10 Ideas To Make You A Better Product Manager by@oligibson
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10 Ideas To Make You A Better Product Manager

July 6th 2020
4 min
by @oligibson 410 reads
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Oli Gibson is a Product Manager and Consultant helping people build successful products and teams. He shares 10 ideas from other disciplines like economics, psychology and manufacturing that have made him a better product manager. Inversion turns the tables, requiring you to identify the more obvious product problems and seek to resolve them. The irony is the best way to succeed is to avoid failure. The Law of Demand, Universal Scalability Law and Competition is for Losers are all things to do to stand out from the crowd.

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Oli Gibson

Product Manager and Consultant helping people build successful products and...

About @oligibson
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Today, there are so many ways to learn how to be a better product manager. There are books, courses and articles which will teach you the various skills and techniques you need to know. But in this article, I don't want to talk about these. Instead, I want to share some ideas from other disciplines, like economics, psychology and manufacturing that changed the way I think and made me a better product manager. I hope they spark interest and do the same for you!

1. Inversion

Avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance. Rather than asking, "How can I make my product great?" you should ask, "What's limiting my product, and how can I fix it?" 

Despite your best intentions, trying to make brilliant product decisions increases the odds that you'll achieve the opposite. Inversion turns the tables, requiring you to identify the more obvious product problems and seek to resolve them. The irony is the best way to succeed is to avoid failure. 

2. Theory of Constraints

At a given point in time, the throughput of a system is only limited by a single constraint. It's commonly believed that breaking down the entire system and optimising each component will improve its throughput. In fact, it will just move the constraint and lower the effectiveness of the system. 

A product is a system, and as product managers, our job is to increase its throughput of customers. Identify the single constraint that is limiting customer throughput in your product, fix it and repeat.

3. The Law of Demand

As the price of a product increases, the demand for it will decrease. Likewise, if the price decreases, the demand will increase. Basic economics you can use to your advantage. 

If you are struggling to serve the customers you have, consider raising your prices. If you are struggling to get enough customers, consider lowering them. 

4. Competition is for Losers

The more people doing the same thing, the harder it is to stand out from the crowd. Competitive markets may look attractive, but they are extremely challenging for new entrants. In these markets, the cost of customer acquisition will be high, and the margins available will be low.

If you are creating a new product or repositioning an existing one, you always want to aim for a monopoly. It's better to have a monopoly over a small market than a slice of a bigger one. Life is easier when you don't compete.

5. Universal Scalability Law

Complex systems usually scale sub-linearly or super-linearly. Sub-linear scaling leads to stable bounded growth. Super-linear scaling leads to unbounded growth. 

Some products may scale super-linearly for a short time. However, it's impossible to sustain—eventually, all products scale sub-linearly. This means all products have a finite lifespan, and their growth will slow over time. Your company can only continue to grow if you continue to create new, innovative products.

6. Opportunity Cost

Choosing to read this article means you are missing out on the opportunity to read something else. But don't stop reading! 

There is an opportunity cost to every product decision we make. Being clear what opportunities you pass up by choosing to build one feature over another allows for better decision-making. Make the implicit, explicit.

7. Habit Formation Theory

Up to 90 per cent of human behaviour is habitual. We think we are entirely in control of our behaviour today, without realising it's been ingrained over time through habit-building cycles.

Products that create good customer habits gain a significant advantage. Habitual users visit more frequently, stay longer and are less price-sensitive. Some have abused habit formation theory, but when used ethically, it can be a power for good. 

8. Gall's Law

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a simple working system.

Building complex products from scratch never works. Instead start small. Solve a problem for someone, then discover adjacent problems and evolve your product from there. It's best to think big, start small and scale fast. 

9. The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The more you invest in something, the harder it becomes to abandon. It becomes a fallacy when you continue to invest even when it's not working just because you have invested a lot already.

Knowing when to cut your losses is a mark of maturity in product management. Even with experience, it can be hard not to fall for the sunk cost fallacy. Avoid becoming too emotionally invested in your product decisions, remain objective and embrace your mistakes quickly.

10. The Circle of Competence

There are areas where you have in-depth knowledge or expertise. Then there are areas you think you have in-depth knowledge or expertise. Being an expert in one thing, doesn't make you an expert in anything else. 

The product management role sits at the intersection between business, design and technology. It's easy to begin to believe you have in-depth knowledge in these areas and more, but this is a mistake. Be clear with what you know and what you don't. Then build a team that can fill the gaps. 

11. Under Promise, Over Deliver

The key to creating excellent product experiences is to deliver on your promises then delight your customers by providing unexpected value. The irony is products considered to provide poor experiences often outperform those rated much higher. The difference is they over promised, creating customer expectations that they could not meet.

When you are trying to acquire new customers, it can be tempting to promise them the world. But, this is a recipe for a customer retention disaster in the mid-to-long term. If you "under promise, over deliver," you will not only keep your customers satisfied; you'll keep your customers.

There you have it—ten, or eleven, ideas that made me a better product manager. I hope they help you with your product journey! Do you have any others that didn't make my list? If you do, or you would like to hear how to apply these ideas, drop me a message - [email protected].


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