CultureJimProduct ManagementProduct MarketingStrategy

Why Aha! Turns into Oh Crap! in Product Management

How often have you heard the following remark? “I stepped out of the shower this morning and…” or “I was walking out of Starbuck’s when I got this killer idea…”

Sound familiar? Were the examples too close to home? As product management and product marketing professionals, managing and translating the “Aha moments” can be a full-time job or at least a full-time distraction.

How do you handle the Aha! moments?

From Aha! to Oh Crap!

Product management and product marketing have to know and understand the difference between the Aha and the Oh Crap.  It’s a fine balance. Great ideas openly flow in companies surfacing from internal and some external sources. While some may have value, what’s the difference and how do I know?

Scott Sehlhorst, author of the Tyner Blain blog recently shared with me, “In product management, you have to see the big picture view. Product Management has to be founded in data, data and more data.”

While Aha’s may be great ideas, ask yourself the following questions to discover if your Aha! is worth pursuing or is headed for Oh Crap-City.

  • Where did the Aha! originate?
  • Does the Aha! have supporting data?
  • Does this Aha! add any value to your product strategy or roadmap?
  • Does it overcome any competitive threats?
  • Who’s willing to buy your Aha?
  • Will this Aha! cause any disruption in the company’s vision?
  • Will the Aha! affect any cadence in teams such as development, engineering and marketing?
  • What monetary or internal business value does the Aha! possess?

Aha! – Not a Replacement for Visibility
In my post, “Was that just an Aha! Moment?” I shared the insights from an interview conducted by Art Petty. Art shared, “Product management leaders often struggle in gaining visibility with the executive team because they have not proven they can lead the products and have relinquished ownership to other departments or even worse, decision by committee.”

I’ve often experienced product marketing and product management folks who get swept up in conversations or what if’s that gain momentum and materialize as Aha! moments.

Without an active connection with customers, markets and fresh data, we struggle to build products of value and gain influence at any level.  With an absence of data, influence and credibility, we often resort to Aha! moments that lack insight and evidence. This causes an Oh Crap scenario.

While product management and product marketing will always work in environments where ideas often overshadow real market value and Aha’s are rewarded as innovation, to gain influence.

“The power of influence is perhaps the most important tool in your professional toolkit. It should be a skill that you are constantly working to improve. It blends in a number of your personal traits including likability, compassion, empathy and understanding. But it also requires that you put the effort on your end to be able to justify anything you might need” shared Stewart Rogers in his post Authority vs. Influence.

I couldn’t agree more. How have you managed the Aha! moments in your organization? Hopefully you:

  1. Can visualize the Big Picture
  2. Represent real problems for real people
  3. Build the right kind of influences
  4. Keep Aha! in check

Please feel free to comment and Tweet this: @jim_holland -Why Aha! Turns into Oh Crap! in Product Management http://wp.me/pqeWU-ko #prodmgmt #prodmgmt



  1. Ken Rutsky

    Jim, I usually agree with your writing, but this entry really got under my skin, nothing personal meant, but I have to say, I think my issue is more with the tone than the content.

    I think that “real” aha moments are some of the most precious things in our professional lifes. My experience is that there is always some “there” there in AHA moments, and that we should not practice disqualifying them, but should practice understanding, shaping and applying the essence of them.

    I’d add that my definition is pretty damn high, I count maybe 5-6 of these golden AHA moments in my career. For example, when at Intel I had one that I still remember that changed the entire course of the Intel Inside program, one of the largest Adv. programs in the world. Cool! But these are FEW and FAR between. So the first step is the high bar of qualification…

    Let me close by saying thanks for the blog, you’ve inspired me to explore the AHA moment, I’ll let you know when my blog comes up on this!!!

    1. Jim Holland

      Ken –

      No offense taken. My point was not to slam Aha moments, but product professionals needs to understand and manage them. Like you, I’ve had a few defining moments professionally. One was to make a move into product management over 20 years ago. Never regretted the opportunities, nor missed an open mind when an Aha! appeared.

      The compelling events like the one you described are great and I will not discount this, but want other to be vigilant that they have their own and if others are thrust upon them, to thoroughly analyze and make the right decisions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *