Professor Tim Silk says assumptions are a manager’s worst enemy
UBC Sauder Professor Tim Silk gives managers the skills they need to see their products and services in a completely new light. Drawing on his extensive research in consumer behaviour and experience consulting for brands like Bell, Visa and L’Oreal, the award-winning teacher pushes participants in UBC Sauder’s Product and Service Management Boot Camp to look beyond their biases to see new opportunities.
What do managers need to know to be successful in product and service management?
We all have biases that we're not necessarily aware of that can influence our decision making and limit us from identifying opportunities in the market. In the boot camp, we use a range of methods to develop and foster curiosity and a create mindset for discovery. We help participants recognize and push aside assumptions they make about their products and markets. Then we help them zero in on how faulty assumptions may be influencing their decision-making. We want to tear those things down.
How do you help participants analyse and seize opportunities in the marketplace?
After we go through the steps of identifying biases, we look at tangible examples of opportunities that might have been overlooked as a result. We’re very data-driven. We present participants the data and ask ‘what conclusions do you draw from this?’ Then we walk them through alternative approaches of looking at the same information. We introduce specific best practices and techniques that participants can employ in their organizations to discover opportunities, as well as the best avenues for pursuing them. It’s about getting them outside of their initial perspectives to appreciate how varied the needs of the market really are, and then giving them the tools to be selective about which opportunities to chase.
How do you teach managers to enhance firm innovation and creativity?
A lot of people assume that creativity is something that can’t be developed – that you have it or you don’t. That’s not the case. It’s actually like a muscle that you can exercise. The techniques we introduce help participants recognize alternative approaches to problem solving and therefore – because we’re approaching the problems differently – we’re identifying novel solutions. In essence, we’re removing a blind spot.
How do you ensure participants are equipped with strategies they can put to work the day they get back to the office?
We apply tools together in the sessions so that managers already have experience with them before they go back to their organizations. One of our key goals is to build confidence. We validate that some of the things they’re doing are, in fact, best practices and give them the tools they need to move forward with new ideas. The boot camp is a safe space for participants to try out new techniques, share strategies and learn from each other’s experiences, so their ideas have already had a chance to mature before they return to work. When you build confidence in decision-making and remove uncertainty, you free managers to lead change.