The Other Side of Innovators

This article is written for beginners who are preparing to enter the product manager position. Perhaps you have already read many articles discussing the good aspects of the product manager position, such as “Product managers are future CEOs”; “You can truly master the skills of innovation”; “You can help many people through new products” and so on. But this article is not about that. It’s about the other side of the product manager position, the stories that are usually not told to beginners…

Although you have heard the names of Steve Jobs, Lei Jun, Zhang Xiaolong and others, in fact, product manager is not a heroic position. Most product managers do not stand in the spotlight. Because we are generally a position that relies on teamwork to win.

Today is no longer an era where artistic masterpieces can be created solely by whimsy or exquisite craftsmanship. All excellent products rely on an excellent product team behind them. The core task of a product manager is to build an excellent product team. Only with an excellent team can there be a chance to create excellent products.

And a large body of research shows that teams that can create excellent products are usually cross-functional teams. That is, team members have different professional fields and even diverse backgrounds. Merging these people with different backgrounds and thinking patterns into a high-performance team that can think and learn together is no easy task.

Therefore, many times, the product manager is often not the most dazzling person in the team. You are not the most powerful, not the most technical, not the most fashionable dresser, and sometimes even for the sake of team integration, you will give up some things that you originally deserved. You are not the one who wins awards at annual meetings, you are not the highest paid.

You have to accept that you don’t seem very important, especially when you’re doing your job very well. A car people see its cool shape strong handling comfortable backrest wear-resistant tires but few people open the hood to see how the engine works People only open the hood when the vehicle breaks down.

If your work fails people will know immediately But if you succeed glory belongs to the team Many times your excellence will only be slowly noticed by others after you leave But unfortunately the better your previous work was the later they will notice Even people have forgotten about you.

But even if you really become an excellent product manager you still have to live with chance A product’s success is a combination of internal and external factors including market team technology resources etc Any missing link can lead to failure Even if you’ve done your best you still have to face failure And this failure will be far more than what you originally prepared for.

We are a stressful position because we often face failure and often even face times when we can’t see any hope at all Jinshan’s WPS was China’s most commonly used word processor in the DOS era but its competitors quickly occupied market space by indulging in piracy Lei Jun recalls being very embarrassed at the time and almost giving up.

On how to compete with giant companies Lei Jun said First don’t be afraid If you don’t try you may lose from the start After trying these opponents are still incredibly strong but there is still some chance Lei Jun’s persistence paid off Jinshan and WPS not only survived but eventually went public successfully.

As innovators we bear pressure from all sides not only from competitors but also from customers as well as your superiors team stakeholders etc Many times there is only one winner in the market this is a competition of speed.

Therefore what we do is definitely not a leisurely job You often find that your working hours are not fixed You may need to drift between different cities In addition you will find that you have to spend a lot of time learning every day not just now In fact we are a lifelong learning position.

Although our job title has the words product manager in it you may find yourself often guest starring as project manager designer developer sales user researcher even running errands pouring tea cleaning up garbage etc Product managers wear many hats whether your original personality is extroverted or introverted In short you will have to do many things that go against your original personality.

Especially in the early days when you were still a product assistant or junior product manager We are often called mushrooms in corners growing unnoticed in dark corners without sunlight no one cares about our growth doing odd jobs all day feeling completely self-destructive We often receive unwarranted criticism accusations even taking blame for others like being covered with a bucket of shit.

This is what we must tell you before entering into product management.

In economics, costs that have occurred in the past but are irrelevant to current decision-making, including time, money, energy, etc., are called “sunk costs.” Good managers consider future potential costs and benefits when making decisions, rather than considering past “sunk costs.”

Therefore, if these are unacceptable to you, you can choose to stop here. Because past investments are just “sunk costs.”

But if you still want to become a product manager – through hard learning, mastering professional knowledge, skills and methods, so that you can create unprecedented new products with your team and use new products to change the world…

Congratulations, you are one of us!

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