Lessons Learnt: Strategy and decision-making with Eduardo Thuler

Posted on 03 Jan 2023
Mindset CoachingProduct Management

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We tend to want perfection.

And in the tech world that really gets in the way.

Decisions will always be imperfect.

Amazon has a great metaphor for this

  • A “one-way” door is whenever you make a decision and you can’t revert it
  • A “two-way” door is a decision you make and can be reverted

In the latter case, as Eduardo Thuler shared with us, taking decisions faster and learning is more important than the quality of individual decisions.

You’ll hear about:

  • not making a decision, an act that practically is still a decision
  • decentralizing decision-making in tech products and the devil in the details
  • marketplaces, how to start them, and how to segment your audiences
  • executing quickly and learning for the next steps, compared to staying still
  • what strategy is and what strategy shouldn’t be

Tools mentioned:

  • Seven Powers, what can be counted for as strategic positioning

And all these in less than 15 min.


Eduardo Thuler: Hi. My name is Eduardo Thuler. I’m based out of Brazil. I’ve been working with tech for over 20 years, I began doing some product management in security products. And then I took a sabbatical year and joined the a log tech company called Loggi, I went to Portugal to help them start a tech office. And really happy to be here.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Eduardo, welcome to the Growth Mentor Podcast, I’m excited to discuss with you about the lessons you have learned along your career around strategy and decision making. So, would you share with us something we don’t know about decision making?

Eduardo Thuler: Sure. All, it’s hard to know what we don’t know yet. But a few things stood out for me. One is it’s we tend to want perfection. And I think especially in the tech world, that really gets in the way, decisions will always be in perfect. So as long as we have enough information that we think running a test or experimenting something makes sense. going ahead with it, it’s probably a good idea. Amazon has a good metaphor for this, they call it a one-way door and two-way doors. A one-way door is whenever you make a decision, you can’t really go back, let’s say you decide to launch a product as a free product, it’s really hard to then turn it into a paid product. But if it’s a two-way door, something that you can experiment with and come back or change that just doing taking decisions faster is probably more important than the quality of the individual decisions. So just moving fast, with as much information as we have, I think is tends to be a really solid strategy. Another insight that I’ve had before is, we tend to think that not making a decision is safer. But very often not making a decision ends up being a decision by itself, because it actually means that we will keep things as they are for a while longer, especially true for firing people. As long as we postpone the decision to not have somebody on the team, we’re actually keep deciding to keep that person on the team. And if that person is not a great fit, that decision might have stronger effect than the actual firing, even though firing feels like a big barrier to surpass. Another point, I think in decisions is context. It’s easy to think that perfect decisions will exist. But they tend to only make sense in specific contexts. Something that makes sense at Amazon probably doesn’t make sense at Apple, because they have two very different mentalities even though the brands are really strong. And we tend to love a lot of the stuff each company does. Amazon is a much more frugal company is really focused on low prices, low margins, while Apple was really concerned about premium features and design. So just assuming that if Steve Jobs did something I should just copy, it doesn’t make sense, we should think about the culture we are in or the culture we want to create, and what we think will make the most sense within the context that we have, and then move with decisions informed by this. I think that the idea of context is also quite strong for me in decisions.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Three great lessons from your career very, very well presented very clear. Thanks for sharing them. I know that you have focused on product as part of your steps so far, working in all those positions that you mentioned, how do you see what do you see going wrong? With how traditional, let’s say companies and product oriented companies build technology and their products? Like what are your thoughts around this topic?

Eduardo Thuler: I think the most frequent mistake is about the hierarchical nature of decisions. So in a lot of context, this is context, the idea of centralising decisions, and having key people with all the information, make strong decisions, and people just run with those decisions. That makes sense in a lot of places. In technology, that tends not to work well, especially because the details on the decisions to be implemented, especially through code, make a lot of difference. So the devil is really in the details and technology. And if you don’t empower people, developing those that technology with the decisions, it just won’t work. So I think the kind of the reverse mentality in which we empower the leaves, we empower the people running the business, and you just informed them through strategy through metrics through positioning is a much more powerful one. Companies, I think the journey of companies that now want to go that way and become tech companies is really made hard because of this, because it is not a small change. Kind of giving up that power. Giving up that authority is really a really hard journey. And the way this tends to work is that just new companies with different mentality will disrupt some existing market because it is so hard to be done.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Is there any particular learning that you have acquired about marketplaces which is even an even more nice area where you have focused like around how marketplaces are built? Like any challenges that you have seen a longer career?

Eduardo Thuler: Yeah, I think from the strategy perspective, a marketplace is such a strong entity, because it created some of the network effects. So typically a marketplace is made stronger. The larger it is, we can see this in marketplaces like Uber or Airbnb, or even Google, when you think of the way the usage and the data works. All of those are strong marketplaces. So any business that’s really supported by a marketplace tends to be a much stronger business, that will create a lot more value without as much effort. So it is a company that can innovate more and experiment with more new ideas, and really liked the idea of marketplaces. I think the key challenge to start any new business or get any growth here is that if you want two sides to get together, but none of them is with you, so far, it’s really hard to get started. So the cold starting of the marketplace is the big challenge. I’ve seen quite a few interesting ideas. One of them is a decorator to and through that to you kind of create the habit of one side of the marketplace. Pinterest did this really well. As long as it did not have a lot of audience, it created a good photo collection feature that people would create their Pinterest and kind of create something for them to use. And then they began having people come take a look at those. So that approach where there is value in the pre marketplace stage. And then the marketplace comes once that starts gaining traction, I think is quite a solid way of approaching marketplaces. The other thing that I’ve seen with my experience in Catalan jobs is there’s a strong thing in the marketplace about not everybody is good for everybody. So when you think of jobs, a job for a lawyer doesn’t have a lot of value for somebody in marketing. But a lot of jobs for lawyers will have a lot of value for a lot of people looking for jobs in those positions. So to grow, understanding that dynamic, and pushing for growth in marketplaces where they’ll create the most value margin. So let’s say again, jobs for lawyers, if you’re really strong with lawyers, getting all the jobs in the region for lawyers probably creates a very strong marketplace, as opposed to just try surely for any job that wants to be showcased in the marketplace. So segmenting and making sure that we’re really strong in a specific segment, either region, or type of user or need. I think that’s a much that’s a solid way to grow marketplace.

