My product managers litmus test
Undeniably, there isn’t a single quality or trait that identifies aptitude for product development and innovation. But if you had to pick just one thing that differentiates great product managers from the rest of the pack…
When I was at ChronoTrack, there was one co-founder that spent every waking hour for over a year going race to race, meeting with our customers, learning about their business and struggles, walking in their shoes. He helped set up the equipment and score the races. He showed up rain, sleet, or snow, summer or winter. I thought he was crazy. He was determined to learn the problem. We all contributed in our ways, but I’d argue that act alone was by far the most important contribution to our progress. If you can attribute our success to one thing, it would be his understanding of customer struggle. He was one of the most intelligent people I know, but he was humble enough to know what he didn’t know and to do whatever it takes to learn it. I learned so much from him.
Recently, while researching a new opportunity at Tweddle, we met a business owner who agreed to meet us and let us learn about his business. A product manager and I jumped at the opportunity. We flew down to meet him, got in his truck, and rode around for two days in 90+ degree weather, air-conditioning barely functional while absorbing everything we could. This experience armed us with the knowledge that no amount of surveys, reading, or analytics would have given us. This activity isn’t isolated to a single event; it’s ongoing. You’ll never build a great product unless you develop a deep intuition for your customers.
So from now on, if there is ever a single question I’d ask myself to gauge a product manager’s aptitude, it’s: Is this person humble and thirsty enough to get out of their comfort zone to develop an intuition for the customers and their struggles?