Leaders often take steps to learn software and be ahead of the curve with new technologies. But more often than not, their time is limited to dig deeper into learning soft skills. Harvard Business Publishing is creating a new tool to make those skills easier to learn and apply by focusing on 10 important leadership capabilities. Laura Helliwell joins Gina and Chappell to discuss how the program is coming together, how the process has been different from building other software, and what’s to come from HBP.
Laura Helliwell: Our challenge was, that’s our core business, right? Those leadership skills, how do we make an offering that really enables you to learn that, practice that, and apply it on the job in small pieces that you’re willing to come back to and use over and over again.
[POSTLIGHT INTRO MUSIC]
Gina Trapani: Hello, welcome to the Postlight Podcast. I’m Gina Trapani, CEO of Postlight, and today I’m joined by Chappell Ellison, who’s Postlight’s Associate Director of Digital Strategy. Hey Chappell.
Chappell Ellison: Hi Gina. Always a pleasure to be back.
Gina: Love having you on the show. Always love having you on the show. I’m so glad that you’re here because we have a very, very special guest to talk about a project that I’m very excited about. I wanted to introduce Laura Helliwell from Harvard Business Publishing. Hey Laura, good morning.
Laura: Good morning. I’m very happy to be here.
Gina: I’m so glad that you’re here and joining us. And we’ve been working with you for quite some time now on a really exciting project. And so tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at HBP.
Laura: So I oversee product development for HBP. I sort of see myself as the connector person, making sure the right groups are talking to each other, the right stakeholders are in the room. I oversee the PMO and the Agile practice. And for this project, I really oversaw the tech work stream for building out a brand new product called Leader Lab.
Chappell: Very exciting. When we first met, you, Laura, and the rest of the Harvard folks, I still was not like quite sure of the differences. We’re very familiar with Harvard Business Review. If you’re in this world, fantastic, but can you tell us exactly like the relationship and how Harvard Business Review relates to Harvard Business Publishing?
Laura: And this is a question we get frequently. So Harvard Business Publishing is a part of the Harvard Business School. So if you think of Harvard Business School, they reach about 2000 students a year. And they set us up to say, you know, “we wanna have a much more global influence on how do great leaders work.” so they set us up to broaden the message, to broaden the thought leadership. So Harvard Business Publishing works with three different market groups. Yes, we have the Harvard Business Review, which is for the consumer marketplace. We also sell those Harvard Business School cases that anybody who’s taken a business class has done. We sell those to institutions, higher ed institutions, around the world. So business students around the world are using those HBS cases. And then our third market is B2B market to Global 2000. So imagine a very large pharmaceutical company. They have 10,000 managers and they need to upskill in a particular leadership area. We will help them design those programs to upskill those 10,000 managers. So global presence, and really our mission is to get the HBS, HBR thought leadership on leadership way out in the world, much further than the campus can do.
Chappell: That’s a good transition to talk about this challenge you came to Postlight with and what HBP is building with us. If you can give the elevator pitch?
Laura: Yeah. The elevator pitch. So I think we can all agree that all leaders, managers, team leads, right? They’re really, really struggling with time. There’s just not enough time in the day. But yet if you asked any of them, you know, what skills do you need to work on? Maybe it’s communication, maybe it’s influencing, maybe it’s negotiation, and they know they need to do it, right? They know, but it’s just so hard to make the time to do that learning. It’s much easier to say, oh my gosh, like I need to learn how to do this thing in Excel for this financial presentation. You go to YouTube, you figure it out, and you got it done in a few minutes. But those soft skills, those leadership skills, it’s hard to make the time and commit to really improving those skills. So, our challenge was that’s our core business, right? Those leadership skills, how do we make an offering that really enables you to learn that, practice that, and apply it on the job in small pieces that you’re willing to come back to and use over and over again. So that was the challenge.
