It’s easy to feel enthusiastic during a product brainstorming session or a kickoff meeting. Those are among the few moments in a development cycle when everything seems possible. New ideas come faster than anyone can jot them down and the team gets to feel — however briefly — as though they are about to build something that’s perfect.
But then, inevitably, reality sets in. Which is why it’s not easy being a product manager.
As your product’s chief advocate, you will need to do everything in your power to maintain your enthusiasm, day after day, long after that kickoff meeting. You’ll need to keep your thoughts positive and your energy levels high throughout the entire development process, often in the face of what will seem like a never-ending series of challenges, demands, debates, and setbacks.
That’s the reason for the famous saying, “If product management were easy, everybody could do it.” (Okay, that’s not actually a saying. But it should be.)
5 Must-See Videos for Product Managers #ProductInspiration
Of course, even if everything were to go smoothly throughout every stage of your product’s development — which will never happen, by the way — you’d still face those moments when you need a boost of inspiration to stay positive.
For moments like those, here are five inspirational videos for product managers.
Note: These aren’t all speeches specific to product management or to the work of bringing products to market. They’re about doing great work, finding what inspires you, inspiring others, and pushing through the difficult times in any endeavor. Some of these videos will offer you unique insights into building products; others will serve more as the digital equivalent of a RedBull. But we think you’ll find some value in each.
Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
This wildly successful TED Talk offers a single insight that turns product development on its head. Simon Sinek argues that while average companies start with what, the most innovative and successful companies start by answering a different question — why?
Sinek defines a hierarchy of principles that guide all businesses, in the form of the questions they ask themselves and the answers they give to the public through their marketing. In Sinek’s view, these questions — what, how and why — form a “golden circle,” a series of concentric circles with what in the outermost ring, how one ring closer to the center, and finally why in the middle, the most important principle.
As Sinek explains, most companies think and work from the outside in. They know what they make, and they may even know how they make it differently — their key differentiators or their unique selling proposition (USP). But they rarely get to the why.
The truly innovative thinkers (Sinek uses Apple as just one example) think from the inside of this golden circle, and only then — after they’ve determined their why — do they worry about the how, and ultimately, the what. These innovators start by asking questions like, Why is this going to be a great product? Why are we doing it this way? Why will the world care?
As Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
Great video. Well worth the 18 minutes.
Seth Godin: This is Broken
This laugh-out-loud funny TED Talk from marketing guru Seth Godin approaches the topic of developing great products from an interesting angle. Godin describes seven ways that products and processes are broken — they’re illogical, they’re a mismatch for their target audience, they’re more work than they’re worth, etc.
He also uses imagery brilliantly to illustrate his points. (The nonsensical messages in some of the real-world signs he’s photographed will make you laugh, guaranteed.)
I don’t want to steal Godin’s considerable thunder, so I won’t go into much detail about the explanations he gives for why so many products and processes are broken. (To give you some idea, though, “Not My Job” and “The World Changed” are a couple of them.)
But I will tell you that this video is more than just a hilarious look at products gone terribly wrong. (Although it’s certainly that as well.) It’s also an instructive guide to many of the missteps we all need to avoid in developing products, businesses, teams — anything. This video can serve almost as a how-to manual on how not to create a lousy product.
My advice, though? Look for that on your second viewing. First time around, just enjoy it.
Shiva Rajaraman: Product Management — From Meh to Awesome
In this brief talk at #ProductSF, Spotify’s Vice President of Product, Shiva Rajaraman, offers a great deal of product management wisdom and practical advice. But perhaps the most important suggestion he offers isn’t about your products at all — it’s about protecting your enthusiasm.
In a riff at the beginning of this talk, Rajaraman acknowledges — as we do in the intro to this post — that product management is a difficult gig. It can require many weeks or even years of uphill struggles to see your products successfully reach the market. So in those long periods of downtime, Rajaraman points out, you’ve got to find the small things in your job that keep you going. He even shows a great example of one of these little things that “made my week,” as he explains. I’ll let you discover it yourself.
Rajaraman does have plenty of actionable ideas for products managers — including giving you his permission, even his encouragement, to break things (unless you make oxygen masks or something), because that’s often how successful product innovations happen.
Although I’d recommend taking notes on the many great ideas Rajaramaran has for successful product management, I’d suggest you pay special attention to his riff in the introduction. He emphasizes protecting your passion for your job and your enthusiasm for product management, by finding and cultivating the little rewards this profession offers along the way.
Steve Jobs: Stanford University Commencement Address
What’s perhaps most amazing about this Steve Jobs commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford University is how utterly human Jobs comes across. He talks about going to college — and not having a dorm room. He recounts building Apple into a hugely successful company — and then getting fired. He tells of his comeback and regaining the helm of the company he founded — and then learning he had terminal cancer.
In other words, this could be the life story of just about anyone. And that’s Jobs’s message to these Stanford grads. His message is clear and, despite all the talk of death, optimistic: We’re all going to die. Live your life with purpose. Find the work that makes you happy. And then do great things with it.
Even if you’ve already seen this video, it’s worth another viewing — maybe even in a conference room with your team.
Life = Risk
This short clip takes a fascinating approach to inspiration — it talks entirely and only about failure. But it works!
The video is simply a narrated montage in which the voice-over actor recites one story after another of young people who were rejected or discouraged from pursuing their life’s passions. Each segment ends with that person’s name on the screen — and in every case, you’ve heard of them.
The lesson here doesn’t necessarily have a direct link to product management. But the message is still viable: When you know what you want, and you’re willing to put in the work and take the risks, don’t let anyone stand in your way.
On second thought, that sentiment might have some direct relevance to your role as a product manager after all.
Bonus Video Suggestion: A Faster Horse
Finally, if you’ve got the time to invest, we also highly recommend the documentary A Faster Horse, available on Netflix. We found so much practical product management wisdom in this film that we wrote an entire post on it.
This film works on multiple levels for a product manager. First, you’ll find plenty of terrific advice here on how to bring a successful product to market.
Second, the movie also works as a product manager’s Rocky — allowing us to identify with the dedicated product manager as he struggles for years and through unbearable pressure to develop his product. (You’ll cheer at the end.)
Third, it’s just a great film. And as a hardworking product manager, you deserve a break and some entertainment now and then, don’t you?