Bringing a new product to life, either as a product manager or co-founder, ultimately amounts to solving a collective action problem. That is a problem that often occurs when a group of people is trying to accomplish something that is in their collective best interest but that none can accomplish alone. Encyclopedia Britannica has the following to say about this type of problem: “However, it has long been recognized that individuals often fail to work together to achieve some group goal or common good. The origin of that problem is the fact that, while each individual in any given group may share common interests with every other member, each also has conflicting interests. If taking part in a collective action is costly, then people would sooner not have to take part.” The result is a set of decisions by individuals to participate or not. If everyone acts then the result can ultimately
Behind any great product is a dumpster full of mediocre products. The one you see is the result of tiresome work that you often do not see. It isn’t just that the creators are better than average (though that is probably true too), but rather that they set their goal higher and work harder, longer and with more resolve. Creating greatness is an inefficient task. Behind the record breaking four minute mile there were four years of training. No one remembers the first man to run a 4:10 mile. Breaking 4:00 takes four years, but it is remembered for 400.
creating excellencI got to go on a tour of the Pixar studios this week. A friend & former colleague now works there and invited me for lunch. The campus is awesome – everything about it exudes the excellence you would expect from Pixar. I loved seeing first hand the the strength of their culture. The company doesn’t just create great stories, but it falls in love with its own characters. They are present everywhere on campus in the form of sculpture, paintings, lego, etc. That shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve ever spotted hidden references in one Pixar film to a previous film – they like to reference their successes. One thing really stood out to me, though. As I entered the campus I walked past a giant logo for Cars 2. I didn’t even think to take a picture of it, but found one online so you can see what I’m
“I am here NOT to sell what I produce but I am here to solve a set of customer problems that I want to own.” – Ranjay Gurati, Harvard Business School This is a great way of looking at product management. Our goal isn’t to build something and sell it. Our goal isn’t even to build what customers want. Our goal is to take ownership of a certain set of problems for a certain set of people and then solve them in the best way possible. Ideally in doing so, you create enough value for them that they can afford to then pay you for your services, which is how you put bread on your table. I read a quote from a former Googler recently that explained how their job in search was to solve every customer problem. If the customer couldn’t spell, it was the product managers problem, if the