Gina: That’s a fantastic premise. I mean, the time thing really resonated with me, for sure. And I think with all the challenges that we’ve had, you know, in the world, especially recently, it takes a little bit of self-awareness and a little bit of pulling back to say like, I, you know, as a leader or as a person, I think myself as a leader, and to think I’ll be more effective at my job if I’m able to negotiate or present or have those skills.
Gina: Once you have that realization, like, oh, I, I could, you know, really level up here. Finding that time, carving that time out is a huge challenge.
Laura: And we also have a pretty strong premise that yes, you know, going to a face-to-face course is an absolute luxury.
Laura: Right? If you can go do an exec ed program for five days, or if your, your company offers it, that’s an absolute luxury. However, we’ve all been in those classes. And how much are you able to retain and apply the next week at work? Or over the long time? So one of our basic learning design principles is to really make it sync, you need to learn over time and you need to be able to immediately apply what you just learned. So it’s a different approach than those standard face-to-face in class workshops or executive sessions. So it’s a different premise.
Gina: That is a huge , that’s a huge challenge. I’ve read the book or gone to the course and come back, you know, in the next week. I’m like all fired up and I’m like, I’ve got all these new tools and I’ve just, I’ve seen the light and I can see how, and then, you know, you, you kind of just settle back into the grind of the day to day. And you, you know, you have your, your patterns and your relationships and it, it’s hard to maintain that. So it’s a tough challenge. So tell us a little bit about how, you know, you approach the product and solving this problem and coming up with the North Star.
Laura: Yeah, so the north star, the first thing we decide is to really aim it at developing leaders. So somebody who’s been in the workplace maybe five to nine years, is either a team lead or a first time manager, and they’re really at that earlier part of their career about developing their leadership skills. So that was one thing. Then the next thing we really started to focus on, okay, what are the critical capabilities that we need to teach people? So we have 10 critical leadership capabilities. So that was started to become our content architecture, like the spine of the offering. And then we thought, okay, what’s gonna make this different than what’s already out there? I mean, there’s lots of leadership training already out on the market, right? So what makes it different? What—what can we offer that nobody else can? Well, first of all, the thought leadership write the researched based backed point of view about what makes good leaders that credibility. We think that we can offer very relevant, impactful learning experiences, and we really wanted to make it fun and we wanted to make it scalable so that you can use it with your team, and entire organization can use it, lots of people can use this at the same time. More asynchronous than like a cohort based or a live program. So more of an asynchronous learning experience. So that was the sort of the backbone of our North Star vision.
Gina: I’m so curious, and I don’t wanna put you on the spot and if you don’t have it in front of you, , but I would love to know what are the 10 most important, what did you call them, skillsets?
Laura: Leadership capabilities. So the 10 that we believe in are leading authentically, leading strategically, leading teams that deliver, nurturing and developing others, understanding the business, driving digital and data intelligence, that’s a relatively new one for us.
Gina: Love that.
Laura: If you hadn’t asked me that question eight years ago, that would not have been on there. Champion..
Laura: …inclusion, which we have all heard so much about in the last two years, again, that has popped to the top. Demonstrating resilience and agility. There’s that agility word. Leading through uncertainty and change, right?
Laura: That one’s been around a long time. You hear about the VUCA world and things like that. That’s been around for years, right? And communicating for impact, right? So communication skills, those are 10.
Gina: Sold. I’m sold. I wanna sign up. So, so , so the, the platform is, Leader Lab.
Laura: Leader Lab is the placeholder name. We haven’t trademarked….
Gina: Got it.
Laura: …or copyrighted it now. You know, and that’s one point of where we are. Right. So we took on a really, really difficult challenge. We did not think we’re gonna have a product in six months. Like that was not the preposition that we went into this with. The preposition was, let’s build some things, let’s test some things, let’s learn, and then we decide do we scale or do we do another iteration of testing? So we are in beta at the moment.
Gina: Yeah, that’s the right approach.
Chappell: So it’s interesting because when Harvard came to us, like the way Postlight is structured is we have engagement leads and—which is what I am. And we pair engagement leads to projects kind of based on their backgrounds. And so I was paired with Harvard because it was so content heavy and that’s my background. Immediately when I read your challenge, I thought it was so exciting and it’s so, so content driven and this is a space that everyone content is really excited about right now, which is learning. One question I have for y’all is, one of the first things you said to us is we looked at every learning management platform. That’s off the shelf kind of, and it just wouldn’t work for us. We need something more custom. I would love to know, like, can you speak more about how you came to that decision and your—your process of just kind of eliminating all of these other solutions?
Laura: This is the age old perennial problem for us, right. So, you know, we are thought leadership content company, right? So people don’t come to us for our software, right? Software for us is an enabler, right? It has to work, it has to be good. So we have several times over our history gone out and said, there’s gotta be a platform out there that can give us all the future functions we want. There’s gotta be. And we hire a consultant and we evaluate the umpteen cajillion platforms that are out there in the learning space and buying each other and merging, and new mom and pops are popping ups. Like it’s a really, really spread out market moving fast. But it always comes back to if we’re going to really worry about the learning experience and that we need to make this engaging and fun and for this product, actually it’s a lot of practice, a lot of interactivity. That’s the part we need to control. We need to be able to make that exactly how we want it to make these learning experiences sing. And that’s where we always hit a wall with third party systems. I’m not saying that there’s nothing out there that would’ve met our needs. We could have searched and searched and searched, but at some point we had to call it and say, we’ve looked at 10, we’ve looked at five, they’re not hitting the mark. So we’re gonna go a different way, which ended up being with a headless CMS, Contentful, which you guys have expertise in, and then building the front end custom ourselves.
Gina: The build or buy decision. It’s such a huge decision and you know, we’re big proponents of don’t reinvent the wheel. We use everything off the shelf that you possibly can, right? Either parts of the system that you don’t have to worry about and you can build a thing that differentiates. But when someone says, you know, there just wasn’t, in your case, a learning manager system, an LMS off the shelf that did what we wanted to do, to me, I hear, we had a vision for something differentiated that was, you know, true to us and that was gonna address these particular challenges. But I’m also hearing is that you weren’t like, we’re just gonna start with a blank piece of paper and build everything from scratch. Like the fact that you went with, you know, Contentful is a, a great enabler and just a part of your system that can handle content in a particular way. Right? So you said, okay, you know what, there’s just an not an LMS, learning management system, that does the things that we want. And not putting down folks, by the way, who choose full systems off the shelf and decide to, you know, sometimes they’re customizable enough and they get you to where you need to go. Like it so has to do with, you know, what you’re trying to get done.
Laura: Yeah. And for us, like the build by thing is, or borrow, right, it’s really, really, Really tricky to walk through that strategically. And for us, it came down to this is gonna be an asynchronous learning product. So what are the absolute key differentiators? Right? And that front end learning experience is it, we’re talking about an async product. We have other products where we bring in professional moderators and HBS faculty. Well, in that scenario, the software is not the key differentiator, right? So for, in that scenario, we can buy. But in this case where we’re building an asynchronous learning experience where people, that’s it, the software is what they’re seeing and interacting with, that needed to be exactly what we wanted.
Chappell: To talk a little bit too about the actual, like the meat, the content of the thing. I remember when I first met with y’all, a part of me was a little worried because I was like, learning content is its own thing. It is difficult. You usually have to have people who are certified professionals, sometimes educators involved. And I thought, oh no, we might have to put together a really big learning content team and this could be a challenge. But it turns out y’all had already created a team within Harvard and spun up this whole team just to write these sort of learning activities and modules. Can you talk a little bit about like that process, how you came to it? And I imagine this was somewhat new for you too, and any surprises along the way that you learned about?
