The Product Mindset

Five product management mantras that every company should adopt.

Level Studios
Jun 7, 2016 · 3 min read

Product management is a practice. And its practitioners come from a wide variety of industry backgrounds with experience in multiple disciplines (project manager, designer, developer, user experience, strategist, marketing manager, etc.). It’s this variety of experience that creates a specific mindset; a level of curiosity, empathy, and critical thinking across multiple disciplines and industries.

It’s this mindset that allows product managers to swim upstream on strategy and downstream to execution; to understand, synthesize, and craft the potential from various sources into actual products and services that customers love.

Keep in mind, that the product mindset is not reserved exclusively for product managers.

Agency account teams that adopt a product mindset bring even more value to clients; often finding opportunity for growth along the way. Marketing teams can (and should) bring a product mindset approach to every customer touch point, making each interaction a chance to create brand loyalty and get feedback.

If you’re ready to get started, here are 5 product management mantras to guide your way:

1. Deliver Value, Not Features

Business value and user value are interdependent. Having empathy for each delivers superior value to both. And that value is not measured in the number of features in a product, but in how simply those features solve a problem. It’s very similar to golf — you’re rewarded by doing less, more accurately.

2. Good is the Enemy of Great

Borrowed from Jim Collins — great companies (and I argue great products) become great because they don’t settle for being good. Don’t get comfortable with good. Recognize that greatness takes longer, and plan for it. Yes, even your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) needs to be your first pass at great. Remember this illustration:

3. Silence is not Success

Silence just means you haven’t engineered the right mechanisms for actionable feedback. Good product management begins with tracking the right usage KPIs (not self-validating metrics) and building feedback loops so that you can hear what the market is telling you about your product.

4. Adapt

It’s a little trite, but the only constant in product management is change. Successful products adapt to market forces, and successful product managers embrace change as part of the process. Agile isn’t just a software development methodology, it’s a core tenet of a product mindset.

5. Launch is Day One

Long-term customer engagement and loyalty come from a platform approach that continuously delivers an exchange of value between a company and its customer. A product mindset thinks iteratively and understands that customer touch points that evolve after launch are more valuable than the launch itself (sometimes wildly so).

Outcomes of a Product Mindset:

Adopting a product mindset across disciplines helps companies create products and services that:

  • Provide overwhelming customer value.
  • Build a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • Deliver financial benefit to the business.
  • Delight customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways (thanks to Gibson Biddle for this line!).

In today’s market, every company is a technology company, regardless of the product or service it provides. Adopting a product mindset across company disciplines is essential to identifying the right vision and executing a strategy that balances the needs of business with the needs of customers.

Smith Forte is Vice President of Digital Product Management at Level, a purpose-driven digital design firm.

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