Wartime Product Manager’s Reading List

Mirela Mus
Mar 29, 2020 · 3 min read

Let’s face it. Disneyland is over. Budgets were cut, hirings were frozen and layoffs news is a daily occurrence. This is what wartime looks like. And here are a few suggestions that can help you through:

1. Embrace the Suck

  • ‘The Hard Things about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers’ by Ben Horowitz (304 pages book). The Co-founder of a16z and Opsware (acquired by HP) is brutally honest about how hard it is to run a startup. Has examples of taking, incredibly complex strategic decisions with extremely limited information, managing culture, team morale and your own phycology in a crazy stressful environment.
  • ‘The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture’ by Scott Belsky (413 pages book). The current Chief Product Officer at Adobe shares war stories and product principles from running Behance through their acquisition by Adobe.

2. Hone Your Persuasion Skills

  • ‘Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It’ by Chris Voss (274 pages book). Former FBI hostage negotiator shows tactics to collect information, mirror the opponent, label emotions, build an accusation list and most importantly, start at No to avoid a fake Yes.
  • ‘Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving’ by Barbara Minto (254 pages book). The creator of the MECE (Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive) grouping principle published this in the ’80s. Most tips hold true. Start with your conclusion. Shape the around four key areas, in sequence: situation, complication, question, answer.

3. Sharpen Your Product Strategy

  • ‘Competing against luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice’ by Clayton Christensen (288 pages book). The “father of disruptive theory” details the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) approach. Customers don’t buy products or services; they “hire” them to do a job. Competitive advantage comes from processes and how organizations integrate across functions to perform the customer’s job.
  • ‘Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts’ by Annie Duke (288 pages book) World Series Poker Tournament winner states that life is a poker game where luck and hidden information play a big factor. Detach decision quality from outcome to avoid “resulting” and hindsight bias. Try confidence intervals instead of right/wrong.

4. Understand the Big Picture

  • ‘The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine’ by Michael Lewis (368 pages book). Tells the story of four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse and got rich. It’s funny and shows there is no substitute for doing the hard work of gathering and analyzing data. The film adaptation by Adam McKay featuring Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling is also amazing.
  • ‘Technological Revolution and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles’ and Golden Ages by Carlota Pérez (224 pages book). The professor traces five boom-and-bust cycles of innovation from the industrial revolution to information technology. Each includes a period of frenetic investment culminating in a financial bust. And bring social-economic transformations in society.

5. Stay Sane

  • ‘Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep’ by Matthew Walker Ph.D. (368 pages book). The director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem-solving, decision-making, learning, memory, heart health, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system, and even your life span. — Bill Gates
  • ‘How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy’ by Jenny Odell (240 pages book). The technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and products to be monetized taking away our ability to reflect and think deeply. Silicon Valley artist introduces the refuse/resist in place concept, an alternative to the digital detox.

Title inspired by the Peacetime CEO/Wartime CEO article. Here’s a link to all the books. If you lack time, take the first recommendation from each section.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel. And join the next Product People meetup for inspiring stories from Product Managers from around the world!

Speaker Logos

Product People

Good companies manage engineering. Great companies manage product.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store