The psychology of Product Ideas
There are most certainly, several ideas that are born in the mind of a Product Manager every day; ideas ranging from tweaking a function of the product, to changing the fundamental design philosophy/user experience that the whole product organization banked upon till then. But just as Darwin’s theory of evolution holds true to us, the brain picks up only the most promising idea. One might argue that the value of an idea lies in the mind of the beholder. I agree and humbly submit myself to this thought. Since I endorse this ideology of collective comparative value of ideas (which I’ll talk about), I strongly believe that it takes a certain demeanor to recognize and nourish an idea.
I would say the role of a product manager is juxtaposed as both simple and complex. Simple, because at the outset, JDs of a Product Role define it synonymous to that of CEO for the Product. But is the role of a CEO simple and easy to define? A more structured way to look at what a Product Manager does is to refer to the Product Life cycle. What charts in the life cycle is what the Product Manager does in an organization. But I reiterate, the life cycle only offers reference points towards defining the responsibilities of the Product Manager.
Given the dynamic, multiple iteration based life cycle environment of products, a Product Manager must constantly look within and out for making product enhancements. There are multiple ways to seek inspiration;
It could be an idea that passed the Darwin’s theory of evolution
Continual customer feedback or simply,
Observing the competition/market trends.
While it is true that these ways usually work in tandem, I see a very close interconnection between inspiration from an idea and observation of the market. Some might differ that ignorance of market trends is a bliss in cases particularly related to breakthrough, market defining, experimental products. Here is what I believe, applies to most day to day cases; only an informed mind can generate ideas that are worth pursuing. It is only through conscious effort of feeding information to the mind, that the mind can structure, sequence and process these feeds into actionable ideas. An evolved Product Manager is a product of evolved thinking. Their ability to produce ideas that impact the future of their products can be both nurtured and unleashed.
After establishing my thoughts on idea generation, comes the inevitable war of validation, where the variables in the victory equation of the Product Manager are the number of idea tweaks and stakeholder blessings accrued, while retaining the uniqueness of the idea. The shackling and rebuilding of the original idea happens, every time it passes through the internal stakeholders of a product organization. For example, the fellow product managers of the product must collectively agree to the impact the idea creates. The engineering teams, operations, marketing, sales, UX teams and ultimately the end user will all be a part of this iterative process of refinement. For every obstacle or challenge posed by a stakeholder team, a workaround will have to be generated. And finally, the collective comparative value of the idea; the result of all the intricate alterations and acceptance from all the stakeholders must be greater than the initial potential value arrived at, in the mind of the product manager. Only then, the idea is realized into an enhancement to the product. While this is a grueling process, it tests the very fundamental eligibility of someone to the role of a product manager.
The ideas and intentions of a visionary has always been questioned, and history is its proof. The success of Product Managers depends not only on their ability to perform their complex activities efficiently, but also in evolving themselves into Product Owners and eventually transform to become leaders.