Product managers need many different skills to succeed. However, five key skills all product managers need to excel at are writing, market research, creative thinking, storytelling, and critical thinking. This blog discusses these five skills and provides some great resources to help build your skills. When you become a lifelong learner, you will have a great time changing yourself, your organization and community.
Communicating with team members, vendors, customers, etc., is an ongoing part of product management. It is one thing to text your friends and not worry about sentence structure, grammar, or spelling. It is another thing when you are writing an email to your team, developing a business plan, or creating product training – your writing is what will empower your message.
A few simple rules to remember are: use the active voice (not passive), keep sentences and paragraphs short, avoid adverbs, and practice every day. Yes, practice every day. Writing is a skill and like any other skill it gets better with daily practice. The following books will make you a much better writer.
On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (http://amzn.to/2D4iH1U)
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (http://amzn.to/2D7sc0g)
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley (http://amzn.to/2D34xNV)
How do you develop the best product in its class? You get out of the office and talk to customers. You interview retail store owners, your customers, and your competitor customers. You create questionnaires, gather data, and use statistics to understand what the data is communicating. Sitting in an office all day and staring at spreadsheets or creating PowerPoint presentations is a big part of the job.
However, the only way to beat your competitors and excite your customers is to understand what customers want, how they use the products, and their pain points. The way to do this is interact with them and learn first-hand. Learning the intricacies of market research is a powerful tool that keeps giving. Check out the following books to improve your skills.
The Complete Guide to Writing Questionnaires: How to Get Better Information for Better Decisions by David F. Harris (http://amzn.to/2CYshPR)
Marketing Research Essentials (6th ed) by Carl McDaniel and Roger Gates (http://amzn.to/2D64PU1)
You have to continuously develop new ideas. Tattoo the Japanese term kaizen, meaning continuous improvement, in your memory. The only way to improve yourself, your products, current processes, or solve problems is developing new creative ideas. The best way to develop creative ideas is with a structured and disciplined approach.
Using creative thinking tools such as SCAMPER, random word, or biomimicry avoids wasting time “brainstorming” or haphazardly thinking of new things. It sounds counterintuitive, but the best ideas are developed with a structured process, tool, or technique. Read the following books to improve your skills.
Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko (http://amzn.to/2DnNIe2)
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward de Bono (http://amzn.to/2CV4HDw)
How do you get a new product concept approved from executives? How do you convince salespeople the new product is exceptional and will beat the competition? The best way to build a movement is exciting people. And the best way to excite people is with a compelling story.
Creating a compelling story is not easy. It takes practice and a lot of work. Impart visuals, video, audio, and other tools to pull your audience into the story. Video customer testimonials and share the feedback with co-workers. The following books will help build this skill.
The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam (http://amzn.to/2DrdCh5)
Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (http://amzn.to/2EBxDAY)
Critical thinking is something everyone needs to be good at, but most of us have never formally learned critical thinking. If your advertising agency tells you the new TV ad concept will improve brand awareness by 64%, you better ask how this will happen. How do they know this? Where is the data? How did they collect the data?
Critical thinking is putting your skeptic hat on and dissecting what someone is telling you. It is not about attacking someone or their argument, it is pausing, stepping back, and asking questions to ensure nothing is missed. In this age of fake news and the allure of Big Data, critical thinking is vital to ensure the best decisions are being made. The following are a few excellent books to reference.
A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston (http://amzn.to/2Ft35Tj)
Critical Thinking for Marketers (Volumes I and II) by Terry Grapentine and David Dwight (http://amzn.to/2FvUNdt)