Are you an Apple-like or Google-like Product Manager

After many years of building products and companies, and working in different sizes and shapes of companies I observed that there is a wide spectrum of customer-centric approaches.

Note- this is simplistic on purpose, I do not recommend not asking customers what they need or gather feedback and I don’t think this is what apple does :)

I see Google and apple (mainly Steve Jobs’ Apple) at the opposite sides of this spectrum:

Steve Jobs was constantly innovating, He understood his customers so well that he knew what they needed without even asking (who would have answered “I need a smartphone” before they released it in 2007?)

Google is one of the greatest engineering companies ever created. Their approach to scalability and the quality of their engineers is incredible. Take Google Analytics as an example- you can pretty much do anything you want, slice and dice however you like and you still get results back in seconds.

As you can see, there’s no right or wrong approach here: you can build amazing products and companies with either.

But, once you understand where you stand along that spectrum, you have to know what are the implications and things to be aware of:

  • Customer-needs mapping: if you are Apple-like PM, you have to be the best at deeply understanding your customers and know their pains. You have to be an expert in psychology and understand what customers need and not what they tell you that they want. If you are Google-like product manager, you have to listen and map all the things that they need and then think about how to turn complex spec into a simple product
  • Industry expertise: while it’s always a good idea to be an expert in your industry, it become even more critical when you’re an apple-like PM- when you come up with solution to the deep needs of customers, you want to make sure they do not exist, that they will get adopted (how they interact with other solutions or alternative solutions) and that you can make money
  • Collateral: Google-like PM would need to come up with ways to simplify usage and convey all the options in the product. Apple-like PM would need to bridge the gap for others that might not see instantly why this feature is genius and satisfy customer needs. Much more education would be needed for that

Would love to hear about more implications that you see in your day-to-day, and I welcome people commenting if they think I got it completely wrong.