Laura: Yeah. You know, often when you build a software product, people use the word, oh, we need to design upfront, right? We need to get, get through that design phrase, people’s heads just go to UX design. UX design. But in this case, where you’re building such a content heavy product, learning design needs to be upfront and the content architecture need to be upfront. So we knew that was key to have the right people in those roles early on. And we are very fortunate at HBP to have wonderful learning designers and wonderful editorial staff, right? So we could pull from that expertise to get those leaders in place and get those teams in place. Really hard to figure that stuff out when you’re trying to build a new learning experience and not just page turning e-learning, which we have all done, create something different and interactive on soft skills and not how to create a pivot table in Excel. Like this is tough stuff, right? So it was important to have those great learning designers and editorial staff on the team early on.
Chappell: And it seemed like some of these activities, they seem like a little bit new for Harvard. ‘Cause Harvard, we are very much used to things that teach you skills in a, in a much more like, kind of a traditional way? Through maybe like a learning program that has in the end some sort of certification and a test. And, and this is more bite size. It’s more—it, it, it’s digestible in a different way and I could see, it might even push you out of your comfort space a little bit. So could you talk about that sort of aspect of it?
Laura: Yes. So, I mean, we have other leadership products, right? And the premise for us has been, you read or you watch some videos, right? You consume the background information. Maybe you walk through practice scenario a little bit.. You reflect. And maybe you do an assessment, right? So that’s a pretty standard e-learning model. For the leader lab, we wanted to flip it on its head. No background reading, no pages of scrollable text, no four minute videos. Right into practice. Right in, right. Immediately grab you by having you do something and learning by practicing, and hopefully the practice is so real world based. You’re already making the connection between what you’re seeing on the screen and your day-to-day work. So I’ll give you an example. There is an activity in the product about understanding your boss’s work style. So you know, it’s a swipe thing that you can imagine, swipe left, swipe right, right. But immediately for the learner to engage with us. They have their boss in their head, right? So they’re already applying it to the real world. It’s not abstract. So that practice first approach was the nut we’re trying to crack. And also that was a huge hypothesis for us. Like, first of all, can we build practice first without background learning material? And second of all, does it resonate with learners? Do they like that approach? That was one of the key learning targets we had with the first beta.
Gina: I’m like, this is, this makes so much sense to me because I am very much a learned by doing kind of person and the pages of background reading put me to sleep and but, you know, I like, I’m a self-taught programmer, but like with programming, like it either runs or it doesn’t. I mean, soft skills, that’s a completely—that’s a completely different thing. So talk us through like what does it look like? And I know you’re in beta and right now, and I know that you’re learning a lot, but what is that experience? So for someone listening, if they, you know, if they had a few minutes at lunch and they signed on the leader lab and wanted to go through like this exercise, like what does it look like? Is it multiple choice? Is it, how does it work?
Laura: Yeah. So what we’ll do on, let’s just stick with that example, right? Understanding your boss’s work style, right? So you come in and immediately like. Okay. One of the important things to know is how does your boss like to communicate and how do they like to be presented with challenges or solutions, right? So we’ll present a bunch of scenarios and literally my boss prefers email. My boss prefers I knock on the door and go into the office, right? Like a whole bunch of like mini little scenarios that you’re swiping left or right, and there is no right or wrong answer. You’re just describing what you’ve learned about your boss. And then at the end it can force you to think about, okay, how do I do that? Now let’s compare. Where am I in sync? Where am I not in sync with my boss? And maybe you should think about doing this, or maybe you should think about doing this. At the end of every activity we provide a couple things. We provide a cheat sheet. So you can go back and just say, oh yeah, remember this. You know, we can also provide go dos. So for example, maybe, maybe not on that example, but maybe another one where you’re talking about body language, like how are you presenting yourself in the window. So for the body language one we have video clips of how to do it right. We actually make you video record yourself and then watch yourself and say, did I do what I just tried to do? It’s a very safe space. You’re not roleplaying with a human, it’s safe. Right?
