Steve Jobs died too young – what great things could he have accomplished if only he had been able to live just a little bit longer? No matter, even during his brief time on this planet he accomplished a number of amazing product related things that every product manager can learn from. What’s even more important is that Steve left behind some great advice that all of us product managers need to hear and learn from.
Break The Rules – Pretty Much
Steve Jobs was followed quite closely by the press. They recorded his every word in the hopes that what he said would provide inspiration for business leaders everywhere. One of his more famous quotes was “…we do no market research…”
As a product manager who spend our time working on our product development definition, this can be a very confusing statement to hear. We all know just exactly how successful Steve’s company, Apple, has been with its products. Does this mean that if we are spending time doing market research for our products, we’ve been wasting our time?
The real point of what Steve was trying to tell product managers is that yes, with a little research we can discover marketing tools and product management processes that we can follow for our product. However, we can never let these processes keep us from achieving the goals that we’ve established for our products. If we find that some rule or some process is preventing us from getting to where we know we need to be, then we need to break that rule and make sure that our product reaches the goal that we’ve set for it. Do this correctly and you’ll have something new to add to your product manager resume.
Know Your Customer Better Than Anyone Else Does
Anybody can create a product. It’s the successful product managers who create a product that meets a customer need that they may not have even known that they had. This is one of the things that Steve Jobs taught Apple to do better than any of their competitors: know their customer.
As product managers we need to take the time to know our customers. What this means is that you need to create buyer personas and when you are creating a product or a feature, you need to make sure that you are meeting the needs of that persona.
Something that Steve taught all of us is that all too often our customers actually don’t know what they want. This means that as a product manager you can’t go ask them “What is the next big thing that my company can create for you?” Instead, you need to go interpret the market data that you are able to collect and understand your customer’s true underlying needs.
What Does All Of This Mean For You
Steve Jobs changed the world. His drive and determination caused a number of different products to be created that have influenced all of our lives. Product managers today can learn from what Steve did and from the advice that he left for all of us.
Steve believed that rules were made to be broken. However, it’s important to understand what he really meant by that. What Steve was trying to tell us is that it is most important that we are able to achieve our product goals. If the process or product marketing methodology that we are using is keeping us from doing that, then what we need to do is to break down the walls of that process and achieve our goals. Additionally, Steve was a big believer in knowing your customer so well that you would be able to understand what kind of product they wanted.
Steve is gone now and so we won’t be getting any more advice from him. However, if we take the time to study what he told us before he left, we can learn a lot about what it takes to create a successful product even if it’s not contained in your product manager job description. Understand his message and implement what he’s telling us to do and just maybe your product will become as successful as his products did!
Question For You: If your product management process is holding you back, do you think that you need to ask permission to break the rules?
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