If you feel like meetings are the bane of your existence, then you're not alone. Mamie Kanfer Stewart, founder and CEO of Meeteor—a collaboration application that aims to make meetings more productive—says she hears that all the time. Yet, when she first set out to start a company, fixing meeting culture wasn't her intention.
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In fact, the product she initially built was far more complex and, in her mind, solved a more pressing problem: bad project management. Kanfer Stewart built what she calls the "skinniest" product she could. But when she started testing, adoption wasn't what she had hoped for. However, there was a feature in the app she had built that triggered a lot of excitement, one that promised to fix an epidemic that plagues businesses everywhere: bad meetings.
It was part "aha" moment and part "duh" moment. "We knew it was a problem companies had," said Kanfer Stewart. "But we didn't know how big of a problem or how simple a solution."
Since Kanfer Stewart was running lean, she was ready to switch directions and start moving Meeteor toward building a product that was more aligned with market demand. By embodying Lean Startup principles, she's gone from her first minimum viable product (MVP) to a product that's enterprise-ready. Along the way, she's learned how to balance her vision with customers' desires.
Core Values Drive Value Although Meeteor has been committed to incorporating customer feedback, iterating quickly and learning from everything, the startup recognized the need to stay true to certain principles in order to truly drive change. For that reason, Meeteor has always been clear about both its core values and how those values dictate the direction of the company.
According to Kanfer Stewart, when you set out to solve a problem involving broken company culture, technology is only part of the solution. "We started from this place of, 'What are we doing that's different?'" said Kanfer Stewart. They realized they weren't just providing an app; they were building new skills and guiding behavior.
That difference is the company's North Star. Staying mission-driven helps Meeteor strike a balance between accommodating customers and pushing back. While Kanfer Stewart is usually willing to add new features, the decision is a little more nuanced when it comes to removing them.
Friction vs. Function If people were instinctively good at planning meetings, then there would be no need for a product like Meeteor. That means the app needs to simultaneously inspire and enable professionals to change their normal behavior.
With that in mind, an earlier version of the app required people to fill out every field in the agenda in order to schedule their meeting. Users protested and, although they felt all of the fields were important, the team at Meeteor finally acquiesced. But there was one field they wouldn't budge on: the one asking you to set "norms" for a meeting.
Users often wanted to skip this step and, while Meeteor wanted to provide a smooth experience, they also had to ask themselves, "What level of friction are we willing to live with because it's a best practice?" said Kanfer Stewart. In the case of norms, they decided that it was critical to set expectations for a meeting and left "norms" in as a required field.
The Art of Change Management If you're going to demand a little extra from your users, then you also want to provide the support to facilitate change. For Meeteor, that means educating users about the best practices involved in having productive meetings, and delivering the right amount of insight during the onboarding process.
As much as Meeteor provides technology, "it's about skill development," said Kanfer Stewart. And while it might take a push to get people used to doing additional work, "the more you do it, the faster you get," she added.
In other words, active users are happier, more successful users. In fact, when you learn about Meeteor, it seems intuitive. The problem is, most of us were never taught these skills, so something that should be simple ends up feeling nearly impossible. As Kanfer Stewart said, "It becomes obvious but it's not obvious from beginning." That means change management is a key step in getting users to reap value from the product.
The Value of Being Nimble The balance between technology, behavior change, and skill development isn't an easy one to strike. A big part of Meeteor's success stems from its willingness to run lean. Kanfer Stewart said she's benefited from a willingness to test products manually rather than building and pushing them out before they're ready. As terrifying as it is, that's the best way to find out if you're headed in the right direction and connect with an engaged user base. It's also the best way to ensure that you're always looking for insights and, more importantly, flexible enough to put your learnings into action.
Having devoted Meeteor's earlier days to learning and optimizing the app, Kanfer Stewart is now preparing to bring her product to an enterprise customer base. That means there will be more to learn but also the opportunity to save more people from their least favorite part of the workday.
Like what you just read? Learn more about the Lean Startup methodology and hear Mamie Kanfer Stewart speak during Lean Startup Week, Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2016.