UX24/7 Product leadership interview with Tom Hopkins

Paul Blunden: Hello and welcome to another interview in my series with product leaders in this series, I’m exploring how the role and function of product leadership has changed in recent times and learning more about how product teams work.

I’m Paul Blunden, founder of UX24/7, and we help organizations that have a strong digital focus to deliver high performing products and services.

Today I’ll be speaking with Tom Hopkins, chief product officer of Make Believe and finding out how he got into the product arena and asking where he sees the role and function heading.

Hi, Tom! Thanks for joining me. And for the benefit of the audience, can I ask you to introduce yourself.


Tom Hopkins: Hi, Paul. Yeah. So my name’s Tom Hopkins. Until relatively recently, I was chief product officer at Experian consumer services. That’s the credit checking credit scores people. Which is a large consumer base in the UK. About 11 million customers, or so, with a decent number of subscribers as well.

Just recently I’ve gone off alone on my own thing, and you consultancy, which I’ve called Make Believe, which is a small group of people that I’ve worked with over the years and who, I trust, and we’re working with a number of different founders on their own startup ideas.

So it’s a quite interesting sort of change of direction. And I’m also hoping to work with a number of big companies on this. So we help support start ups or innovation new product ideas over time.

Paul Blunden: And you’ve been in product or in a product role for I think more than a decade. How did you get into product? In the first place, what was it this sort of led you in there? Because you’re in consulting before, I think.

Tom Hopkins: Well, yeah, I mean, I guess, in a way, for a lot of us who’ve been around for a while in digital IT. Kind of it wasn’t really that I got into product, but kind of product. We started calling it that. So think I’ve been working digital one form or another since probably the late nineties, when I first started the digital agency and we didn’t call it product back then. We didn’t call it anything or if you did you say strategy or consulting, or that sort of a thing?

And over that time I’ve done number of different roles. I don’t know account handling development, actually, and actually really bad design for a period. But I’ve always been attracted to the bit of the job which is about thinking through complex challenges. Trying to create products, trying to be, you know, trying to sort of make sure that the end result is a product that people like and can use and enjoy and working.

And you know, inevitably, you can’t do it all yourself, working with larger and increasingly larger teams on that sort of thing. So at the moment, it’s quite small. But you know, with the experience talking hundreds of people working together on a venture. And obviously that that is essentially what product describes. Now, it’s enabling those teams to produce great products.

Paul Blunden: and how I mean, you described a little bit their about the role sort of changing because you we’ve seen it ourselves. Suddenly everything’s called a product. And it wasn’t, you know, 10 years ago. How would you see this role and function change in that period?

Tom Hopkins: Yeah, I mean again, I think it’s quite hard to put your finger on it in the sense of this is this is truism, which I genuinely believe, which is, you can’t really remember what it’s like not to know something if that makes sense. So when you think back to you know things in the past, you didn’t understand. And now you understand them. It’s really hard to put yourself in issues back then. So you know, when I remember you know, when we first started doing agile, that was kind of like people that Whoa! What’s all this? New stuff. And we have like hours long kind of debate to clients at the time, and consulting firms about how we would do it, and what they get and what they wouldn’t get, and how they get let you know. Let go of some of the things that they were attached to, like you know, down charts and massive discovery documents and that sort of thing.

UCD was the same, and we used to walk into meetings with clients, probably in the early noughties, and they would look at us like we were, you know starting a new religion or something, and what the help it all on about nowadays everyone talks the same language in that Space project itself. You know, we yeah, as I say, didn’t exist as a structure.

And now you have these incredibly kind of large edifices that have been constructed, you know, like frameworks like cycle, less being put on top of it. All of the practice, the kind of well established stuff, you know. Might take it. You’ve got all of this sort of stuff going on in there. Which is great. In a way, I’m not saying any of any one of those things is the perfect way to do anything. But these are just conversations that we didn’t even didn’t even have.

Technology is, you know, just so different from what it was like. In the early days. We were really pulling everything together, you know, with our bare hands, and it was really kind of scrabble around to make stuff work. But now we’ve just got the most incredible technologies that underlie it all. So I think there’s been this kind of see change in terms of professionalism and structure, and we’re no longer the world where people are coming into it. And it’s a sort of establish practice that we’re dealing with.

I think you know, you can say you can’t necessarily see when exactly when that change happened. But it’s kind of a wildly different way to operate any, and in a way much better, because you’ve got a lot of tools. I think the risk at the moment is that we end up not seeing kind of the next generational change. Come along. I’m talking about technology and in every space.

