Mastering the Role of a Product Manager: Finding Common Grounds and Thinking Outside the Box

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Aug 27, 2023

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Mastering the Role of a Product Manager: Finding Common Grounds and Thinking Outside the Box

Introduction:

Being a product manager involves having a deep understanding of the situation at hand. A great product manager starts by applying the brakes and asking questions. If you're just starting out in product management, it's crucial to engage with as many customers as possible during the first few months. This helps grasp the business model, understand the history, and comprehend how various individuals are impacted. One key aspect of excellent product management is enabling the team to make autonomous decisions by establishing a shared vision or a set of criteria for decision-making and escalation. However, there are instances where individuals seek clarification from the product manager for decisions they themselves could make, often due to a lack of context. It's important to note that truly exceptional product managers are a rare breed, with only one in a million possessing the ability to execute all the aforementioned duties and set an incredible product vision. They possess forward-thinking perspectives, significant influence, and the ability to explain the theoretical rationale behind their decision-making, even without data. Ultimately, a product manager's role is to develop their own unique approach to the job.

Finding White Spaces:

When it comes to identifying white spaces, a common strategy in growth markets involves observing existing users and segmenting them accordingly. However, segmenting based solely on existing knowledge can inadvertently narrow down possibilities, resulting in a focus on niche needs while overlooking significant opportunities beyond the established framework. To find white spaces from a customer's perspective, it is crucial to redefine customers by capturing their needs through an approach that goes beyond the traditional boundaries set by the company. This involves reframing the focus and scope of customer understanding. For instance, NIKE+ shifted their customer understanding from "people who buy shoes" to "people who jog," allowing them to capture unmet needs that couldn't be addressed through shoes alone. On the other hand, QB House successfully narrowed their focus to the specific act of "getting a haircut" by segmenting the broader category of "going to a hair salon or beauty parlor," resulting in their success.

Connecting the Dots:

Although the two sources discuss different aspects of product management, they share the common theme of understanding the market and customers. Both emphasize the importance of broadening perspectives and looking beyond existing frameworks to identify opportunities and unmet needs. Whether it's through engaging with customers or reframing the focus of customer understanding, product managers can gain valuable insights and develop innovative solutions.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Engage with Customers: Interact with as many customers as possible to grasp the business model, understand the historical context, and identify how different individuals are affected. This will provide valuable insights and help in making informed decisions.
  • 2. Reframe Customer Understanding: Instead of relying solely on existing knowledge, challenge the traditional boundaries and try to capture unmet needs by redefining customers. Look beyond established segments and focus on the broader perspectives to identify white spaces.
  • 3. Foster Autonomous Decision-Making: Establish a shared vision or a set of criteria for decision-making and escalation within the team. Enable team members to make autonomous decisions by providing them with the necessary context and empowering them to take ownership of their decisions.

Conclusion:

Being an exceptional product manager requires a deep understanding of the market, customers, and the ability to think outside the box. By engaging with customers, reframing customer understanding, and fostering autonomous decision-making, product managers can unlock new opportunities and drive innovation. Mastering the role of a product manager is a continuous journey of learning, adapting, and developing a unique approach to the job.

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