Product managers (PMs) are often referred to as "mini-CEOs" because of the heavy responsibility they carry. They are the ones who determine what should be built, taking into account factors such as competitors and consumer preferences. Additionally, they play a crucial role in helping the marketing and sales teams target the right audience.

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Aug 14, 2023

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Product managers (PMs) are often referred to as "mini-CEOs" because of the heavy responsibility they carry. They are the ones who determine what should be built, taking into account factors such as competitors and consumer preferences. Additionally, they play a crucial role in helping the marketing and sales teams target the right audience.

To be an effective PM, it takes more than just having a job title. It requires a combination of skills, knowledge, and qualities that enable them to excel in their role. One key aspect is the ability to lead, not just in terms of authority, but in terms of solving problems holistically. PMs need to inspire their team, provide a clear vision, and analyze the situation at hand. It's important to remember that being a PM is a team sport, and collaboration is essential for success.

In order to excel in their role, PMs must adopt the mindset of an expert-generalist. This means having the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in various disciplines, industries, and skills. By broadening their knowledge base, PMs can see the world more accurately and make better predictions about the future. They are less susceptible to biases and assumptions prevalent in any given field or community.

One way to develop expertise in multiple disciplines is to learn multiple models. It's like the old saying, "To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." PMs must expand their toolkit and learn from various disciplines because wisdom is not confined to a single academic department. By incorporating insights from different fields, PMs can gain a more comprehensive understanding of complex problems.

However, it's important to note that not all models are equally impactful. PMs should focus on big ideas from the major disciplines, as 20% of models often create 80% of the results. It's about identifying the most influential concepts and applying them effectively. Creating checklists can help ensure that the right models are being factored in and that no crucial aspect is overlooked. Multiple checklists can be created to cater to different situations.

The value of being an expert-generalist is not limited to the field of product management. It has proven to be advantageous in various industries. For example, consulting firms like Bain have differentiated themselves by providing unique insights from one industry to another. The ability to bridge gaps between silos is becoming increasingly valuable as knowledge continues to expand and fragment.

While focus is crucial for success, curiosity must not be overlooked. The business world has traditionally emphasized the importance of focus, but now more than ever, curiosity is essential. The amount of knowledge in the world is doubling every 9 years, and PMs need to stay curious in order to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Curiosity fuels innovation and enables PMs to explore new ideas and possibilities.

In conclusion, being an effective PM goes beyond having a job title. It requires a combination of leadership, problem-solving skills, and the ability to think across disciplines. Adopting the mindset of an expert-generalist can provide a competitive advantage, as it allows PMs to see the bigger picture and make better predictions. By learning multiple models, focusing on big ideas, and using checklists, PMs can ensure they are incorporating the right insights into their decision-making process. Additionally, staying curious is essential for keeping up with the ever-evolving business landscape. So, embrace the role of a mini-CEO and strive for exceptional success as a product manager.

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