Product Management from the eyes of a strength athlete

Building products and strength training. These two are entirely different endeavors but still have an uncanny resemblance.

As a kid I was always interested in becoming strong not to exercise supremacy or dominate, I wanted to become strong for the sake of it, isn’t it the purest way to do stuff because you want to do it. Yes it is, I keep telling everyone around that the only reason we should do something should be because we want to do it not because someone told us to or someone expects us to or worse not because we are worried about what others might think if we don’t do it … Face-palm — Sigh

 

Slowly I realized that strength training helps us in more than one way, it makes us independent, fearless and efficacious. Whenever I get a daunting task in front of me, all I do is take a deep breath and say to myself that if I can lift 200 kgs off the floor, how difficult can this be?

I have been into weight training for the last 10 years now and I still get excited like a child on the thought of going to a weight training room, needless to say I have been born to do this.

Lets come to being a product guy. One thing I always did well was to empathize with others. Let it be the guard who used to sit outside our school or the maid who used to come to our house for cleaning utensils. I felt their pain and wanted to do something in my limited resources and reach that can possibly fix their problem.

Taking a shot at a product role, I quickly realized that product management role is one of the few opportunities out there where you can actually strive to create value and solve for the pain point of end user, but for doing that you first need to feel the pain yourself.

Trying to build a product that has never been given a shot by anyone is hell of an exciting proposition but a product guy needs to keep asking the difficult question to himself “ Will this solve for something?” – You can build good looking stuff and burn millions on marketing/communications but if the product doesn’t solve for something, it won’t be successful.

We have plenty of examples that can be quoted, one example that comes to my mind is the Windows 8 … Did Microsoft leave any stone unturned to make 8 a success the answer is NO, but was it for solving for something or adding any value to windows 7? The answer sadly again is a NO. In contrast lets consider quora, did it spend a million on promotions “NO”, did it solve for a problem “YES” – It solved for people who wanted authentic and credible answers to genuine questions asked …

**WAY TO GO**

Let me draw some parallels between weight training and product management here. In a weight training room if our goal is hypertrophy, we try to lift maximum weight and in the process compromise on form, will we achieve hypertrophy? – “NO”

Why?

– Because for achieving hypertrophy the weight which you move is immaterial (draw an analogue here to the number of fancy features that we can have on the product). What actually makes the difference is the contraction and expansion of the targeted muscle fibres. You pick a weight which is 80 % of your RM (RM – Rep Max, meaning maximum weight you can lift for one single repetition, so if I can squat 100 kgs for one repetition, 80% of my RM in squat will be 80 kgs) maintain proper form and hit 6-8 reps this will help you achieve hypertrophy instead of going for 1 RM with form that is considerably compromised. You also run a risk of getting injured in the latter case (Again the analogue here is overloading your product with too many features which don’t solve for anything and injury here corresponds to failure/non acceptance of the product)

I always keep telling myself to feel that weights are a part of my body. Whenever we lift, we need to consider that the weight we are holding is a part of our body and there is no way we can stand up with some part still lying on the floor. The same holds true with a customer pain point. As a product owner we need to get into the shoes of a customer, feel his pain and if the product doesn’t solve the problem for us it will never solve for the end-user as well.

In bodybuilding we cannot succeed focusing on one variable, lets say workout. If we work hard in the gym but don’t give enough attention to nutrition and sleep we wont get to our goals. Similarly for building a product multiple variables need to be considered, if we focus only on customer pain points we might not succeed, we need to consider insights from data, market opportunity, the big picture and customer feedback to make a product that will hit the bull’s eye.

What happens if we try to become a bodybuilder, weightlifter and strongman all at the same time?  We fail because they are three different disciplines and require different approaches. While building products what happens if we try to solve for four problems at once? We are not able to solve for even one of them. That is where I love this saying from Robert Browning that LESS IS MORE. Do less do it right. We should concentrate on only one discipline, (solve for only one problem) and give our all to it (solve it in the best possible way). Sure shot formula for success.

Keep lifting, Keep solving

Stay healthy, Stay happy

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