Sometimes there’s a perception of Product Managers that the best ones are product geniuses who always and immediately have the right answers for every product problem: PMs whose product instincts are so sharp they can arrive at the best solution at a moment’s glance; who can look within themselves and find the solution deep down there and pull it out onto a wireframe through a simple act of will.
I suppose there are a few crazy geniuses out there. And I’m certainly not doubting the power and value of instinct built up over years of product experience.
But the whole truth is that being a great Product Manager is less about moments of divine inspiration, and more about work and grind: questioning, discussing and iterating. Hypothesising, experimenting, failing and repeating. Doing the work.
The whole truth is that great PMs don’t work alone. They’re not mad geniuses who are supposed to always have all the answers.
Great PMs are masters of The Process: the process of gathering input and inspiration from myriad places, and synthesising that into a solution. PMs talk to the customers, to the sales team, the finance team, the engineers: they talk to everybody. They know that ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere, and they actively seek out ideas and input from across the business.
But be careful. This is not the same as “gathering requirements” or “translating business objectives into development objectives” (two definitions that often come up in the context of Product Management that I really hate).
This is not about making sure everybody’s input and ideas are squeezed in to the product. It’s about a process of gathering ideas and inspiration from as far and wide as possible (the divergent thinking phase), then boiling that all down into the solution that best solves the problem for the customer (the convergent thinking phase).
Product instinct is less about always knowing what the solution is. It’s much more about knowing which solution, from a list of possible ones, is most likely to work, and which should be tested. It’s about quickly assessing and prioritising a variety of options and making the right call.
So don’t think you always need to have all the answers. Use your team and your network to build your list of options, pick the best one, or combination of best ones, and go.