🗞️ Issue #8: The Alternative PM "Reading List"
Or how I get most of my Product learnings from a show called Battle Bots 🤖
Hola friends 👋
Here’s a few things I’m confessing.
I haven’t been able to finish any of Marty Cagan nor Nir Eyal’s books (or similar).
I haven’t finished any of the Lean <insert topic here> books.
I haven’t gotten past Chapter 1 of any books about Jobs to be done, Roadmaps, Organization structure, etc.
Not that they’re bad books. Most, if not all, of my peers highly recommend these titles and more. And I bet that if I actually got through any of them, I probably would be a better Product Manager than I am now. 😂 I actually have them in my bookshelf gathering dust.
But in the spirit of learning and iterating, I learned that I just don’t have the attention span for these kinds of books. For various, very personal, reasons - but most especially:
Reading, for me, is a leisure activity. It’s a way for me to disconnect from reality, like work. So if I read anything that is related to work - my brain goes on an all-out revolt.
It’s like my brain automatically shuts down the moment it realizes that we’re learning about Product Development. 😅
And I’m sharing this confession now because I’ve seen people get sheepish when they admit that they’ve also been unable to finish any of Marty Cagan books. Or get shocked when I tell them I have no Product Management book to recommend (not for a lack of trying though).
So what do I “read” to stay up to date, get inspiration, review what I know?
Discussions on Twitter and other Tech communities online
Twitter - Product and Tech twitter can actually be a good place to learn. I follow thought leaders on Twitter like Melissa Perri, John Cutler, Julie Zhuo, and other real life, practicing Product Leaders in organizations that I’ve always admired.
And it’s fantastic because I get bite sized knowledge that’s perfect for my attention span. By the time my brain realizes that I’m reading something about Product Management, I’ve already moved on to the next twitter thread.
I also get exposed to people’s opinions that are outside of my echo chamber. Like people who do not like Teresa Torres’s approach to continuous discovery, people who think OKRs is a sham, or people who think that crypto is the next pyramid scheme. And by people, I also mean not just Product Managers.
There’s also a lot of really relevant discussions for teams who build products that go beyond building products.
Community discussions - I’m part of several Product communities on Slack, Facebook, and Reddit. And I really like the threaded discussion approach that people usually take (just like Twitter but with more character allowance). Discussion threads usually start with somebody asking a question. Something I really appreciate, because then I can easily decide if the question is relevant for me. If it is, then I read on. If not, then I move on instead.
Auto/Biographies - I like books that are about a person’s journey to success or failure, or even self-discovery. Mostly because I find it easier to reflect on something when I understand what the person has been through, their struggles, their learnings, and their impact on other people.
They may be a politician, a wronged popstar, or even a “from rags to riches” entrepreneur. Different people with different context - but their stories will always have something similar:
An objective to be achieved
A problem to solve
Ideas that may or may not work
A measure for success
And hundreds of learnings in every page
Not so different from when we try to build products with our teams, right? What makes these stories even more relatable for me is the drama! There is always conflict. Whether it’s internal or external - there’s always a something or somebody that makes it impossible for success to be straight forward. Translate it to our context as Product builders, I guess you can call those conflicts stakeholders, corporate politics, or even team dynamics. 😉
The best part? They’re not only relatable to my job and role as a Product Managers, they’re also easily relatable to the process of Product development itself. And even most important, for me, these stories are relatable to my own career aspirations.
Hillary Clinton’s What Happened is probably one of my favourites mostly because it was a story of failure. Or as we, Product people, like to call it, it was a story of learning.
Reality TV contests. The ultimate being BattleBots! Ru Paul’s Drag Race is a super close second.
What better way to learn about problem solving, innovation, iteration, confidence, understanding the “market”, leadership, and probably 10 million other things than from people who have to do it in real time!
And probably the best, and most important, lesson these shows can ever teach us Product people is that:
“At the end of the day, you can only do your best based on what you can do and what resources are available to you. If it works, then great. If it doesn’t, then make sure you understand why. Because you have to learn from it. But always, always, always - it should be fun.”
If you can devour all of Marty Cagan’s books and the entire Lean-series and you are able to actually apply what you’ve learned in real life - then Kudos to you!! 🎉
But if you’re like me and you can’t go through these books, that is perfectly alright. Trust me you’re not missing out on anything that somebody who has read the book from cover to cover, cannot eagerly tell you if you ask nicely. 😉
Find your alternatives. If it’s not Twitter, Reddit, and other kind of books, maybe Podcasts, Twitter Spaces, and Youtube videos are more your thing. It could also be Wes Anderson or Greta Gerwig movies because beautiful images can always spark inspiration.
Now the most important question really is - how are you making use of all those learnings you’ve ingested from the things you’ve read, listened to, or watched?
If you’re not putting any of those learnings into practice (ideally an experiment), then what was the point?
And that’s where the real FOMO should be.
Got questions, feedback, violent reactions? Or other tips for people managers freaking out over their new roles? Leave them in the comments below👇
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