Book notes: A Balanced Approach to Growth – by Andy Johns

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This weekend, I came across the book “A Balanced Approach to Growth” by Andy Johns. Andy is currently a partner at Unusual Ventures and previously worked on product growth at Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and Wealthfront. The book is concise (23 pages), which makes me give it extra points. I’m tired of reading 300-page books that are long for no reason. The book is a good read for people involved in building digital products; Product Managers, and Startup founders mainly. 

In the book, Andy shares his experience building and growing products. He argues that companies should not focus their product development resources on optimization work only but should also allocate enough of their product development resources in a way that creates innovations that add more value to the customers.

Also, when it comes to optimization, the optimization tactics that work for the big tech companies with substantial daily user traffic, are unlikely to work for products that have very little traffic. Facebook can afford to change the color of a button in hopes that this will cause a 1% uplift on one of their metrics. On the other hand, if your product is only getting a few hundred daily users or less, then your optimization A/B tests should be bigger and more clever in hopes of causing a much higher uplift (20% or even more). That high uplift can then be detected in a reasonable amount of time considering your product’s very little traffic. .

Andy also shares his observation that most of the Product Managers these days are more comfortable with doing data analysis than they are with conducting customer research. That explains why a lot of tech companies are turning into optimization machines, instead of trying to build innovations that fulfill their customers’ needs. The blame also falls on the leaders in these companies for not balancing their org chart in a way that balances their investment in innovations and optimization.

The book covers some tips for product leaders on how to organize their teams in a balanced way. Either by allocating specific teams for growth and some others for innovation, or demanding from each product team that they invest a specific percentage of their time on optimization, next to their innovation work.

After covering how to organize your teams, Andy shares some best practices and processes that can help you run optimization and innovation work better. He also links to many document templates he used with his product teams to stay organized.

I wanted to write more about this book, but considering that it’s only 23 pages, so I better leave you to read it yourself.

If you want my one-page summary of the book, send me a message on twitter.