So from the design side of things, you know, it’s just not the case anymore that it has to take. That’s a long time you like. Don’t have to do everything through, you know why frames and Photoshop and all that. You’ve got these incredible tools like Sigma, where you can go, you know, in the course of a week you can kind of be there, and I think we need to kind of adapt how we think about the process to doing that. I mean, obviously, that doesn’t touch a user. That’s just the that’s just the actual sort of craft of creating this stuff.

But the same thing is true with apps. I mean, these frameworks exist today. I’ve become a lot close to it in the last few months, working with startups. And you can. The stuff that you can pull together, I think, is just mind blowing. And so again, I think product and development organizations in particular, you need to really think about how you going to match yourself to the cadence. I mean, you know, you look at some of these things from aws, from services, or whatever you can plug them together, you can have a functioning product in 2 weeks, right?

So the whole concept of the 2 week sprint is, you know, is that the right way of doing anymore? And how often are you touching base? And how are you working with your colleagues in that sort of an environment? I think that potentially needs to kind of change a little bit as we move forward because it is just so radically different from would say back in the day

Paul Blunden: that that’s really interesting. And where is this sort of driver for that change of come from? I mean, your chief product officer, is it in that role? It’s, going to you know, sort of drive that change, or is it lower in the organization of product manager, product owner.

Tom Hopkins: I think I think it will be probably in reality it will be so much of what it’s like to be a modern Cpo is about being. I don’t know what you call it servant, leader or a facilitator. It’s about creating a structure, a system in which teams can operate and be productive and effective.

And so actually, the great thing about that. And this is probably the kind of one of the best things about the experience of working in a large company is, if you keep your ears open and you sort of pay attention, and you let other people.

The agenda you just get to learn, you know so much. And it’s you know, it’s amazing. You’ll get like a graduate engineer who come in and they’ve got an idea that they’ve seen in another environment. They bring it into your environment. And it’s transformational.

So I think I think that’s probably how it will feed in. I’m lucky right now that we’re doing stuff, and it’s just, you know, it’s just a small team to just get it done. You don’t have to like. Ask anyone for approval. That sort of thing. But I think those they, those ideas, will eventually filter up through the organization a little bit

Paul Blunden: gotcha, and the your previous sort of role was in a very large organization. And I’m guessing the challenge is quite different to working with smaller ones. I’m trying to build up a picture of the sort of key challenges that face product managers, product designers, product leaders. I would like to ask you, what do you think this sort of 3 biggest challenges that gain the most attention are in your view?

Tom Hopkins: Yeah. So I mean, so again, talking about that. So I think the starting point is always like in account in a larger, larger organization, larger than like 10 people is it’s a system you’ve got to kind of constantly come back and say what I’m looking at here is a complicated system full of, you know, complicated people working together in on complicated projects.

And so there’s a kind of fundamental belief which, you know, I don’t see people challenging anymore. Which is the way to succeed is to build strong teams, more of strong teams that can work together and be really, really, intrinsically motivated. To achieve what they want, what they want to achieve the kind of a radical shift, I suppose, from previous generations of employment and kind of one of the amazing things that’s come out of all of this.

And so if you take that as your starting point, the, I think there are really only 3 things that that you need to focus on in terms of in terms of problems.

The first one. you know. And my God, is it a big one? And complicated? Is all your team actually working on the right priorities. Yeah, I mean in, in, especially in large organizations. It’s just really easy to drag in like a ton of extraneous stuff. Well, frankly, just to be let off. Of course. I mean that you’re constantly being assaulted by things that will lead you.

Of course, you know you’ve got like the project that that someone high up it kind of really loves. But you’ve also, frankly, you’ve got the kind of project. That’s just so self perpetuating. And what you know, like, we often, you know, in large organizations, will create a team, you know, like, Oh, we got a team to solve the problem. So we’ve got. Let’s say, the problem is, I don’t know. Would you? X, you create which X team. And then, you know, 3 or 4 months later, having a meeting with which ex team and they’re showing you that roadmap new like your job, was to solve this problem. But you know, it’s just kind of human nature that people try and then go well. And then I’m going to come up with other problems to solve. But those problems probably haven’t been compared with, like all of the other problems in the organization.

