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Though I’m an editor by training, I spent several years managing new products and services for a previous employer in the publishing business who saw fit to put their trust in my relatively naive hands. While my product team had some legitimate successes, I suspect that most of them came about in spite of my management than rather than due to it. It certainly would have done me good to have spent time with resources such as these.

Prototype to Product

by Alan Cohen

I am particularly drawn — as I expect many readers to be — to Cohen’s “11 Deadly Sins of Product Development.” Among them is this powerful pair:

Assuming That We Know What Users Want in a Product: “It’s pretty typical for product designers/developers to assume that we know which product features are needed to make the average customer happy, ” Cohen writes. “After all, I know what I want – could other people want something so much different”?

Assuming That Users Know What They Want in a Product: “Well, if we techies don’t know what typical users want, surely we can just ask them what they want – they should know, right?” the author asks rhetorically. “Sadly, it turns out that users often don’t know what they want – they only know what they think they want.”

And who among us has not sinned in such fashion? I know that I have.

The Product Manager’s Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed as a Product Manager

by Steven Haines

It’s amazing to me how little some product managers seem know about the products they manage. I’m not talking about core features and functionality but rather the product’s context and relevance: why people buy it; how they actually use it. As Haines notes, “If you’re a product manager or product leader, the last thing you’d want is to be thought of as a product person who doesn’t ‘get’ their end customers or doesn’t know how their product should work or perform.”

He continues, “No matter what your position or starting point is, you need to learn about your product’s … client or customer… ASAP. (And)… you must know how each and every function in the business brings the product to life and sustains it across the entire life cycle.”

Good Products, Bad Products

by James Adams

“This is a book on quality,” writes the emeritus Stanford engineering professor in his opening. “It focuses on products of technology and industry and argues that in the long term, the best products prevail, positively affecting and advancing the individuals, organizations, and nations that produce and use them as well as the human race as a whole. If we produce things that do not serve us well, they will fail in the marketplace.”

This book is both inspirational and, in its own way, quite practical. Thought not steeped with traditional how-tos, it is a smart guide to wrestling with the range of critical — and difficult — choices we face in creating and managing products. Adams’ blog is well worth following as well.


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