Spyros Tsoukalas: I love the examples you share with us because I feel like I really grasp what you want to explain. And this is great, especially for someone with a mentor. So going back to decision making, is there any approach or any framework that you use when making decisions?

Eduardo Thuler: So first of all, I think finding the best person to make the decision is the first important element. Just assuming that because you’re the boss, you make all the decisions tend to be a really bad mistake. So we should be empowering people to make the decisions at the right places. So understanding what those places I think is key, some decisions will will should be done by you. And the criteria for when that should happen should be clear. So let’s say that you work in marketing, you probably want an analyst to be able to decide keywords, or demographics or time or creatives. But overall budget is something you might be willing to share with more people, because it’s part of a larger project process of budget itself. So in decisions, I think, pushing as much of the decisions to people who are closest to the problem. I think that’s a good principle. And the other one, as we’re discussing just now is, whenever decisions can be reverted, just execute quickly and learn through your decisions, optimise for learning. And over time, the accumulation of knowledge that was created will help you make more and more better and better decisions.

Spyros Tsoukalas: You mentioned earlier that used to go to the person that is the best suited person to make the decision. So what if this know how is shared between, for example, two or more people? Let’s say that we have a product manager or the CEO wanting to invest more in the product. And then on the other hand, the marketing team. So how do you balance that those two, for example?

Eduardo Thuler: So I think in those cases, a solid discussion makes a lot of sense. I love the Amazon way of having a six page document in which all the relevant data are are clearly articulated and communicated, and there was a meeting with the specific goal of making the decision. Ideally, the same document will describe the potential decisions to be made, let’s say push ahead with the launch of  the product, postpone it by three more months or postpone it for enough time to invest to rob a specific new feature, or the size of the investment and market to meet. But whenever people disagree, I think the discussion is really valuable. But framing the discussion in such a way to extract the most value from the different opinions is key. And preparing that discussion with data through a document is important. In that case, what I would push for is a written document, probably by the product team, with sections also done by the marketing team, and they agree on all the points before the meeting. And then I’ll three of them the CEO the product in the market and go to the same meeting and come out of there with a specific decision to execute.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Does this principle apply around strategy as well? Because we keep hearing about strategy here. So that’s their strategy in startups. And it’s kind of an over bloated term. So even if even if the company is successful, like does the same decision making process apply around strategy or generic strategy for a company?

Eduardo Thuler: Yeah, strategy is definitely a over bloated term. People use it with a lot of different meanings. I think one that is really bad as anything important is called strategic. People want to feel important. So you’ll see that term repeated in our discussions. I think strategy, when you think of the way it’s discussion in academia, is really about the competitive strategy. So it’s about how to position myself against competition in what am I better than my competitors. So in that sense, I think having a clear vision of why your company is or is going to be the strongest one specific thing, and why that is important. Those are very important discussions to be had. And I think this agreement that they make a lot of sense, but the decisions or the strategy will really turn usually turn into something like, let’s launch product s x, which will showcase that ability that we have, and let’s learn through that product, if the hypothesis in which this is valuable to consumers will prove itself, right. And that’s how their strategy grows, by increasing the data points that confirm that the desire that the company have to build something special is materialising,

Spyros Tsoukalas: Thank you very much for teaching me that strategy is not anything that’s considered important. Like it’s the first time I somebody frames it like that. And thanks for sharing that. Last question for the day, are there any tools or resources that you would like to share with our audience?

Eduardo Thuler: Yeah, there is this specific book, which I’m in love with. It’s called Seven Powers. Amazon has it. And it has a great description of what can be counted for. S is for strategic position. What are the real things that different companies have used that over time prove itself as what we call defensible strategy, meaning, if your company gets to that place, other companies will have a problem and trying to compete with you. So they are defensible ways of keeping your your your business secure. There’s this nice analogy of a moat and a castle. So the defensibility of the castle is really about how deep the moments are. So making sure that your company has defensible assets has something that even if somebody really executes well, and tries to compete with you, they struggle with this. I think this is really important for any, any company or any product being developed. And I think that book does a great job in helping you think through the potential things you think you might have, and a lot of them don’t ask that.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Awesome. Eduardo, thank you very much for sharing all those insights and lessons you have acquired along your career with us today. I hope that people will learn as many things as I learned.

Eduardo Thuler:  Thank you Spyros. Great interview. Thanks for the chat.

In this episode

Spyros Tsoukalas Head of Business Development @ GrowthMentor 💜 | Passionate No-Coder ⚙️

I’m a computer engineer transformed into a ⚙️ passionate No Coder ⚙️. Reach out if you want to get introduced or learn more about the No Code world!

Eduardo Thuler Product executive, passionate about strategy and marketplaces

I’m seasoned in the general management of tech companies, led a cultural transformation and the building of strong executive and technology teams for Catho and Loggi.

A talk by Eduardo Thuler
Product executive, passionate about strategy and marketplaces
Hosted by
Spyros Tsoukalas Head of Business Development @ GrowthMentor 💜 | Passionate No-Coder ⚙️

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