And you know and again, it’s a really delicate thing, right? Don’t want to squash people’s innovation. But you need to make sure it’s really, really well, really, really well, directed but you know. And then, if, of course, in large organizations, you also tend to find so habit taking on really big projects which either will never finish, you know which will just limp on for such a long time. That value will be completely disproportionate to the effort and that sort of thing.

And then in most large organizations, you’ve also got the risk of you’ve got product over here doing God knows what. And then you’ve got marketing over here. And you probably even got technology over there doing something else entirely. So all running their own agenda. So the job of getting people working on the market priorities is.

I think, probably a uniquely CPO [Chief product officer] job to do, because you need to be at that level in the organization. And you need to have a really good network of the other people in the organization, while the chief technology officer or chief marketing officer, chief analytics, whatever it is, chief financial officer to make sure that you can hold on to that agenda that you’re not just going to be flipping and flopping all the time. People call it politics. But that’s, I think the reality of senior CPO job in a large organization is trying to hold the course, trying to make sure that the priorities are really clear.

The second, I think you said 3. So this is the first one is working on the right things. And second, one is just a variation on the same thing, which does the team itself feel like they’re working on the right things. Now, some of that will come from like some of the first one. Right? So if you’ve managed to narrow the field, you’re not working on a hundred projects anymore. You, you’ve got it down. You’re working on more straightforward stuff.

But if you believe that the basis is a really, intrinsically motivated team. You need to make sure they really feel that they’re working on important stuff and what I’ve seen in in larger organisations.

The last place I worked, plus, you know, in consulting. It’s actually like, it’s not just that you don’t want to be working on the third biggest project you don’t actually want to be with. Sorry on the thirtieth biggest project you’re working on the second biggest project. In a way you kind of. There’s so much focus in organizations like the right size rule that you really don’t want to have this proliferation of lots of things.

You want to find a way that everyone can contribute to the biggest objectives in the organization. Really, really motivating doesn’t have to be sexy. It doesn’t have to be like shiny widgets. It could be platform, or it could be like a problem that can be really clearly identified like we see under consumers have this problem developers? Certainly not. I think everyone product design as well as really motivated fixing really clearly identified consumer problems.

But they have to be sort of brought on board and support it, to really understand why, to make sure that they’re getting it. And they’re not being kind of sold on, just, you know. As I say, someone’s anything like that.

And then the third thing is skills and resources. So again, in the model of the kind of facilitated. The servant leader. Does the team have the right skills? Are they set up the right way? Does it? Does each individual team have the right balance of skills in there. Do they have the right tools? I mean, it’s still crazy.

You know this this clearly. Some great tools out there right. You know the Jira and the confluences, and the slacks, and the rest of it, you know. I don’t know. Some of them are expensive, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t invest in that. It’s so important to get the team to working with right. So tooling and that sort of thing.

And then, as a CPO how do you continue to protect the teams from people that don’t understand product or people that don’t understand technology? So you know, I’ve seen over the years you know, lots of eyebrows being raised about, you know, maintenance work, but the truth is, it’s it will always occupy 30, 40 backlogs. So you have to do it. So you just the answer isn’t to reduce it.

The answer is to make sure that people understand why it’s important for the team to do that sort of work. you know, and you get once you’ve developed a really strong product, organization and businesses goes away to a certain extent. But you’ll still get people asking kind of bizarre questions like, why teams are doing spikes or why they’re working on. Do you know, training and development. All of that stuff is obviously essential.

So I think it’s those 3 things for CPO in a larger firm.

Paul Blunden: Yeah, I can see why you described as the servant leader. Because it’s so much is communication, isn’t it?

Tom Hopkins: And keeping so people in every direction aligned. Yeah, I mean when you first look at the job, Scripture, you think, oh, my job is to be like really clever strategist to come up with a really good list. And then you get into the job and you realize that’s hardly. It’s all like there is an element of needing to think things through the intellect and so on.

But you know. it’s a relatively minor component, I think.

Paul Blunden: Yeah. And you mentioned the number one is prioritization. I wonder how much do customer requirements play a role in the prioritization?

Tom Hopkins: Yes. So I mean again, it’s this, it’s it will depend on it, exactly the nature. This will depend a lot on your organization and what you do and what you’ll, what product you’re developing in the beat, you know, in the B to B type, product, space, and so on. It’s quite different, I think, from B to C you know, there’s an obvious reality, which is if you want to find out what your customer wants, that the worst thing you can do is ask them because they don’t know either. Right?

So you got to be the role of a product person and be to see space is not trying to interrogate the user into what they what they want. But it’s looking, trying to understand the user of what their world is and what their problem space is like, and how you can take a particular problem that they have a real problem, not an imagined one, and do something about it and resolve it. And you know that is, if you’re not doing that, then I don’t know. I don’t know what you are doing within that space, you know.

There’s nothing more, I don’t think there’s anything more motivating than hearing from customers. Right? Like I’ve seen it be so incredibly effective like you know, we’ve had a few in some of the organizations that work with. We had like video interviews with customers which would watch like endlessly watch. And they would kind of like be every time people felt a bit flagging. We’d sort of look at these, and they would revive people’s kind of motivation for what they were doing equally when you’re in the minutia a little bit.

And you’re trying to solve individual challenges. And you’re trying to get feedback. It can be incredibly positive and reinforcing to speak to real customers. I love. I love doing it. I think all of us love doing it, but it’s a bit like a bit like eating your vegetables, isn’t it? Everyone thinks it’s a good idea. Everyone knows it’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for you, and it will make the product better. But you still end up, you know, sometimes in McDonalds kind of thinking. Where did it all go wrong? Because you can get sort of distracted by the speed and the pace and deadlines and the need to get stuff out.

And I think you can also get distracted sometimes by kind of overly systematized research. And I’m sure I’m sure this, you know, it’s not something that that you would endorse. But you know I have again in my career. I’ve had scenarios where we had a research team, and they would do research kind of almost constantly, and they would find out the same things over and over and over again.

And I think you can. You run the risk that people get turned off by that? You want to make sure that when you’re speaking to customers, and when you’re playing it back to the organization, there’s something there’s something new every time the people are learning from, otherwise they’ll think not done that job, and I can move on to the next thing.

Paul Blunden: It’s interesting. In a lot of the interviews I’ve had varying sort of opinions on customer centricity, something generally people share your view in a way that yeah, we’re all customer centric. We want to talk to them.

But then you get this kind of depending on the layers. You talk to people saying, Oh, yeah. Pro manages are scared of talking to customers or product owners don’t want to talk to customers, or there’s all kinds of reasons why not? But it sounds like that’s not something that you’ve come across. I could see in your face. Actually, it doesn’t.

Tom Hopkins: Yeah, I mean, I do think it’s more like the vegetables than a kind of philosophical thing. I think people get people to be lazy. And I think when people aren’t motivated like. So you know, if people do feel that they’re working on the project which is ranked 6, i.e. Not the top one. And people don’t really care about it so much.

And so they’ve kind of. They’re starting out in a low motivational space. And then they think, you know, I think I already know the answer. I mean, that’s the that’s obviously one of the enemies of finding out. The answer is thinking, you will already know it.

You know, people who can think I mean, this is the kind of classic, isn’t it? The CEO will all use the computer, you know. I mean like yes, but the point right like you’re not the customers.

So no, I mean, I would go. I would always say that you need to go back to the customers and have a deep understanding of what drives them. And if you’re fooling yourself, if you think you’re going to get that I guess.

That said, I do think that you know the user experience, research industry and that really the user experience industry as a whole probably hasn’t had the same kind of leap forward that the rest of the product and technology industry has had, at least, if they have, it’s patchy. I mean.

Maybe it’s always like this in sense that you always have little beacons of excellence, and unless so have they really kind of adapted to the modern, the modern environment. So, to give you an example you know. Well, I’ve worked on projects where in a number of places, I should say where. you know, we’ve spent 3, 4 months sort of staring at the consumer problem we’ve then worked at prototypes using. I don’t know. Tools like feedma and that sort of thing.

And then we sat in, you know, labs, people’s rooms with the cameras and the mirrors watching customers use these tools and that sort of thing. And so you realize, you’re now at Christmas that you started this in March and you don’t know the answer yet. Right?

And then, and as I say, we’re operating in a world where the startup that product, they’re actually in market with their product already. They aren’t thinking about it. They’re live. And they know right? And equally you know. What questions can you ask someone you know, with the when you’ve got the biscuits and the white wine in the room that are really going to elicit the right response. You know I’ve seen again. I’ve seen way too many times.

I’ve seen people say we asked customers if they like the app, and they loved it. You’ve given them 50 pounds and some wine, like, you’re not going to get straight answers right you, the way that you’ll find out if the customers really likes your app is if they install it on their phone and they use it regularly. And you’re not going to find that out in a testing suite.

So I think, in a way, like a lot of people in product and technology have moved beyond the kind of most obvious forms of research. And II think there’s probably a new era of UX and UX research which kind of picks up on this fact and moves beyond. Of course, there’s amazing progress. I don’t mean to kind of like, take the entire industry and go. You know bad. There’s lots of amazing people in that industry doing, I’m sure, really, really good work.

And the tool set, I mean, I’m blown away. But tool set. It’s just incredible. I mean, it’s kind of like nothing. Nothing. Nothing amazing kind of shift over the last few years in terms of what people can do and how quickly they can do it.

Paul Blunden: Yeah, that’s quite true. Actually, we’ve seen ourselves in in many ways. It’s well. I think it has transformed the evaluative space quite a lot in in that. We could debate you know whether its quality is great or not. But I agree with you.

Yeah, I think the industry, I mean, I’ve been in over 20 years, and the methods still similar where the focus is changed. Actually, we do a lot more discovery research now than we ever did before. That kind of thing talking about unmet needs because they can’t tell you what they want. Can, you know, identify the problem space.

Tom Hopkins: It’s improving. But I still see I still see people spend like a really long time on stuff which I think we already know the answer to, and I don’t mean about consumers, I mean about interfaces and stuff like that. I mean, it’s it has got slightly better.

But certainly, like 4 or 5 years ago, you’d have people saying right, well, I’m going to spend 4 weeks on the checkout. Why would you do that like? There’s a model for how this works. And yes, you might have like some uniqueness in your business. But 95% of it is, you’d be, you know, idiotic. To change to my mind, because, frankly, that the principle problem you have is consumers understanding what they’re doing and if they’ve seen one and used it like. Whatever shopify is doing right, do that like? That’s pretty good. They research it. Why would I research it? It’s not like my customers might be different customers to the customers that shop that Shopify has.

But then, so much of this stuff is fundamental, I think, and isn’t. Isn’t project specific. And I think if you can really narrow in on, what is that you’re trying to solve rather than solve the generic problems. I think.


There’s an attraction, and it’s not a laziness. It’s a kind of again. It’s a really human thing, right? Which is. I’ve got this really difficult problem over here to solve. Like, how do I get a customers to government engage with their mortgage, or their retirement, or something, or a difficult, difficult problem. And then you’ve got, as I get into login, easy problem. Where am I going to spend my time? Right?

The right place to spend your time is on the difficult problem. But of course, if you’re not feeling it that day, or you’re not motivated as a team, let’s do the login for 6 weeks. No, it’s not going to go wrong, you know, and it’s really easy to understand if you got it right and you could tweak it, and there’s a million pounds to copy, and you know there’ll be an amazing sense of accomplishment you’ve gone from not having it to having it. But then, in the same world I can download that pattern from a single library, and I can implement it in a forged rock are all 0 in in probably half a day.

So let’s go back and focus on the difficult problem which you know I might not solve or I might not. I’ll  only get part of the way with, because it’s difficult.

Paul Blunden: I’m interested to understand whether the research that’s being done, I mean, how does it get directed? Who’s funding it? Is it coming out of the product team or the research team separate? Is it in the design team?

Tom Hopkins: Yeah. I mean, I think the best. The best practice is for it to be in product. And I think I think in reality it typically ends up in in design which is also in product. I’m sure that other organizations again, a bit like the conversation about product, the conversation about technology. The faster you can move to a situation where you know, like so as a designer, now, with a design system. I don’t need 6 people to do a simple job. I can do it all by myself with Figma, and I can have it done by Tuesday, right?

Same thing with research. But if we can avoid a situation where Peter has to go and speak to 6 other people in the organization in order to find out, in order to have a customer talk to them about a problem. Let’s do that. Yeah, if there’s a tool that they can use. I’m slightly sceptical about some of these Max research overnight tools to be honest, because I’ve never known them to work. Not like an idea, for example. So yeah, you’ve got to be a little bit careful about what you put in and what you get, what your expectations are for them.

But if we can find a way to again democratize the research effort a little bit. I think I think that’s better, so that it doesn’t. So it becomes less of a separate function, which, of course, is what we’ve learned from.

Paul Blunden: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s where I think we’re spending more of that time is helping people, you know, built their research repository. So they’re not redoing. I mean, we’ve had it with clients. I do the same research, you know. Find the report whatever is crazy, anyway, let’s move on. Thanks for that. And in moving on I’d like to ask you about generative AI and whether you’ve got any views on that.

