Three levers to create products customers love
I start episodes by saying, “I’m so glad to be part of your journey towards product mastery so you can better develop products customers love.” Today I want to dig into that journey in detail. As a listener of this podcast, your journey in some way involves developing and managing products. The titles vary, but you likely relate to product manager, product leader (such as a Product VP or CPO), or innovator. By diving into the specifics of the journey towards product mastery, you can identify where you are now on the journey and what to do next to further accelerate your career.
I’ve talked with hundreds of product managers and leaders about their journey and found three recurring levers present in their journey as well as mine—levers that made a significant difference in our growth as product professionals. I’ll be sharing those levers in this episode (see below, starting at 11:03).
For our 400th episode, I also have big news. I’m starting a community, the Product Mastery Now Community. This is something I’ve been asked about many times since starting the podcast in 2015. It is a way for people who already find value in this podcast to get even more from it and add additional fuel to help accelerate your product career.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:06] Milestones that equipped me as a product professional
I hope you’ll reflect on the key milestones of your journey as I share mine.
- Starting my career as an electrical engineer as employee #4 in a small systems engineering office, wearing many different hats, and solving problems. Where did you start your product work?
- Creating rapid prototypes for potential customers, learning to listen to customer, and finding ways to better understand their needs. When did you gain an appreciation for working with customers?
- Observing a potential customer by watching them work for a week, creating a prototype that solved their problems, and leading the development team to make the product. What experiences have you had that deepened customer discovery for you?
- Starting to read innovation and product literature, learning about product management, and studying innovation deeply while earning my PhD. When have you engaged in deep and structured learning?
- Finding the Product Development and Management Association, earning their professional certification, and sharing with others how to be better product developers and managers. What mentoring and coaching experiences have helped you as well as those you’re working with?
- Creating a system for product managers, teams, and others in organizations contributing to products to learn a shared foundation, collaborate better, build trust, and get everyone on the same page and working faster—the Rapid Product Mastery Experience.
What have been your key milestones in your journey toward product mastery?
[11:03] Three levers that make a significant difference in our growth as product professionals
I’ve talked with hundreds of product managers and leaders about their journey. You know what they have in common? Three recurring levers are present in their journey as well as mine — levers that made a significant difference in our growth as product professionals. They aren’t sequential steps in our journeys but levers that reappear during times of growth and acceleration of our careers.
- Frameworks and tools. Ethnography and other tools helped me to better understand customers and became important to me. Frameworks and tools help us make sense of things so we understand what is important for a situation and what we need to do.
- Structured learning. You accumulate frameworks and tools by studying and learning. Likely, we have done similar things for this. I read books, attended 1-to-6-day workshops and conferences, and took university courses. While this was all helpful, for my first 10 years in product work, it lacked structure and I didn’t always relate what I learned in one area to what I knew from another area. Later, I learned in a more structured manner, which helped me to quickly connect the many pieces of product work. For me, a crucial part of this was the body of knowledge that PDMA has curated since 1976—the structure they add to their product management body of knowledge revealed important ah-ha moments for me.
- Peer learning. I’m pretty liberal when I use this phrase as I mean for it to include coaching and mentorship. In a peer-learning community earlier in my career, I learned from Product VPs who had much more experience than me, from other product managers who had more years in their career, as well as when I helped others with problems I had knowledge about. The power of a peer-learning community is the interaction with people at similar levels of knowledge and experience as wells as those with more or less knowledge and experience. The community helps you find practical answers to current problems, along with what was tried and didn’t work, more quickly than structured learning can itself. Further, I and others have found a community of diverse industry and domain experiences to be more helpful than one of a specific industry.
[18:44] The Product Mastery Now Community
The community is designed to directly and time-efficiently address the three levers that accelerate product management and leaders careers, providing (1) frameworks and tools, (2) structured learning, and (3) peer-learning interactions.
Community members will receive:
- Training in the IDEA Framework, which stands for Ideation, Develop, Evolve, and Accelerate.
- Live interaction with podcasts guests after the live weekly podcast episode.
- Peer-learning through online discussion forums.
- Monthly live session for interacting with peers.
- Annual learning report of your training and learning experiences in a format you can share with your manager to show how you are improving your knowledge and experience.
The community is designed to be a helpful resource and fun place to interact with other product managers and leaders, not an overwhelming experience that floods you with information. My goal is to focus on what matters and eliminate distracting and time consuming noise you don’t need.
The community will be opening soon and I’m inviting you to be part of the Founder’s Launch. As one of the first people in the community, you can help shape it to be valuable for you and others. Further, members who join during the Founder’s launch receive the lowest price that will ever be offered. Now is the time to join during the Founders launch. I expect you’ll find the community is a great value.
However, you don’t automatically get in. There is an application process, which I’m using to help create a more cohesive community. After the Founder’s launch occurs, the community will be closed to new members for at least 6 months, and the price will be higher when it opens again. If you’re interested, apply now and let’s make a great community together.
“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.