Every day I talk to product makers. Some have many years of experience, others are just starting. Some lead large teams, others are a team of one. Some have “product” in their title, others work in design, marketing, engineering. By now, I’ve talked to thousands of them and I’ve noticed that the most successful product makers share characteristics that put them on a different path, a path to what I call product excellence. Let me tell you how they are different.
The best product makers care.
The best makers care deeply about creating something wonderful. When you ask them about what they made, they can’t wait to show it to you, they get giddy, excited, and proud. They find fulfillment in seeing appreciation and joy in the eyes of people whose lives their products touch. They cherish every aspect of their products. They care about function, they care about delight. They excel because they care.
The best product makers are relentless.
The best makers don’t do easy, they don’t accept “good enough”. They are not afraid to take a risk and go for the moonshot. They are embarrassed about their product’s imperfections. Point some out and you can feel their pain and immediate desire to get back to work and fix it. They will keep thinking about the smallest flaws and they will wake up in the middle of the night excited about a newly found solution. They excel because they persevere.
The best product makers pursue mastery.
The best makers constantly examine the world around them, they are endlessly curious. They look for the best approaches to solving similar problems in different areas and disciplines. They follow leaders in their field, read the latest books and research, and try every new product. They are hungry for insights. They observe and study people, they nurture empathy. They do that to find inspiration, to push themselves further, to – as Steve Jobs put it – refine their taste, to ultimately redefine what’s possible. They excel because they seek mastery.
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, and it might all sound pretty idealistic to you, but seeing these characteristics in other product managers really does inspire me every single day. I do realize that real life has constraints, that we don’t always have the freedom, power, and resources to go for the moonshot, but that’s ok. Product excellence isn’t a point in time. It isn’t something we can achieve once and be done. Rather, it is a path we can choose to walk, it is a state of mind, it is a way of life.
I have been impressed and humbled by how many of you choose the path of product excellence, despite how hard it can be, despite naysayers, setbacks, and failures. Thank you for being a true inspiration and motivation for me and everyone here at productboard.
P.S.: Know of any product makers who embody product excellence? I’d love to meet them and share their story.