Laura: We also give at the end of activities, like go do sheets, so maybe you wanna go do that at your next meeting where you have to stand up in front of the room, or maybe you wanna go do an activity with your team to make it sink in. There’s nothing better than teaching to make it sink in. All right? If you have to turn around and teach, it sinks in. So this is all online. It’s on your laptop and you know, you get points and you can see where you’ve been. You can either take our recommended pathway through the content or you can choose your own adventure and say, Nope, today I just wanna go right to this one and focus on this activity. So,.
Gina: Oh, that sounds great. That’s making me realize I should really think through my boss’s work style a little bit more explicitly. Go ahead, Chappell.
Chappell: Now, you said something earlier, Laura, you said the word hypothesis. You know, and I think that’s what really struck me a lot about this, because typically when we work with clients, they come to us and they’re like, we have this perfect thing, let’s go build it. Whereas when Harvard came to us who said, we have an idea, we feel very confident about it, but we still want to test it to see if we have it right. And first of all, I think that’s amazing. But I wondered for you how that works internally. How is it structured for you and kind of your stakeholders now that you’re starting to push into the testing phase? , what are your steps? How are you showing the value and maybe showing where you want to update and change things based on your feedback?
Laura: Yeah, so we’ve been pretty strict about this. We’ve done two rounds of beta. So for beta one, I wanna say it was about 10 hypothesis statements, like literally hypothesis statements. You know, learners value practiced approach base to learn it, practice first approach, like that was one hypothesis statement. And then pretty early on we said, okay, if that’s the hypothesis, how on earth are we gonna figure out whether we proved that or we disproved it? So that is a combination of what usage data we’re getting out of the, the actual software. There’s the beauty of having working software. You can actually see how people use it because what we’ve learned over the years, you can do user interviews, you can show ’em mockups. People will say they’re gonna do something, but then they don’t actually do it. Right. So.
Gina: So true.
Laura: And, and, and this is particularly true. If you’re talking to people about learning and improving their skills, they’re gonna say, yes, I will do that for 15 minutes a day. But then if you actually put software in their hands and you watch what they do, they’re not doing it 15 minutes a day. Right? So, The working software piece was super important so that we could measure the usage and watch people’s usage. So that was one data point. The second data point was we did do surveys post beta and get people’s feedback, and then we did do one-on-one interviews and we also did some unmoderated testing with the site usertesting.com. So between those four things, we brought it all together and synthesized as a team. We looked at all that and we said, did we prove or disprove this hypothesis? And we went down all 10. And that’s what we reported out to our stakeholders. So at the beginning we said, stakeholders, this is what we’re trying to learn. And at the end we said, did we learn it or not? And some of the hypotheses, yes. Resounding yes. And some were, no, this didn’t go where we thought it was gonna go and some were, we didn’t have enough data to prove or disprove the hypotheses. We need to do another round of test. So we were pretty rigid about that.
Gina: Any big surprises? Did you learn anything from beta that that surprised you? Or was it like normal run of the wheel, learn some things. Some things didn’t work, some things did and we just kept iterating?
Laura: Yeah. We have a few challenges with the product. So if we sell this into the B2B market, right? Do people want to share with their managers what they’re learning? It’s a very vulnerable place to be. Right. So we get mixed feedback on that. You know, I want this to be safe space. I don’t want anything shared with my org. Right? Like, no, it’s like my own little private practice area. And other people are like, Hey, I wanna post a badge to LinkedIn then I just learned this. Right. So.
Gina: Right. I got my soft skills, we got certifications.
Laura: Yeah. Yeah. Right. It’s very mixed bag on that one. Another feature that we got very mixed feedback on. They’re recording yourself on video.
Laura: Boy, do people hate that?
Gina: Yeah, yep.
Laura: You know, it’s really good if you do it. You know, I’m a tennis player and my goodness, when they show you that video of that last point you just played, like there’s nothing more powerful than seeing that video, right?
