Basecamp (camp with tents and lighting)
Basecamp (camp with tents and lighting)

“Learning from mistakes is overrated,” according to the co-founders of Basecamp who wrote the New York Times bestseller Rework. Instead, you should be “learning from your successes.” In a book written by tech bros for tech bros, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson offer a glimpse into why many women and people of color have left Basecamp over the years.

If only Fried and Hansson had looked beyond their successes to learn, they could have avoided an implosion at Basecamp in which 30% of employees quit en masse.

First, some background

As reported in The Verge, some customer service representatives at Basecamp had…

Hairy lion
Hairy lion
Photo by Ingo Stiller on Unsplash

Unpacking myths about what makes a good vision so we can adopt a new, radical approach.

We’ve learned that a good vision has to be a BHAG, i.e. a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. The problem with having a BHAG for a vision, however, is that in trying to be big and audacious it’s easy to get distracted in trying to show the scale of our impact instead of focusing on the problem we set out to solve in the first place.

In setting a big vision, we set a high-level direction that no one would disagree with. For example, a big vision might be “Helping humanity make progress by reinventing XYZ.” No one would disagree with…

Whether you’re a founder pivoting your startup or a leader at a larger company driving digital transformation, you have to navigate turbulent waters as you create change in your organization.

Shift Happens
Shift Happens
Photo by SOULSANA on Unsplash

As a leader, you typically have better visibility and see the obstacle ahead — it’s intuitively obvious to you that you need to steer the ship in response. As a result, communications on pivots and transformation often focus on the what and the how e.g. we’re swerving left, and we need you to do XYZ. But often the why for the transformation is left out because it seems obvious. To others aboard who don’t have the same visibility, your actions may seem arbitrary and perhaps even unnecessary.

In declaring a pivot or transformation, the leadership team often believes there’s more…

Capitol, Washington DC
Capitol, Washington DC
Photo by PartTime Portraits on Unsplash

After the uneventful presidential inauguration on Jan 20th, most of us breathed a sigh of relief that democracy had prevailed. It seems like all is right again with the world (or will be) and it’s tempting to forget how the tech industry has contributed to the events culminating in the storming of the Capitol.

Watching the events unfold on January 6th brought back memories of when I lived in South Africa during the transition to democracy. In 1993, while the government was planning a transition of power, the white supremacist party (AWB) stormed the location where negotiations were taking place.

Random acts of coffee
Random acts of coffee
Photo by Jake Buonemani on Unsplash

Paul Haun started his company, Nack, determined to spread kindness around him through “random acts of coffee”. He was inspired by the tradition of “suspended coffee” that started in Naples, Italy, where you can pay for two coffees — one for yourself and the other paid forward for someone who could use a random act of kindness.

I first met Paul over coffee when he told me about Nack with his characteristically infectious enthusiasm. He had read case studies on Zappos finding success by delivering happiness and how the iPhone was an iconic product because it delighted customers. …

Picture of a nuclear blast
Picture of a nuclear blast
Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

The arms race in the tech industry goes like this: As companies build increasingly sophisticated tools to extract profit from users, users have to work harder to counter these tools and manage their own well-being.

In hindsight, the banner-ads of the ’90s seem like crude tools — users quickly learned to ignore them. Companies have since learned to build better mousetraps. As you find yourself reluctantly glued to the infinite scroll on your phone, you can almost hear the evil cackle on the other side, “Now try to ignore that!” …

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Many years ago, I was excited to join a tech company to lead product management. The product and its underlying technology was complex and promised immense intellectual satisfaction. My manager recruited me saying he had never led a product organization before and would give me autonomy. It sounded perfect.

On my second day into the job, I got my first clue that the toxic culture would get in the way. The CEO and a couple of his loyalists bullied an executive at the meeting, berating him publicly that his engineers weren’t working hard enough.

While some aspects of my work…

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

“Superman does good, you do well.” This was a catchy grammar lesson from the popular TV series, 30 Rock. But for those of us in the tech industry, this hits home. We have accepted a dichotomy: You can do good or you can do well.

We see mounting evidence of a generation of disillusioned employees in the technology industry coming to terms with this dichotomy. Employees at Google and Amazon have staged walkouts to protest how their employers’ products and practices are failing society. Uncanny Valley, the memoir of a young professional trying to find meaningful work in the tech…

We must embrace the responsibility that comes with building products

This topic is becoming increasingly relevant in our society. Here’s to share the article that I had originally published on the ProductCraft blog.

As a product leader, you work to identify a problem and you engineer your product to solve it. A medical doctor does something similar: diagnose the root cause of the patient’s condition and treat it. But imagine your doctor says to you, “I see that you’re sick, so I’m going to prescribe this medicine. It may have terrible side effects for you, but that’s not my responsibility.” Most likely you’d find this attitude appalling. …

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The following is an excerpt from my article published on MIT Sloan Management Review titled Combating the Toll of Digital Pollution. It introduces the concept of Digital Pollution — just as environmental pollution is a byproduct of industrial growth, digital pollution is a side-effect of the unregulated tech boom.

Digital pollution is having a profound impact on society, but until now we’ve not recognized it as a form of pollution. Today, we understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint to save the environment. …

Radhika Dutt

Product leader and entrepreneur in the Boston area. Co-author of Radical Product, participated in 4 exits, 2 of which were companies I founded.

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