3 Mistakes a product manager should never make

There are many mistakes which product managers should never make, but here are the top 3:

  1. The echo-chamber: Me, my friends and family is liking it.
  2. Missing Perspective: Relying too much on data / reports.
  3. Not eating the dogfood

To expand:

The Echo-chamber Trio

Many product leaders often live in their own echo-chamber. They end up making products for themselves. They assume they know everything about their target segment and do not go out and seek truth, i.e. talk to customers/ potential segment.

They talk to 3 segments primarily – namely me, my friends and my family.

They take feedback from their family and friends – and collect social media vanity metrics (like RT/Likes) too seriously (“people really liked this idea on Twitter, let’s build it!”).

Example? Many companies building apps / products for rural market, sitting in their AC office – totally disconnected from the user life. They go on to write articles on medium explaining design principles, but the product has no real traction among the TG.

Data is God..but can turn evil

Data is god, but data turns evil when you start to prove your point.

“Torture the data, and it will confess to anything.” – Ronald Coase.

What separates great product leaders from the average ones is their ability to look into the future – and data, to be very honest gives you very little visibility into future.

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Use data to derive information, but build on perspective to create future.

If you are a junior product manager, it is just okay to rely on data and train your mind to make decisions (and check results) – but if you are mid-senior level product leader, you got to have instincts and eventually, perspectives – based on your earlier right / wrong decisions and curiosity about the market you operate in.

Make.Eat.Repeat.

I worked for Yahoo where many product leaders were using Yahoo products (like Yahoo mail/messenger) during the office hours and switch to others like Gmail / Gtalk for non-office / personal usage.

What exponential improvements can you expect in products when the product team isn’t even using the product? No dog-fooding happening?

You know where this all headed (for Yahoo). Ditto for many companies.

Whatever mistake you commit, do remember:

It’s not a mistake to make a mistake but it is a mistake to repeat the mistake.

Happy experimenting !


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