Laura: So it’s painful and it’s definitely not comfortable, but it does work. So, you know, we got feedback like that, for example, on the video.
Chappell: Yeah. When I was in graduate school and we had to deliver our thesis, we had to do it in a theater in front of people. This was a little bit non-traditional and they brought in a coach to record us presenting ’cause it was only a five minute presentation and, When you watched the video after it was horrifying. You realized everything and all the weird stuff you do, like where you put your hands all the time.
Chappell: And like your weird face stuff. And I just remember thinking everything is bad. But—but it does help you uncover some weird things you might be doing that actually make you say look really nervous, even if you are. So yeah, I can totally. Seeing yourself is not exciting.
Gina: I, I don’t actually listen in the Postlight podcast. I’ll admit that,. But so it doesn’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you got very visceral reactions to that. But I have to tell you, just like Chappell said, it’s tough, but you, you learn about how you look and sound. You know, when you have that distance and watch those recordings. Have you had people say, where do those recordings go? Is anyone else gonna see this?
Laura: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Absolutely. Like, I’m not doing this. Where’s it going? Yeah, absolutely. You know, this is just a general reflection on leaders, right? If you’re in a leadership position, it’s really hard to show vulnerability.
Laura: And things that you don’t know. And also you’ve become a leader because you did something well, right? At some point. Or you did many things well and when you get to a point and you know that you have to work on a soft skill like communicating and influencing, it’s like hard work. This is hard work. This is not like, you know, read a paragraph and it’s better tomorrow. This is hard work that you have to keep at it, right? So this is what we’re hoping to build a tool that you keep, keep going back to and say, okay, I gotta try this again, cuz that didn’t work lo, let me try this again.
Chappell: Laura, you have a lot of experience here. You bring a lot to this team, and you’ve helped lead through so many challenges where you’re like blocking and tackling. What have you learned out of all of this process so far that was something you’ve never maybe experienced in any other digital effort you’ve been a part of?
Laura: Yeah, a couple things that were different for me on this project. The hypotheses and being so rigid about that was great. And you know, kudos to the Postlight team. We hired you I think in February. We told you what was going on. It was pretty chaotic back then in February, but you guys got a website up for us in a matter of weeks, and we’ve never been able to do that internally at HBP. And just the power of thinking, okay. We can just add a little bit at a time to this website. Right. The power of having an environment stood up and accessible by people on the team was huge and we’ve never done it so fast at HBP, so that was a really great moment for me.
Gina: Oh, I’m so happy to hear that. Yeah. You can’t argue with a working URL. Here’s the link. Go look at it. Even if it’s just one page, right? There’s, there’s something live. This is a real thing, is super powerful. Glad to hear that it is.
Laura: And it makes the team feel like, okay, here we go….
Gina: There’s a thing, I can point to a thing.
Laura: Here we go. We’re building something. But there’s something…
Gina: Like it exists. Yes.
Laura: Yeah. Yeah.
Gina: That’s wonderful.
Chappell: And I often wonder like what is the motivation to bring in an outside partner to help you build something? Everyone has different reasons and sometimes it can just be staffing issues, but there are sometimes. When you realize it’s a forcing function because Harvard had, so you have so many great resources at hand and you had these teams doing great work. But sometimes when you get so many people involved, right? You can have trouble getting everyone to focus. Once we came in and started to say, okay, we gotta get a website done. What were some of the tactics that you learned to sort of help focus all these groups, these disparate parts?
Laura: Yeah, there was a lot of people. It was way too many people off the team in the beginning. One document that we had was that product vision document, Early on as an anchoring doc. I would say there were a couple watershed moments. When your designer, february, March, I can’t remember, finally we had a user journey. Like, whoa, okay. User journey flow. Like everybody can see this is where we’re heading. Is it exactly what we built? No, but it was in a major anchoring device for the team. I think having the content strategy was really important too. And you know, what do we need to leave out? So we’re not gonna build everything. This is a little beta. So building just enough to test those hypotheses because you know, I love my learning designers and editorial folk, but they have big dreams and big aspirations, and a lot of content to cover, right? So how do we narrow in, okay, this is what we need to build to test these hypotheses. So a lot of narrowing activities. Right.