And I guess perhaps moving into the startup space, you might have a different perspective even. But do you think it? Is it coming for product managers. Is it going to change the product space?

Tom Hopkins: Yeah. no, not. Really. I think. I mean, I think it’s been fascinating. And again, you. You forget that we’ve been here before, right? So maybe not quite the same way.

But you know, do you remember when everything was about social media and everything have to become social media, or, you know, there was a sort of very brief period where everything have to be blockchain. I’m sure we’ll have, I’m sure we’ll have some other Methods. Talk and you have a and it’s incredible, you know it. What was incredible. The last 12 months, 18 months was the kind of doesn’t shift into AI, and you know, as more recently kind of shift out of it in terms of product agenda.

So it was a really good example of top down thrown in. Find a way to change your product roadmap, so that either it is about AI or includes the less AI heavily in it, because it was something where companies were getting large valuations, and so that finance people and the and general management people were really interested in in case they could kind of experience a miracle like that of their own so product, people like will it do product people’s jobs? I think that’s probably you know the same answer for all knowledge workers. It is, what’s the phrase, you won’t lose your job to AI. You’ll lose your job to someone using AI. So you know, you’ve got to think like in an environment where some people are prepared to use AI to cut corners to speed themselves up. You know, if you’re not willing to do that, then are you going to be qualitatively worse.

And your than other people probably. That said, you’ll be better than people who are using AI kind of without thinking so my general kind of view is, as with all things. If you’re a product person at heart, right? Which is about you, want to know how things work. You want to kind of deconstruct things. You’ve got that kind of that kind of mindset you’re always fascinated in, and how to put things together, probably played with Lego. Try it, you know I’ve had a lot of people talking about AI haven’t actually, who haven’t I ever tried it, but it’s kind of almost the most accessible technology there is. I mean, obviously, you can go talk to chat. GPT, that’s all right.

You could also like, you can actually run a stable diffusion model, which is the image generative, probably the main image, generative model on your on your laptop. I mean it kind of kills it, or you can. You can go and host that with Google, or like Run Pod or someone for a few dollars an hour. It’s really, really cheap.

If you if you sat there trying to generate pictures through generative AI you start to understand it bit better. You start to understand what it can and can’t do a really good one as well as if you’re if you’ve ever been a developer, or if you’re still doing a bit of development.

Or if you just play around with development as a hobby hobbyist, is plug in something like GitHub co-pilot again, I think it’s like 10 bucks or something a month. and it’s a and it’s a brilliant case study for what generative AI is and what it isn’t. So I’ve seen some examples where yeah, we would debugging something, and we looking at the code. And we just deleted a block of code that wasn’t working. And co-pilot inserted a replacement that works right. You go. Wow! Right? But I’ve also seen an example where it did.

It inserts the whole block of text that was just completely wrong, but look really good, like really plausible, quite complicated. And so it’s a bit like it’s a bit like the Tesla autopilot. I think. You know, you still need to look out the window, but from the wheel, once you get out big problems, but it’s useful, and there’s no denying it, and it can save you hours. So why wouldn’t? Why wouldn’t you do it?

So I’m still in the view that AI will help us to become better product people by not by saving this the time to do all of that repetitive stuff that we that we have to do, you know, starting every project, you know, is a whole bunch of stuff you have to do, which is actually not very interesting, doesn’t really add a lot of value. If you can find ways to shortcut that process, then I would definitely do it. But I think I sense that we’re currently kind of on this on the kind of whatever it is called the slope down from the Peak of Expectations in a so I’m kind of hoping we’ll move into a more sensible period.

Paul Blunden: I attended a webinar last week where somebody described it and said we shouldn’t be thinking about it as artificial intelligence, we should be thinking about it as augmented intelligence because it’s going to be something working with you as a helper. Which is kind of what you’re describing.

Tom Hopkins: Yeah. And I do think the name is very misleading, because, as you will have seen, your people who like they really don’t know much about it except for the name. And I don’t think I don’t think it maps to the human intelligence. Really, I think it’s an incredible computer tool but it’s more like a bit like, you know, with chat GPT, you’ll get answers out of it, which, like oh beautifully written, very plausible and wrong, and that’s like not infrequent at all. And similarly, with the image models, you’ll get stuff out of it.

