Valuable Lessons for Product Managers— Part 1
There is always another way.
Every problem can be solved in multiple ways.
Here is the thing about the problem; it appears different to different people. Most people react to the problem’s symptoms, which means that different people can experience different symptoms. Sometimes you try to solve the symptoms for a certain group of people. For example, if you look at the problem from a user’s perspective, you will find a different solution than when you look at it from a technical perspective. Sometimes it’s required to differentiate facts from opinions so that you can find the root cause of the problem. Even then, you can find multiple solutions to that cause.
There is always another way; it’s the point of view that can get you stuck in one direction. Once you realize this, every time you are stuck, you will try to see it from another perspective until you find the solution that is best possible, given the circumstances.
Failure = Learning. Perfection is an illusion.
If you have never failed, you have never tried anything new — Albert Einstein.
We in product development are constantly doing new things. The process of development is based on experimenting, learning, and evolving. If you are afraid of failure, you will be too cautious, which will make you delay your output. The world is ever-changing; to keep up with the development, you need to be brave enough to try, willing to take calculative risks. Failure is also a big step ahead. Embrace the learning process, learn — apply — grow. There will be missed deadlines, failed feature releases, and even failed sprints. All of those will teach you what not to do and take you closer to success. Being a perfectionist is actually the worst quality that any product owner could have. You need to understand that good enough is the best choice and should be your preferred choice for delivering faster, learning from experience.
Image from Productcoalition
Keeping an open mind is the only way to grow.
Don’t fall in love with your solution, but rather the problem you are trying to solve
If you develop an idea that will solve a problem, you tend to be biassed towards your solution and shut off your mind from even considering other options. This is yet another threat to watch out for any product owner. There is a lot of information for any given problem or any invention. Most of the time, your brain can’t process all that information at once to solve the problem with a perfect solution. That is absolutely fine, that’s why you have subject matter experts and people who are better at some things than you. Learning from them, building the solution on their knowledge, that’s your job. To do so, always have an open mind and listen to every suggestion or comment. When someone criticizes your solution, instead of getting defensive, you should welcome their criticism. After all, being proved wrong sooner will get you on the fast track in the right direction, and being right will confirm your theory. It’s also easier and convenient to have an open mind than to be defensive and get stressed out over your ego child.
Empathy will take you in the right direction.
When you know how it feels, you can define the problem in the right way.
Empathy is when you can place yourself in another person’s position. It is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. Empathy is a precious skill, even more for product owners. When you can empathize with your users, only then can you make your product more user-friendly. If you can empathize with your team, you can create amazing products together and motivate them in the right way. Empathizing gives you insights in a much deeper and clearer manner, defining the right problem. Defining the right problem is a 90% leap towards finding the right solution.
Try to Be the jack of all trades. Listen more speak when needed.
You can never know it all but can pay attention to every area.
Being a product owner means that you solve every problem in your way for your product delivery. Getting things done is the summary of your role. To be able to do so, sometimes you might end up editing the content or filling in an excel sheet or trying to solve dependencies, all of which require a certain amount of knowledge in the given area, or at least you should be able to talk to the ones who can help you get it done. As a product owner, you do not have the privilege to say this is not in my job description. You need to do whatever it takes or talk to whoever can help you achieve your product delivery. Doing this efficiently takes time and experience, but you must keep your ears open to every discussion around your product. When the subject matter experts are discussing, or the copywriter is considering, or the designer thinks it is important to listen. You don’t need to speak where your knowledge is limited. Being curious, asking questions, and your hunger for learning will take you a long way to succeed in your career and life.
Knowing when to listen and not to speak is a critical art.
If you like this article, keep a lookout for part 2. We learn so many lessons in our role every day that I couldn’t fit all of those in one piece, so I have decided to run a series with valuable lessons for product managers learned from my experience.
Author: Bindiya Thakkar