"Making something obvious (in your product) is expensive because it often means you have to make a whole bunch of other things less obvious. Obvious dominates and only one thing can truly dominate at a time. It may be worth it to make that one thing completely obvious, but it’s still expensive." via Jason Fried(The Obvious, the easy, the possible)
It’s simple: Have the vision, Sell it and then..Lead
I’m starting with the vision(1st), because managing a product means leadership(3rd) and leadership means organically selling(2nd) a vision. But in order to be able to sell a vision, you first have to have one. This is where everything breaks apart in most companies. So whoever you are and assuming that you want to become a great product manager, first try to be the one who also has the vision. By all means, you need it to go along this path.
Selling comes second, prior to execution, because you’re not going to be the one that’s executing it (at least not on the long run). You will have a team. You may also have a boss and you will definitely have customers. And the only way to go further is to be able to sell them that vision of yours. So learn how to sell. But be careful. You won’t learn how to sell if you lock yourself in a room to figure things out. You have to engage with your prospects if you want to sell them anything. Don’t be afraid of them, either team members, boss or most importantly, your customers.
Finally, please remember that the magic is in leadership. We tend to call it product management, but the best people I’ve seen who do this are not PM’s, they’re product leaders.
Why leaders? Because a leader, as Sir Ken Robinson said a couple of months ago, in a brilliant TED talk, is doing his magic.
“you take an area[..] you change the conditions, give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities[..], you offer people the discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do, and organisations that were once bereft spring to life.
Great leaders know that. The real role of leadership[..] is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility. And if you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.”
When that happens, it doesn’t mean you are great at building products, it means that you’ve created magic.
So whether it’s a two person team, a 5000 people organisation or a small startup and despite of who holds the role of managing the product, I consider product management the art that could lead any organization to glory. And to be able to reach that glory, a product manager should do exactly 3 things:
Have the vision, Sell it and then..Lead, whereas the leading part is where the real magic happens.
Will follow-up with part 2 which will be about execution and it’s importance. Enjoy.
Bubble or not, it’s happening for a few years now. A new cycle of tech entrepreneurs is starting to emerge along with their companies.
As Chris Dixon put it here:
Most of the successful startups in the 90s built core infrastructure (e.g. optical switching) whereas most of the successful startups since then built applications on top of that infrastructure (e.g. search). The next phase should see startups higher in the stack. According to historical patterns, these would be ones that require deeper cultural change or deeper integration into existing industries.
That’s a hell of an opportunity. It’s happening right now and there’s no one else but us to take advantage. I’m pretty sure that every tech entrepreneur between 15 and 30(including myself) is or will be breathing it in the years to come. We’re no longer similar to our peers that invest in us. What lies in front of ourselves, is way bigger. We’re living a time where people with the right attitude start innovating at levels that weren’t possible before.
I am proud to be part of this and you should be too. There’s a long road ahead and it’s more than exciting.
But being excited and part of the wave isn’t enough. Here’s two other things to consider, that have fundamentally changed:
1. Difficulty level. It’s way harder to do it even though more and more people take their chances at it
”While it’s easier than ever to draw an idea on the back of the napkin, build a prototype or create a small business on the side, it’s still hard to quit your day job and commit “all in.”” via Steve Blank
You’re most likely today to build a company in an industry that’s being disrupted as we speak. Economy, our society and just about all our institutions are going through major structural changes. You see 1 man educating millions, a kid diagnosing cancer, devices studying our behavior, connected objects that help during everyday life, personalized data driven health and medicine, genomic sequencing that costs under $200. Chase it, but bear in mind that it won’t happen over night and it won’t be easy.
2. Required skill set. It takes new skills and patience to “connect the dots”
Learning curves are also changing . Age, social status or background are no longer that relevant for you to be able to prove something. In many cases school is useless too. It’s easier than ever to acquire new technical skill sets. But, in this fast paced multitasking world, there are a harder to get, whole new set of qualities you need: emotional intelligence, the ability to listen or the ability to focus on only one thing for a long sustained period of time. For those who have them, the opportunities are endless. Only for those.
Don’t think that people succeed only because of luck :). It’s work, hustle and intuition that gets you “at the right place and at the right time”.
I’ve been watching Jason Silva’s YouTube series “Shots of Awe” where he explores various subjects in 2 minute videos narrated by him. I though it’s worth sharing one of hist statements about changing perspective and how everything can change when doing that. I completely agree with him.
As we tranquilize ourselves with trivialities we in fact are living in a different truth. Then when we step back, zoom out, take the long view, expand our minds and consciousness and perception and realize that we in fact came off a planet suspended in space, spinning around at very fast speeds at any given moment. So TEN TRILLION atoms self organized into a sentient mind that perceives itself as living off a planet that is hanging off of space…
I mean there is truth to every single thing I’ve said, every single perspective offers another angle, another reflection of the present situation. There are many truths, there are many realities, they coexist side by side. And I think our role as visionaries and artists and movers and doers, is to visit those realities, to transcend baseline ordinary consciousness, to change our perspectives and to bring back souvenirs for the rest of us to consume. That.. is our role.
It’s just a matter of perspective.
I know I’m in the technology field but I recently came across this guy. He’s a very respected actor coach in LA and NY, having coached dozens of well known actors around Hollywood. He makes a point around actors, but I think that his thoughts are equally valid for everyone involved in the “art” business. Either a painter, a singer, a writer, a indie developer or anyone trying to make a living off his art has to reflect on the same idea.
Here, some food for thought: