Product Managers Know To Say “No” To Best Practices

Product Managers Know That Following Others Won't Allow You To Get Ahead
Product Managers Know That Following Others Won’t Allow You To Get Ahead

Perhaps just for a moment we can consider the day-to-day activities of any product manageras being engaged in a sort of race. Collectively we are all running and trying to move out in front of the product managers at the firms that our company is competing with. In this type of analogy, the product manager is running out in front of everyone else and is showing the company which way to go. But how does the product manager know where to go?

Best Practices Are Only So Good

The product management community is currently in love with the idea of “best practices”. This idea revolves around taking a look at the firms who compete in your market and identifying the one or two firmsthat seem to be doing the best job.

Once you’ve done this, then you take the time tolearn how they go about accomplishing the product related tasks that they are doing so well. When this is known, you can then copy what they are doing and with a little luck you’ll be able to achieve the same results for your product that they are getting.

Now this sound all fine and dandy, and in fact the products that use the wildly popular ITIL standards that were created by the British government to define IT best practices have been a run-away hit. However,there’s a problem with this approach.

Dr. C.K. Prahalad took a close look at the use of best practices andreached an interesting conclusion. Using best practices, a product manager can catch up with the other firms that they are competing with. However, using this approach they’ll never be able to surpass them.

Product Managers Need To Search For Breakthroughs

So what’s a product manager to do? Sure you can catch up to other product managers at other firms, but that’s never going to be enough –you’ve got to pass them up. Great. Just how can a product manager go about doing this?

Dr. C. K. Prahalad believed that what a product manager needs to do is to go searching forbreakthrough opportunities. These are the opportunities that will set the stage for your product to pull out ahead of other products and bring your company along with it. In order to identify these breakthrough opportunities a product manager has to get it all started by asking yourself six important questions:


  • Is the problem widely recognized?



  • Does it affect other industries?



  • Are radical innovations needed to tackle the problem?



  • Can tackling it change the industry’s economics?



  • Will addressing this issue give your product a fresh source of competitive advantage?



  • Would tackling this problem create a big opportunity for your product?


What All Of This Means For You

If it turns out that being a product manager means that you are leading a race with your product, then you’re going to have to at least catch up with other companies and products that are running the same race. However, that won’t be enough to win the race:you’re going to have to find a way to pass them.

Becoming more successful that other products requires you as a product managerto uncover breakthrough opportunities. In order to do this, you are going to have to ask yourself the six questions that we’ve identified.

Best practices do have their place in a product development process. I mean, we should take the time to learnwhat works bestfrom other products and companies. However, in order to be truly successful, the burden of finding that next breakthrough opportunity rests firmly on your shoulders product manager…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think the best way of discovering best practices in your industry are?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the world of product management, there are a few “classic questions”. We all need to be aware of these questions because they keep coming up over and over again during our careers. One such question has to do with what type of market you should plan on selling your product to: an existing market or a new one that you create all by yourself…

4 thoughts on “Product Managers Know To Say “No” To Best Practices”

  1. Thanks for this interesting viewpoint. I think that there are several issues – product management as a skill needs constant development and nurturing and best practices can certainly help. Like all professions some gifted practioners are pushing the envelope and developing new skills that the rest of us will use tomorrow. Clearly these new methods can help to differentiate and develop leadership positions. However, I think that in long run the ability to pass the competition mainly comes from better products better serving the customer supported by great (but not necessarily outstanding) product management. Most of us should focus on building great products and managing them well that is a more likely route to success and offering our thanks to the technique innovators

    • JETPMM: you make a very good point. Being a product manager is hard enough, you don’t have to be perfect in order to be successful. For us regular folks, just doing the day-to-day tasks that make up a product managers job is often enough to make our product successful. Every once in awhile an opportunity comes along where we are able to find better ways to do things and that’s when a product manager can really become an innovator…


Leave a Comment