My Favorite Mistake — 198: CTO Kevin Goldsmith on Leveraging Failure to Drive Success at Spotify and Distrokid

My guest for Episode #198 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Kevin Goldsmith, the chief technology officer at DistroKid, the world’s largest distributor of digital music.

Kevin is an experienced leader of high-profile, high-performing product, research, and shared technology engineering organizations. An often-invited speaker on building strong engineering teams at conferences internationally – often talking about learning from failure. Has extensive experience building products using Lean, Kanban, Scrum, and Extreme Programming methodologies.

In this episode, Kevin tells his favorite mistake story about the launch of “Spotify Now” when he was an engineering leader at Spotify. Why was there pressure to launch? What mistake did Kevin and team make regarding data from a small group of initial users? How did Spotify leverage its culture of “handling failure well”? What did Kevin learn?

Questions and Topics:

  • How do you balance the cost of lost customers vs. the cost of embarrassment?
  • Being surprised by the results of experiments
  • Was Spotify Now a problem of a bad concept or bad execution? Or Bad design?
  • Losing customers as “the cost of learning”
  • Organizational learning to not get into this situation again?
  • Doing retrospectives on EVERYTHING to remove the stigma?
  • The Forbes article that Kevin was quoted in
  • People who strongly believe in “accountability” — punishing failures — can you change their minds?
  • Failure vs. mistake? — how would you compare those words?
  • Tell us a little bit more about DistroKid – strengthening this culture of learning from mistakes?

Video and Blog Post by Kevin:

  • Fail Fast, Fail Smart… Succeed! by Kevin Goldsmith
  • Blog post version of the story at Spotify

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