A product manager’s role is to make successful bets on the product and take the product to a higher orbit. But making a bet also implies that some decisions will be successful and some will fail. For a young product manager this situation presents a dilemma. Does he back himself and take a risk. Or does he simply follow orders and remain the guy who communicates a vision and not stick his neck out? Obviously, if the opportunity presents itself, a product manager should propose a feature and make the bet. But how does he ensure that the downside of this bet doesn’t kill him? Based on the conversations I’ve had with product managers, the top 1% product managers try something like this.
Set up the feature as one big learning experiment. Till your credibility is unquestioned, it is important to convey the message to the people around you that you have the biggest learning appetite. So position your bet as an experiment to understand the user better. It takes some special skill to convince people, but if you try hard enough even doubters will give you the benefit of having tried something new.
The best product managers never let a crisis go to . Meaning, they learn from every release – successful or otherwise. During the life of a product there will only be a few break-out moments – moments that catapult the product into a higher league. Majority of the releases will be a moderate success or a moderate failure. But regardless of the outcome, making an unbiased post-release study is always a good practice.
So, small mistakes and slight deviations won’t hurt a product manager too much. But a major blunder will. And that is perhaps the only big mistake that a product manager can do – make a big mistake.