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CollaborationCultureInnovationJimLeadershipProduct ManagementProduct Marketing

Uncovering the Social Animal in Product Management

Over the years, I’ve watched the social interaction of individuals and teams and how they succeed and where they struggle. Whether you’re a product manager, product marketing manager or you lead a team, there’s a definite social element to the role and each persons contribution and ultimate success. While you might associate sales, marketing, sales engineering and other outward facing roles as social, should product leaders become the ultimate social animal?.

To answer this question and uncover the attributes required in product leaders, I’d like to offer David Brooks recent TED talk on The Social Animal.

As an acclaimed New York Times columnist and author,  David delivers humor and insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences, with a massive dose of economics and politics that product management should understand. As you listen to and view the talk, listen to the several areas David shares and that I outline below. Each applies to product management and product marketing and how you may better influence and lead  your products, services and teams as a social animal.

  1. Mindsight – is learning about others, their models and how to relate. Product leaders must have or acquire mind-sight to be used in discover problems, formulating solutions or staging conversations with others. Often, we dive into an activity when we lack an understanding of roles, past experiences, models for learning or action, etc.
  2. Equipoise is a state of balance, equilibrium or a counterbalance. If you consider product leadership, isn’t it a state of balance? Think about it. We balance strategic and tactical, vision and backlog, as well as balancing business influence and marketing execution. Each requires a balance and balancing rationale and purposeful views into the areas where we learn and apply what we hear, see and understand. This balance support decision-making.
  3. Metis – is an ordinary Greek word for a quality that combines wisdom and cunning. “It’s a sensitivity to environment” and in modern terms, we’d say street smarts or street savvy. While there’s a non-ending debate in the product management community on domain expertise product leaders must obtain wisdom from market exposure, customer experiences and build attributes of street smarts that may be a higher level of gut instinct. As a product leader, do you have Metis?
  4. Sympathy – while you make not equate sympathy as a gift or talent of social animals, the “ability to work in groups and this is tremendously handy because groups are smarter than individuals, and groups that communicate electronically ” are key for conversations and communications share David. To build the foundation found in gifts 1 and 2, product leaders should have the ability to work in fluid groups, especially face-to-face. Considering that most intelligent assumptions or ideas are validate in customer facing conversations, product leaders should carry a level of sympathy or perhaps acquire an understanding of customer problems and “walk a mile in their shoes” before telling them your a shoemaker their to build a new pair of shoes.
  5. Blending – is “the source of innovation.” As a product leader do you know how to blend market trends, personal insights, artifacts, ideas and teams to innovate or drive vision? As David states, “blending isn’r easy.” I believe we have to unlearn in certain areas and open our minds-eye to those things that limit our abilities to progress.
  6. Limerence is the final talent or gift. It’s drive and motivation. To me, these are the glue that holds product leaders together. How often do we give in or give up when we should push forward giving more and working to overcome politics, opinions and those who lack the evidence or insight you hold.

How do we uncover the social animal in product management? Here’s a few things I believe we can do.

  • Schedule less meetings and initiate more conversations. Remember to apply the gift that we have two ears and one mouth.
  • Review the balance in your product leadership. (Yes, a personal assessment) Are you unbalanced in one way or another? Identify three areas and work on one in the next 30 days. Need help, connect with a peer in the Product Management community (#prodmgmt or #prodmktg work well on Twitter), or a mentor. If you need a mentor, email me and I”ll find one that’s compatible for you.
  • Get outside yourself and the office. It’s amazing what you’ll see, hear and experience when you listen to those who love, hate or are ambivalent to your products or service. Who knows, you may become more sympathetic and come home with a renewed sense  and determination to be a source of innovation and new growth for your organization.
  • Take time to re-listen to David’s talk or read the book. I just ordered it and hope to uncover more.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and insights. In no way am I an authority on cognitive sciences. As always, I welcome your comments to the post and sharing my post and ideas through the social web, where all types of animals can be found.

Tweet this: @jim_holland “Uncovering  the Social Animal in Product Management” http://wp.me/pXBON-2kq #prodmgmt #prodmktg


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