How Can We Become More Creative Product Managers?
What is creativity, and how can it be expressed in the role of product management?
There are many definitions in the literature about what creativity is, but there are two common characteristics: creativity is to produce something new and beneficial.
It is not as trivial as it sounds; a creative action must meet these two requirements to be considered innovative. Not everything new is creative; instead, it needs to meet the requirement of being beneficial. Here I find the connection point to the product management role.
The product manager is responsible for defining the problem and thinking of a solution that benefits the user every iteration.
For example, to think regarding something that the product’s competitors have not done yet or the market has not yet reached, and on the other hand, achieve something that the product’s users need, and it is beneficial for them.
Creativity affects many aspects of our lives. The idea is to learn the basics common to all areas and then define how to apply its principles to reach the product’s goals and metrics. As product managers, we are required, on the one hand, to be very creative and think about the next step and, on the other hand, to do it within a framework with explicit rules. For example, operate according to the organization’s norms, regulatory restrictions, product constraints for a particular segment in the market, and more. The challenge is to identify those rules and make sure we do not assume much more restrictions. Once we know what the rules are, we can start developing our creativity in various ways.
Our brain is lazy, and it will do anything not to strain. Therefore working within a rigid set of rules can bring us to fixation rather than creativity. For example, instead of researching something new, to search for a familiar and well-known solution that someone else has already done, inside or outside the organization. As product managers, you need to be aware of this issue when faced with a new problem. Because the challenge is how to make an effort and not go back to the old familiar solutions that are routinely familiar to us, I will expand on this in the next section.
An example of managing a brainstorming process creatively
Performing brainstorming in a work session is a common and accepted action to hear different opinions to make decisions. In most cases, there are 2–3 people who are more dominant and talk a lot, and there are 1–2 people who do not share their opinions at all. Is it possible to upgrade the way we brainstorm? And make it more creative? The answer is yes.
Divergent thinking- the divergent thinking process is performed as follows:
- The product manager defines the problem and gives paper pages to all room participants.
- The meeting participants write their suggestions for solutions on a page for ten minutes, without discussion or consultations.
- Stick all the papers (=ideas) on the board and gathering together the same views.
- The participants read all and mark in V ideas they like.
As a result, after ten minutes, the amount of ideas to start the brainstorming is more significant and varied.
Convergent thinking - convergent thinking focuses on filtering the ideas and choosing about five ideas that received the most votes, and these ideas should be discussed. Practically, we produce a practical agenda to analyze several ideas that most of the group agreed with. As a group, we are now developing solutions to a problem and expressing all team members’ opinions.
Day-to-day creativity of product managers
Understanding the question is 90% of the solution
Because only when the PM understood the problem can meaningful solutions be offered.
- Investigate in-depth to understand the user’s need: what is this need? For what reasons does the user need it? Why does he use it?
- Learn how competitors handle the same problem.
- Examine how other teams within the organization answered the same problem.
Think bigger and scale-up
When the product manager approaches a problem, the creative way is to think about how I would deal with the problem if it were 100 times bigger? For example, 100 times customers, 100 times transactions, and more. Think about an issue that is larger than it makes us think creatively. In many cases, the solution that fits a larger scale is much better than the answer we would have characterized without that thinking way.
The first to fail is the first to succeed
Once there is an idea for the solution, the product manager must validate the idea and the solution. Ask for feedback from colleagues, company stakeholders, and release it to the market. Every remark received is a new point of view that the product manager did not have before. A product manager who learns from mistakes, embraces opportunities and adjusts the product delivers a much more successful and user-oriented product.
In conclusion, our world is very dynamic, complex, and challenging. A new idea that the product manager conceives meets the customers, competitors, and users. A creative product manager can produce something unique and valuable to the user and the organization within a set of rules and data limitations.
Written by Maayan Galperin