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Be Bold, Start Cold!

By Louise Cantrill - Head of Consultancy

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Are you bold enough?

I am sure some of us consider ourselves bold, but most people I know (myself included) admit that they don't often think of themselves as bold.

We may have moments of boldness in our work and personal lives, but do we have enough of those moments?

Here are my musings on being bold

Be Bold Start Cold!

There's a saying that goes "be bold start cold". I've heard it a lot in hill walking, but I heard it again the other day from a friend who's a keen mountain biker.  The phrase refers to the way we should begin a trail when it's cold, there's a tendency to layer up too much, and forget that your body is going to warm itself naturally as you get moving. "Be bold start cold" is a reminder to start colder than you might prefer.

Now, there is something in this for us in Product because 'be bold start cold' isn't an endurance challenge, and it needn't be uncomfortable, it's merely the way we start things when it's colder or less comfortable than we'd like.

Most of us have part time boldness, it's what enables us to speak up in meetings, to be decisive about certain issues. However, sometimes our boldness can evade us especially if it concerns hard things, either things that take a lot of time or are outside of our comfort zone, we may procrastinate and put these things off. Our brains crave not making mistakes and outcomes that can be controlled. Under the pressure to do it right, we may be anxious, and anxiety washes away perspective to make everything seem equally important. 

To us at product excellence being bold doesn't mean "best" or "perfect" or "most accomplished." Being bold means above all else moving forward; taking action. It's through action that we practice our boldness, only by moving forward in spite of our anxious inner voices do we discover that the worst things don't happen.

We see challenges all the time with product teams firefighting, it prevents us from getting to harder more strategic pieces of work because the tactical day job gets in the way. If you are looking for ideas to amp up your boldness:

1.'Be bold start cold!' 

Climb that mountain, one step at a time, be brave, and above all else start it. If you don't know where to start, start anywhere. Be an incrementalist, and make a series of smaller decisions, get feedback, correct the course, get a little more data, move forward until the bigger issue, or item is under control. Do little somethings, to get you warmed up!

2.Mono task not multi- task

We all multi task especially if we have hectic home lives, who doesn't browse their phone, whilst watching TV in the evening. But, for the tasks that are harder, out of our comfort zone, or ambiguous we need focus, and with these tasks we need to mono focus; Take one task at a time where you will be able to focus better, don't overload your brain, and stress out a bit less.

3.Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise

Is everything important? 

>Pause> Breath>

No, it's not. 

Time to step back consider what is really important to get done. The tactical day job will fill every available working hour if you let it. Set aside time for those strategic, ambiguous, time consuming, important pieces of work that we all have to do in product. Now get organised and disciplined to get them done. Remember, under uncertainty, you have to put the keel in the water yourself. Don't get diverted by trivia!

Borrow from Agile techniques and apply it to our own daily practices; Every day set a daily 'to-do' list, a short list of the things you will do today, think of this as your daily 'to-do' sprint. Just like your product sprint; we don't get distracted, we don't add new things in, and try to get it all done. Keep a track of any new 'to-do' actions in your notebook. Your notebook becomes your backlog, every day take a look at your backlog to create your shorter list for the day ahead, your daily sprint. 

Here are some aides to being bold, and moving forward. Forest is an app for staying focused. This one reminds me of the Chinese proverb "the best time to plant a tree is now!"

Forest - Stay focused, be present

Or have you tried Caveday. It's a great way to get more done, to provide a time to focus. Get in the cave and get it done! Take a look you can sign up for an online session in the cave.


Or what about this café in Tokyo, it's for writers with deadlines, you state what the nature of your writing project is, and the number of words required and the deadline, and the owner of the café asks you how you are getting on with your project every hour. Most striking, until you finish you can't leave.

Deadline looming? This writers' café won't let you leave till you're done | World | The Sunday Times (paywall)

Here is my favourite be bold canvas: The Innovation Canvas.


Often people aren't bold enough, because they don't want to take risks. They don't want to push the envelope, or take chances, because doing those things may lead to mistakes, or mis-fires. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, to up your risk comfort it's a good ide-as to start small, and being able to pinpoint the risk is the trait of people who are bold. They highlight the risks quickly and find ways to minimise the risks and effects. 

Remember the Innovation Canvas can help you do just that, it's a fabulous way to assess new ideas and pinpoint issues and risks. The innovation canvas is taught and practiced in our Product Bootcamp in session 4. Come along and give it a go!

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