Once a month we’ll be reviewing and discussing one book, chosen because it covers some concept that is required to be a strong product person. We’ll be discussing these topics from our perspectives as Bay Area tech professionals to share with the Clearly Product audience.
Episode 12: Just Enough Research
Every product manager builds things for customers, and knowing just who your customers are-what their needs, hopes, desires, frustrations and goals are-is the bedrock of all the work we do.
But how do you go about learning that? And how do you know when you've learned enough and can get back to building? Well, does has Erika Hall have the book for you!
Listen in as Sandi MacPherson and I dive into Just Enough Research and discuss how we've used the tools and tactics presented there to help us get the best things to customers. We talked through the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of user research.
Episode 11: Inspired
Sandi MacPherson and Anna Marie Clifton discuss the skills of product management. This month they use Marty Cagen's book "Inspired: How to Create Tech Products that Customers Love" to discuss the generalist skills of PMing.
We wanted to tackle a marketing book, but one that wasn't just about tactics. We chose HBS prof Youngme Moon's book titled 'Different', as her high-level, strategic view on marketing as a philosophy and art were very appealing to us.
One of the core ideas in the book is that you can't just go along with the herd of companies and products that change incrementally over time - to be successful, you must actually be different. She highlights 3 separate strategies that you can use to truly differentiate your product, filled with clear examples of companies that have implemented them to become amazing companies and brands - Mini, Red Bull, and Google, to name a few.
Her ideas of getting away from the herd and reinventing your company and products is a perspective that resonated with us, especially as PMs in the Bay Area tech scene where more often than not, most products are hazy copies of others. Her push for readers to try riskier, less clear paths forward is one we both agreed with, and led us to really enjoy this book.
In their book, Hacking Growth, Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown lay out exactly what you need in order to do that. They establish what types of companies should form growth teams, common models that work, a playbook for that team, and sage advice on approaching all of this mindfully.
Listen in as Anna Marie Clifton (product manager at Yammer) and Sandi MacPherson (founder of Quibb) discuss which of these tools they have personally used in their organizations, if it was successful and what was not, and what they have learned from product people at other Bay Area tech companies as well.
Episode 8: Creative Confidence
While the tech and startups worlds clearly sit on the 'bleeding edge' of most industries, organizational practices, and implementations of technology itself, 'creativity' is still a bit of a taboo word. We share some examples of how we’ve navigated related issues in our roles, and highlight some of the suggested tactics from the authors that we think are most appropriate to tech companies and startups.
We both really enjoyed this book, and dove into some interesting points:
- What is the balance between experimenting and being creative vs. doing things that are a bit too ‘out there’?
- How do you encourage people to think creatively on your team, when often times a roles are defined by and rewarded for consistency, which is often the antithesis to being creative?
- The authors highlight ‘self-efficacy’ as a key attribute with respect to creativity. What does that mean when it comes to working in tech and building product? What is the relationship between self-efficacy and autonomy? How do you you enable people to act with these qualities in-mind, without having the entire org or product spin off into infinite tangents?
Episode 7: Crucial Conversations
As product managers, we have a bucket full of tools to finesse an idea from concept to customer. But slice and dice it how you will, we pass each of those hard-earned skills though some filter of how we communicate. Generally speaking, we do most of our communication by spoken word.
How much do you think about how you speak? We wanted to give this a thorough discussion, so we chose “Crucial Conversations” for this months conversation starter.
Turns out, this book is about a small subset of “crucial” conversation which the authors define as conversations where:
(1) stakes are high
(2) opinions vary and
(3) emotions run strong
While product managers must be adept communicators, few of our conversations are apt to be “crucial” by the definition of these authors, so we explored related areas outside the explicit domain of the book.
And this led us to a much higher value conversation! Instead of focusing exclusively on defusing potentially volatile moments, we shared our thoughts and experiences across a broad spectrum of conversational skills.
Listen in for our thoughts on PM communication skills: observing beyond the words, making safe space for others, leading with narrative, and more!