Brent Tworetzky is the Executive Vice President of Product at XO Group. His 50-person group spans product management, design, and user research across TheKnot, TheNest, TheBump, and GigMasters, category web and app leaders helping couples navigate their biggest life events.
You may not have heard of XO Group, but if you’re married or have friends who are, you’ve almost certainly come into contact with one of its brands. The company’s most renowned product, The Knot, is the leading wedding resource, app, and marketplace connecting couples to the right products, services, and local professionals needed to pull off their perfect wedding day.
The organization embraces ‘design thinking,’ a methodology for identifying and solving customer needs throughout a defined journey. Thanks in part to frameworks like design thinking, the organization has achieved remarkable results: 8 in 10 couples today plan their wedding on The Knot. How’s that for engagement?
“Design thinking is really a way to put the couple first when we think about how to build our products,” says Eben Levy, Director of Product Design. “We want to make sure that we’re meeting people with the right mental model when we’re thinking about the problems that they need solved.”
Levy is charismatic and doesn’t hide his emotional investment in the brand and mission. “When I think of myself as a designer, my job is to advocate for the person who’s getting married, or someone who is pregnant or trying to conceive,” he explains. “Part of what I loved about coming to this company is that we really solve for the biggest moments in life.”
Those moments span from getting engaged to having a baby. In addition to The Knot, XO Group operates The Nest, for couples starting a home together; The Bump, for couples planning to have a baby; and GigMasters, for booking entertainment when celebrating all of life’s biggest moments. The New York-based company invests heavily in educating its product teams on design thinking, enabling them to apply the framework to a range of challenges and opportunities.
Design thinking is a layer of creativity that runs throughout all of product management.
“We think about the skills of product people in a very structured way,” says Brent Tworetzky, Executive Vice President of Product. He emphasizes three core competencies: strategic thinking, execution, and user science. “Whenever someone joins our product organization, we have a specific onboarding multi-day exercise to help them grow in each of these areas. We put them through something called Product University, which attacks the basic elements of all of these areas.”
Tworetzky categorizes design thinking within “user science,” a term he coined to unify and formalize best practices that he’s learned throughout his career leading customer-focused organizations such as Udacity, Chegg, and Mint. “Product management is the discipline of bringing products to life,” Tworetzky says. Design thinking is a layer of creativity that runs throughout all of product management.