#382 – Tech Exploration Week
Friday Ship #382 | February 2nd, 2024
This week we our company took a pause from its regular rhythm to give space for people to explore some of the important shifts in AI Technology.
Starting in 2022, we began making space for “Hack Week,” a time for Product team members to suspend their adherence to the product backlog and work on exploring whatever ideas or learning they’d like to do.
This week we suspended the regular rhythm of the entire company in order to create space for everybody, not just folks building our core product, to have time to play with emerging technologies related to generative AI.
As CEO, I began exploring how Parabol could use Generative AI technologies early in 2023. Team members followed suit: Nick O’Ferrall took the lead on bringing AI-generated summaries into the product, Bartosz Jarocki developed a feature (as of this writing that is still gated by a feature flag) to customize the check-in question via AI.
As we developed features, the hungrier I became to learn about how these features worked. The more I learned the more I began to have the sense that Generative AI is the most important shit in technology since the advent and wide availability of the internet. I find myself with the same wide-eyed sense of awe as when I first saw a website served continents away load on the primitive NCSA Mosaic web browser in the early 1990s.
Over the winter break, I set aside time to develop a demonstration for my colleagues of what advanced AI capabilities could look like if we added first-class infrastructure within our product. It had been two years since I had had a direct hand in touching our code base. I was astounded that with the assistance of a GPT chat model, I could develop frontend and backend code that would have taken my months to develop. Not to omit mentioning the feature I developed would have previously been impossible.
I wanted everybody in my company to get a sense of how important these changes in technology are for our market, our company, and ourselves.
Holding Tech Exploration Week
When January came around I proposed we take a week for everybody to explore Generative AI. It’s been fantastic to watch people dig into the world of new products, product features, and technology that are at the forefront of this revolution in technology. Here’s an outline of how we held this virtual retreat:
- Day 1 – hosted a retrospective to brainstorm areas and products folks are interested in digging into
- Day 2 – hosted a session for folks to share where folks are going to start their exploration, and what they think their destination might be (”I’d like to prototype X or I’d like to learn about product/technology Y”)
- Days 3-4 – free-form building an exploring, and sharing notes on learnings and progress async in slack
- Day 5 – Demo day! We’ll share what we learn via Loom and hold a retro to discuss what changes we may want to make to organizational priorities
When this piece publishes, we’ll be on Day 4 of Tech Exploration Week. I’m looking forward to what we learn and how this impacts the future of our company.
Metrics were up again across the board this week. Since metrics are calculated based on a 4 week rolling average, our metrics are well out of holiday season and cover full working weeks. We noticed some seasonal top of funnel softness that has rebounded but at a slightly lower rate than usual, so we are investigating where we need to put more efforts to turn that back around.
This week we…
…proposed an updated company strategy for this trimester.
…wrapped up a report on market insights. For the past several months a small team has been investigating what unmet demand there is for solutions in markets adjacent to Parabol. We uncovered some interesting insights and we’ll weave them into our plans for the future of the Parabol product.
Next week we’ll
…wrap up Tech Exploration week.
…hold a board meeting.
…plan for a virtual Product design retreat.