Passion can move mountains. Over the years, the most passionate people are the ones who made any impact in this world. How do you think the pyramids, the colosseum, and the Taj Mahal were built?
Some of the greatest product creators were passionate about the problem they were solving and the solutions they had to offer. Look at the 1st gen iPhone, Ford Model T, Google search, Uber, or Office. Some of these products touch billions of users and most make billions of dollars. Do we think any of these products were built without passion?
Magic happens when passion meets strategic thinking and execution finesse.
The world needs passionate product leaders who are able to solve planetary scale problems and add value to the lives of millions and billions of users.
However, passion can be the Achilles heel for a product manager. Read on…
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My product is my baby.
Imagine you are a product owner that had an idea. You did months of research to convince all relevant stakeholders to invest in your idea. You burnt mid-night oil to align all the stakeholders. You worked with customers to understand their most nuanced problem and built the product specs, features, & user experiences etc. You worked with sales, marketing, and legal to finalize the go to market strategy, the marketing collateral, the terms of condition, privacy statements, the legal requirements etc. And when you released the product, the users used it & loved it and the customers paid for it. You sowed the seeds, provided the water, shed, sunlight, and nutrition. And now the product starts taking some shape. With all this toil, it is obvious to fall in love with this journey and its destination. You start feeling that your product is your baby. You get emotionally attached to this baby.
Product Managers often get attached to their product and feature and start considering it as something very close to them.
Your baby is a menace.
Imagine, I am a neighbor who often bumps into you, but I have never bothered to wish you when we cross each other’s path. I am practically a no body for you. But, one fine day I ring your doorbell to complain about how your child behaves. I have all sorts of advice for you to invest in your child and be a better parent. What would be your reaction?
Your product is a menace.
Imagine, I am an engineer who often bumps into you, but I have never bothered to wish you when we cross each other’s path. I am practically a no body for you. But one fine day I send you a message complaining about how your product works. I have all sorts of advice for you to invest in your product and make it better. What would be your reaction?
When I started my career as a product manager, I would almost get offended when anyone would criticize my feature. I always said to myself that PMs are like crafts person who spend many months to carefully create a masterpiece. How can you tell an artist that his art piece is not good enough? It was not just work. There were emotions attached with it. My product was my passion, it was an obsession.
Passion != Obsession
The passion with which you build your product may result in an emotional attachment with the product. As hard as it may sound, I am sorry to say but your product is not your baby.
There are several side effects of those who get confused between passion and obsession.
- You will start looking at your product through your own lenses.
- You will start looking for feedback that corroborates your feelings for your product.
- You will be longing to hear accolades before criticism.
- You will gravitate to only those users who love your product.
- Even when customers provide you with feedback to improve your product, you may end up blaming the customer for not knowing how to use it.
Yes, this also happens. A lot!!
4. Even worse!! You will not know when to get detached with your product. A lot of executives keep funding “an already” dead product, not realizing when their passion for the product became an obsession.
A lot of CEOs are not able to terminate, poorly performing products despite clear signals from users.
So, what do we do?
As hard as it may sound, it is remarkably easy to not get biased. You need to BARE it all to break this bias.
- Balance: Keep a balanced ear to listen to your users who love your product and those who may be critical.
- Acknowledge that you may be biased.
- Reflect to improve when you may exhibit this behavior.
- Engage with a variety of your customers regularly.
- Document: all the feedback and look for patterns.
The battle is half won with just the acknowledgement, reflection, and engagement.
To conclude, it is good to be passionate about a product however we should not mix passion & obsession. Look at your product from a rational standpoint and stop treating your product like your baby.
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