Force multipliers

Force multipliers

I seek out “force multipliers” to extract multiple benefits from the same work, like my very own workplace fusion reaction. Can you find your own?

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Recently I was explaining to a client why I focus my efforts on finding “force multipliers”. These are what I call activities that allow us to extract multiple benefits from a single piece of work. You could think of it a little like a workplace fusion reaction, where the output ends up far greater than the input effort.

This concept excited my client, and so I wondered whether it was something I simply took for granted and assumed everyone did. If force multipliers are a new concept to you, read on.

If, like me, this is something you’ve been doing automatically for years, then there will be few surprises for you. I won’t mind if you stop here :-)

Still here? Good!

I’ve been running most aspects of my business, Product People, for over a decade now. I’m forever juggling the tasks of running the business, seeking new clients and actually delivering the work. For me it’s about being efficient, nimble, and getting as much return as I can from the effort I invest.

If you work by yourself, or in a relatively small organisation, you’re probably also constrained by the time you have to do things. You can of course increase your productivity by being incrementally more efficient at certain tasks, however the much bigger wins come from finding things that multiply the return on your effort.

And so I always seek out “force multipliers”. These are the activities I can do once, which then yield several useful outputs in parallel. This saves me time overall, and lets me punch well above my weight.

Simple examples of force multipliers

Standard software (versus bespoke)

Creating a piece of standard software is an example of a force multiplier. Once you’ve gone to the effort and expense of shipping the first unit, or onboarding your first user, every additional unit or user should require minimal additional effort and expense.

The potential return on your product is not limited in the same way as doing a custom job for every single customer (where you incur the same fulfilment cost every time).

Training delivery

My product management training also acts as a force multiplier in two different ways.

1. Once a course is written, I can deliver the same training course to several clients for minimal additional writing effort.

2. The course delivery itself is a force multiplier for each client because several people can attend. This is more efficient (and cheaper for the client) than training each product person individually through 1-2-1 coaching.

Writing a talk

Another force multiplier for me is when I’m asked to give a talk. The talk itself may only be 15-20 minutes long, so at face value it may seem disproportionate to spend several hours researching and writing it. However, the process provides me with lots of other benefits in parallel.

I’m usually asked to speak about a particular topic within product management, so this constraint helps me to get writing and avoid the blank page paralysis that can accompany a less specific brief.

The research forces me to dig deeper into a topic, to uncover alternative viewpoints which I can talk about, rather than only providing my own opinion. So I learn more, and broaden my own perspective in the process.

Then when I give the talk, I usually record my own audio, then transcribe it. I can then tidy this up and edit it into one large article or several smaller ones. The best articles I discovered during my research typically form the basis of a weekly edition of my PRODUCTHEAD newsletter.

Lastly, quotes from the articles end up as a tweet post, toot, skeet or thread on whichever microblogging site we’ve all fragmented onto this week.

Seeing as I’ve already invested the effort in creating the original content, I try to benefit from it in as many ways as possible. Each subsequent step is like an added bonus for me, something of value for minimal additional effort, as compared with tackling each as a standalone task.

Time and again I observe organisations investing hours to generate words as part of their business as usual. These come in the form of reports, status updates and research findings and so on. And yet the same organisations also struggle to find the time to engage with their users and customers through regular blog posts or email updates. While not everything is going to be suitable for external publication, there’s always the potential to repurpose some of the work that’s happening anyway.

Distribution channels

If you sell things directly from your website, you’re probably already working on search engine optimisation (SEO) to have your site rank higher in organic results. While there are advantages to encouraging your customers to purchase directly from you, you have to work hard to build that inbound traffic.

In addition (or instead), you could go where people are already looking. Which online retailers typically show up in the top search engine results when people search for products in your category? What would it take to get those retailers to sell your products through their site? Would their commission be offset by the corresponding increase in sales?

For simplicity, let’s assume the other sites that rank higher in search were to bring in the same amount of sales as your own direct channel. Each additional site multiplies your reach for relatively little effort in comparison with achieving the same growth through your own site.

Doing so doesn’t stop you from continuing to build traffic via your direct channel. And over time you can look objectively at the performance of the additional channels to determine whether it’s worth your while continuing with them.

Final thoughts

There are untapped force multipliers waiting for you to take advantage of them if you know where to look. Seek out the opportunities to tweak what you’re doing to receive multiple benefits from a single activity, or to seek partnerships that will amplify what you’re doing to a wider audience with minimal extra effort on your part.

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Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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