And it which isn’t really an answer like in the question. Metaphor, but it’s kind of like a question like answer to sure. I mean, like, it’s  an answer like output. It looks like an answer. It smells like an answer. But it isn’t an answer, because there’s not been any thought applied between the inputs and the outputs. And I think I think, but it looks so plausible. The people are convinced the machine is thinking.

And I mean, definitely, don’t want to get into this now. But there’s a whole you know, Turing. And there’s a whole sort of philosophy of computer science that gets get into. This is like, what? At what point is the computer thinking. And you know, maybe, that maybe that we will get there eventually. But I don’t think that’s the generation. Well, now, what we’re the generation one now is really convincing. Outputs that look like it’s thinking but I think you’ve got to kind of bear in mind it isn’t. There isn’t critical thought in it.

Paul Blunden: Yeah, yeah. Well, look. And we’re nearing the end of your time. I think so. I want to ask the phone a couple of questions of call one is really to. I’ve been asking all the people into view for sort of case study about a product related success they’re proud of, and I wondered if you could share anything there.

Tom Hopkins: It’s a really good question, and I feel like I should probably have you know 15 answers to hand on this one, I mean, in truth we you know the last well, actually, the last month or 2 we launched a few things will go if you think quite close in the last 10 years. Working in experience lots and lots and lots of really cool stuff, big and small. That sort of thing.

And every, you know, every time we did that. So I mean, then we did some. Also we get some really horrible projects that that weren’t product launches, you know, like we’ve probably all done them, but like a migration or something, you know, which are actually some of the hardest pieces of work, and you come out and at the end the most proud of the team. And you kind of think that was actually the most incredible thing. And here I am aware, I thought, you know, often with a better foundation for growth. I think.

In truth, the thing that don’t look back over the last decade. That I’m most proud of is the team itself in terms of the don’t mean like it’s some sort of Oscar winning platform. What I mean is like the team that we that experience has today. The developer products, technology and product people together with designers. It’s just night and day, different from where it was before. It’s lots of more groups of people working together. In a coordinated but loosely connected way.

I think that the people who are working in code with more design, working on graphics, working on the actual, the actual product result, feel connected to what they’re doing. Understand how it fits into that organization are motivated. And you know we can all sit in our back bedrooms with a you know. Say, you want to make computer programs. But getting a large group of people to work together, I think, is always, you know, creating that system is always going to be kind of much more important outcome than any. Or we are launching that product in 2020, you know, I mean, like, it is actually really what we should be trying to focus on.

Paul Blunden: And finally, Tom, what’s your biggest learning since working in the product area?

Tom Hopkins:  again, I think it relates to the culture. You know, even like, you know again, if you, if you’ve done it like even a single graduate developer, or whatever is coming in with their own mindset way of thinking about things, bringing a lot to the party, finding ways to link all of that and create positive environments. That where people get to do their best work is the is the skill, and, you know, sort of into that earlier. But there’s a there’s a sort of intellectual view of product which is very egotistical, I think.

Which is about, you know I am the product leader, and I am going to set a vision and so on, and don’t get me wrong. Companies have to have product visions they have to have. Really, I mean, that’s a really clear sort of mountain to climb right? We’re going to go that mountain. We’re going to get to the top.

But at the same time, if you can’t get people to want to do it. It’s not going to work. So it’s I think it’s probably that shift from the intellectual perspective to the cultural perspective that it’s the biggest thing I’ve learned, and it’s certainly very different from, as I say, when we started out digital in the late nineties and noughties. you know, it is kind of really small, and it was about doing it yourself and that sort of thing.

And I think it’s just. It’s a great contract, the ability to work on products where you do understand the detail. But at the same time you’re really thinking about a team and the system so apologies. I wish I’d want that kind of a bit more.

Paul Blunden: Thank you Tom. Thank you so much for giving me time more time than I’d ask for, and I really appreciate it. It’s been fascinating speaking to and hearing your thoughts across such a wide range of subjects. Thanks very much.

Tom Hopkins: Brilliant thanks, Paul.

Paul Blunden: I hope you enjoyed listening to Tom. It was a bit longer than normal, but that’s because we covered such a wide range of areas in such detail. And I was particularly interested to explore what Tom said about where research should be going. And obviously, really interesting, understanding about prioritization and the things that really slow product teams down.

Anyway, that was another interview in my series with product leaders and do check out the Channel to find the others I’m pulled London founder of. And we help product people, designers and people who do research to deliver high performing products and services.

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Thanks very much for watching.