How To Evolve As a Product Manager: Finding the Fast Moving Water



Jul 19, 20233 min read


How To Evolve As a Product Manager: Finding the Fast Moving Water

As a product manager, there are many hats to wear and responsibilities to juggle. From design and engineering to legal, sales, and marketing, the role requires a diverse skill set. However, one of the most essential qualities for a product manager is curiosity and a thirst for learning. Growth in this role is closely tied to one's love of learning and the ability to adapt to new knowledge and skills.

But how can a product manager continue to evolve and stay ahead in such a dynamic field? The answer lies in finding the fast moving water. This concept, often communicated to NFX Guild Founders, emphasizes the importance of assessing the speed and direction of the industry and having the courage to steer your company into the fast moving water.

Finding the fast moving water is not simply about achieving product-market fit. It goes beyond that. It involves having a mental model that helps you decide who your target users should be and what you should be building in the first place. It's about reading the river for leading indicators, not lagging ones. This is crucial because false positives can lead to short-term success but long-term irrelevance. You want to align yourself with larger currents and ensure your product remains relevant in the long run.

So how can a product manager find the fast moving water? Here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Look for technology shifts: Keep an eye out for technological advancements that enable something new to happen. Whether it's mobile phones, blockchain, GPT-3, or machine vision, these shifts create currents that can propel your product forward. For example, the availability of AI platforms is creating a current around "Generative Tech," which pushes software to generate novelty on the edge. Web3/crypto has also been a fast moving water segment for the past two years, with a strong flow of talent and capital.
  • 2. Look for low-quality examples that succeed: Sometimes, iconic companies are born out of a second-mover advantage in fast moving water. Uber, for instance, surpassed Lyft despite copying them. This success can be attributed to various factors such as better teams, building network effects first, better timing, or even a lucky article that drives initial traffic. The key is to identify these low-quality examples that are doing suspiciously well and leverage the existing currents.
  • 3. Embrace the red ocean: Red oceans, characterized by intense competition, shouldn't be feared. They indicate that there is a market demand for your product. By navigating through the red ocean, you can reduce the threat of market risk and tap into the network gravity. It may require courage to push your team and stakeholders to move from a comfortable position, but it's necessary to strive for greatness and avoid settling for mediocrity.

In conclusion, evolving as a product manager requires a love of learning and the ability to adapt to new knowledge and skills. By finding the fast moving water, embracing technological shifts, leveraging low-quality examples, and navigating through red oceans, product managers can stay ahead and achieve long-term success. So don't wait, take action now and propel your product into the fast moving water.

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