Gina: That’s so, so key, right? Just doing product, right. It’s such a key part of product thinking is just to go with the smallest thing that’s gonna get us to, to this place and this idea of like, we’re gonna start small and we’re gonna iterate. And you have that big Laura, and this is why this has been successful and we, why we’ve loved working with you is because, you know, you knew that that’s what had to be because everybody has big dreams and they have a vision in their head of the full, complete thing, right? And, and to get there, you gotta start small.
Chappell: I was totally gonna say like Laura’s our ideal client.
Chappell: Because you actually match the Postlight kind of ethos, which is really a pragmatic one. We’re just like, get something working, going. Even if it’s a smaller version, let’s get something out there in testing because everything changes.
Laura: Yeah, it’s definitely true. And I would also say like having working software, albeit a small slice of what you wanna build, has so many side benefits, right? Like, so for example, I have been the voice for the last few months at Harvard Business Publishing saying, Hey, HBPers, all of you can try this. All of you. Here’s the URL. Here’s how you’ll log in. Go try it. So much better than showing a bunch of slides with screen captures, right? Just go in and play. Like that’s a huge side benefit for people.
Gina: Hallelujah. You can’t argue with working software. You know, whenever we have a project that’s going a little long or people are feeling antsy or uncomfortable, what are we doing here? What it’s just, did we push something.. Just push something. And it just gains momentum because then, you know, people get excited about it. It’s okay that it’s the smallest thing cuz folks start to fill in the edges. Like it get, starts to get colored in, you know? And especially if you see it get colored in over time and expand over time. So you send that out to your team and the smallest place, and then you iterate, you push a little bit more and they see it start to grow. You start to develop advocates inside the organization and people start talking to one another. And then who, how do I get in?
Laura: Yeah. And, and, and people can also see what’s not quite working. Like, wait, I’m lost in the nav. I don’t understand. What are these points doing? How do I use these points? Like, you start getting good questions, like, oh yeah, we need to figure this out.
Gina: Yeah, yeah.
Laura: We need to figure out, we need to adjust this. All good stuff.
Gina: Yeah. How, how are you gathering that kind of feedback? Like if someone landed on a, you know, an error page or a bad state, how, how did they, were they calling you up? Were they sending you a, an email? What was that like?
Laura: So we have a one 800 number, but we did not use it for this beta. So for the betas, we’re on beta two right now. We just created an email box. That actually team members, we ourselves are monitoring and answering that. And I have to say that’s really good, right. For actual dev team members to say, oh my gosh, the user can’t figure this out. Like that is really good because so often in our products that goes to the customer service folks and they’re filling those pain points and it doesn’t really get relayed back to the dev team. So I would actually advocate that the dev team does their support for as long as they can in those early stages.
Gina: Yep. Great advice.
Chappell: Well, I wanna know where is it at now and where do you think the next phase is for a leader lab?
Laura: So we’re just wrapping up beta two, and we’ll do a report out on the learnings next week for that. And then we have the big decision: scale. and if we’re gonna scale, how fast, what content areas and what features. So I did a story mapping workshop with the team last, earlier this week, last week. And oh my gosh, the list of features, like we created a five year roadmap, so..
Gina: That’s wonderful.
Laura: The product manager has some work ahead of her to figure out what’s in v1
Laura: And the content team some work cut out for them too. Like we have, I talked about these 10 capabilities, these leadership capabilities, they break down into 60 skill areas. So we have to also figure out which skills go first. Do you go broad or do you go deep? So we’re gonna have to figure that out too. So we are right at this point where, okay. Are we scaling? If we’re scaling as is the way we’ve designed it, do we need a couple more adjustments and what comes first? So that’s right where we are now.
Gina: They’re big decisions.
Laura: Right at the holiday season where people go on their breaks. So.
Laura: Yeah, it hasn’t gone huge. So beta one was consumer beta and there was about 500 users that we opened it up to. Beta two was b2b. So some of our B2B global 2000 customers, you know, and we’ve rolled it out to maybe 15 companies and they’ve had leadership and development staffs mostly focused on it, some smaller numbers. But very different learning targets that we were going after with the consumer audience and the B2B audience. So both really important betas. So scaling for us means, you know, we need to shore up some things in the backend that we just built scrappy.
Laura: Because it was beta, which is fine.
Laura: You gotta shore some things up there. We need to build out more content and we definitely need more features.
Gina: Right, right. That makes sense. That makes sense. Yep.
Laura: Rolling it out to thousands and thousands of users, from a user perspective.
Chappell: I know Laura, you’ve been putting together the business case to scale. When you put together that business case, are you having to present it? Does it contain your outputs of your research and how are you kind of hedging to go for scale?
Laura: You know, it’s, it’s a lot of financials. There’s a lot of financials in there.
Gina: Laura. It always is.
Laura: Yeah. There’s a lot of financials. How much is it gonna cost to build out each capability, each skill. You know, how many sales does the sales team feel that they can bring in from the consumer market from the B2B market. Right. You know, there’s, you know, what are the differentiators? Why do we feel that this is different and more valuable than other products we have in our bag already? Right? So there’s talk about the differentiators, right? And then there is, you know, we could go really aggressive really fast because there’s a lot of content to build out here, right? 60 skills of content is probably 600 activities and we have 11 in the beta. Right?
Gina: Oh, wow. Wow. Yeah.
Laura: Okay. So there’s a big decision to be made. How fast do we wanna scale?
Gina: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I guess there is a lot more work, work ahead and, and look, if this turns out to be, you know, an experiment where y’all learned a lot and takes you to another thing and doesn’t turn—I mean, that’s valuable in and of itself. I mean, this whole approach that we’ve been talking about, which is we’ve got a hypothesis, let’s test it and see where we land. I mean, this is how it gets done .
Laura: Yeah. And I agree with you. Even if we don’t build this exact same thing, there is so much that we’ve learned that we can apply even back to our core offerings that exist today.
Gina: Win either way. Well, you know, we’ve absolutely loved partnering with you on this and have the opportunity to, to help out here and see the platform come together. We’re cheering you on, and the team, whether or not the product, you know, goes to scale or not. Although we’re, we’re kind of hoping that it does, cuz I , I really wanna use this thing even though it makes me record myself. It sounds like you get to learn, learn, learn the hard lessons. If someone listening to the show was interested in learning a little bit more about Leader Lab, is there a place that they could go and see it or try it?
Laura: Yeah, it’s still an internal beta right now, so it’s not available for public, so our website is harvardbusiness.org. keep an eye on that space and people are more than welcome to email me and get more information.
Gina: Hey, we appreciate your time today. This is, this is a lot of fun.
Laura: Totally enjoyable. I mean, it’s always a blessing to be able to talk about your work and your efforts, so thanks for asking me on. It’s been great.
Gina: Absolutely, absolutely. If you’ve got a hypothesis, if you’ve got an idea and you wanna test something out and you wanna even just talk it through and get some thoughts, get some advice, get in touch with us. We love talking about this stuff. Send us a note. email@example.com. We love to hear leaders like Laura in organizations like Harvard Business Publishing thinking about how to get to the next level and serve their constituents and users and customers even better. Thank you so much, Laura. Thank you Chappell. I love having you on the show. I’m gonna just keep roping you back in here.
Chappell: I’m here for it.
Gina: It’s been a lot of fun. I appreciate it. Thanks everyone.
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