Last year, I decided to be more proactive about working on becoming a better product manager - I acutally carved out some time to learn about the skills that would allow me to have a bigger positive impact on the customers of projects that I am building. I’ve spent a significant amount of time reading through various books that tackled topics from customer empathy, innovation to practices on improving collaboration with my team and partners. There were three that stood out as reads that I would recommend you start your year with.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
I would definitely start with this book - it emphasizes one of the core skills I strongly believe a PM needs to master, and that is focus. This is something that is very hard to build, and as you read through the book, you realize that you are not as focused as you might think you are. PMs often get randomized with a million things throughout the day, and what will really set you up for impact is your ability to work on just the important things, uninterrupted and with a deep understanding of the underlying problems you are trying to tackle. To me, the read was a bit of a wake up call on how to structure my life better to make sure that I stay the most productive through the hours when I am awake. A big chunk of the book might seem like common sense, however in also tackles practical ways in which deep work approaches can be tackled on the daily.
Really, the favorite read of the year.
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
Innovation requires inherent understanding of how the desire to pursue it propagates through an organization. This book shines a light on what characterizes organizations that innovate quickly and are able to break the silo of maintaning just the existing profitable products. A lot of the examples given are using somewhat outdated analogies that might not be familiar at first, however the core ideas are just as applicable today as they were back in the day. What this taught me is that incubation is hard, but possible.
Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail
The book outlines many of the difficult truths that are not always obvious to PMs - the pace of innovation is not as fast as it will become really soon. The acceleration in this field is bound to leave a lot of products behind unless PMs re-adjust some of the practices and approaches to solving customer problems. It also pinpoints some of the issues that are prevalent today with organizations that are not exponential - issues that will impact long-term ability to scale and evolve. A mix of analysis and practical advice to get you excited about building products by closely aligning with customer needs and building exponential leader qualities.
I’ve set a goal to read even more through this year, and I am sure there will be more recommendations to share in 2020 - stay tuned!