very different forms and still lead to significant outcomes.

But before going into the “FIFA” story, let’s first review the most popular collaboration methods for two people.

Sounding board

A simple, yet powerful practice to ideate or debug a problem.

How to use it?

Get two people in a room. One person should talk and the other one should ask questions. Record everything and analyse later alone. The sounding board could be done virtually, even if it’s slightly more difficult and awkward than in person.


When done right, the quantity will turn into quality

How to?

Get in the same room. Pick a method to capture ideas, you can choose several methods. Start ideating. Don’t criticise, don’t discuss and don’t question - just write down everything that comes to mind. When you are done - take a break and then filter ideas based on your goals, their quality, testability and potential outcomes. Plan to validate ideas and discuss the results.


Someone can spot what you can’t

How to?

Agree to spend a day with someone. Be their shadow. Listen, observe, and take notes. Don’t ask questions or offer comments before the day is over. Unload at the end providing concrete examples that you noticed.


If you’re prepared for the worst - nothing can hurt you

How to?

Try to spot weaknesses in every idea expressed by your peers. Try to imagine the worst scenarios, the poorest consequences of their actions. Bring data to disprove their ideas, debate viciously, force them to become bulletproof. Change roles frequently.

Inspiration buddy

Push and pull each other forward

How to?

Talk to your peer or a friend, close or else. Ask them about the recent achievement they are proud of. Nothing is too small if it took effort and courage. Wonder how they kept their motivation, what obstacles they encountered and what they learned on the way. Don’t worry if the story is not immediately relevant to your situation. You can and will join the dots eventually.

Accountability imp

You keep going when it’s too embarrassing to quit

How to?

Find a peer with a common challenge or a goal. Discuss the steps you’ll take to reach your objectives and the regularity of catch-ups you’ll need. Keep checking in on each other until the goals are met. Share honestly the struggles and ways you overcame them. Celebrate the success together.

Back to the “FIFA” story

It was my first year as a junior product manager when my boss suggested we discuss my professional development plan. I thought we were going to a meeting room but instead, we end up in the break room where a gaming console was. Sitting comfortably in bin bags we fired up the game and started chatting. My manager asked me why I wanted to do product management, what am I finding the most difficult about it, and where I see myself in a few years. Weirdly, none of those questions sounded cheesy and I answered them fully, instinctively and honestly. Mainly because I had to speak while trying to play a game of virtual football at the same time. Two 15-minute games later we came to a draw and I had a year's worth of professional development lined up for me.

Since then we used this unconventional collaboration method regularly. Sometimes, we turned it into a brainstorming session, other times it was for feedback or even evaluation (virtual football skills were evaluated in a special category :)) And yes, we had a few surprised looks from colleagues who might have thought we were slacking off, but when they saw the quality of outcomes we had from our “FIFA” sessions - it became the inspiration for many.

Surely I am not advocating for everyone to start playing “FIFA” at work, this game is the most frustrating ever! What you should do though is to find the best collaboration way that works for you. Don’t shy away from unconventional methods, test them, adapt and improve. And find your inspiration buddy, because even if you can play “FIFA” alone - it’s always more fun to do it as a team.

Bonus: inspiration is voluntary

You can’t teach anyone anything, someone can learn from you. Similarly - you can’t inspire anyone, but people can be inspired by you. Once I met a guy who just changed countries, jobs, and his entire lifestyle. His English wasn't that great, he struggled with the new culture and lack of social circle in the new place. Yes, he had a lot of challenges but he also had a few things going for him - a lot of curiosity and hunger for learning.

Now I am proud to call him my friend and my inspiration buddy. Not only he made a successful IT career, that only keeps growing, but he also travelled around the world, competed in multiple running competitors, took care of his family and invested in the future. More and more I look up to him and get inspired by the relentless growth mindset he has and the self-challenging he does. Find your own inspiration buddy like that, or even better, be an inspiration for someone.

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