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Product Management Rule #41: Always Be Learning

Product Mgmt Rule #41 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Management, was written by Therese Padilla, Co-Founder and President , AIPMM

Product managers are considered “know-it-alls.” Make sure you are worthy of the title.

Always Be Learning

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

In the 1965 article, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits,” Gordon E. Moore explained that components in a circuit would increase in capacity by 200 percent per year, or, in other words, we can get a whole lot of stuff on a little wafer. He went on to say that there was no predictable end in that trend.

This concept went on to become known as Moore’s Law. Being the pragmatist that I am, I saw no reason to doubt this law. It was at that moment of embracing Moore’s Law as truth, that I knew I would spend every day of my adult life learning.

Keeping current in all trends—technology, business, industry, political, culture—requires a passionate desire to study.

The most successful product managers I have known were as comfortable reading Michael Crichton as they were reading Applied Economics. In fact, they spent much of their time in between meetings reading the latest analyst reports and marking up the margins with notes.

I now have the great fortune of working with some of the greatest product managers in the world, and the reason I meet them is because they have a great passion to learn more about their profession; they are hungry for knowledge.

You could say they are “cramming more components onto the integrated circuits” of their brains.

Here are the steps to successful lifetime learning:

  • Learn from others—your teammates are a wealth of knowledge. In your team you have engineers, scientists, researchers, marketers, sales and customer service representatives. Each of these individuals can teach you about their area of expertise. Look at them as an untapped resource.
  • Learn the disciplines that complement your skills—in your capacity as a product manager you touch a multitude of business disciplines. Take the time to learn about each of these disciplines. Don’t be hands off on topics that were not in your major. If you don’t know anything about finance, take an online course on finance for non-financial managers. Do you spend your time immersed in technology? Take a marketing course at your local college. You will be surprised at what you will be able to apply instantly to your career.
  • Learn your industry and expand to other industries—being a master of your industry requires continual learning. No industry is static, and growth is happening all around you. Another way to learn is to contrast. By learning other industries, you gain an advantage of contrasting your industry, and it will help you see things you might have missed. This is the holistic versus myopic view of the industry.
  • Learn from the obvious—as a product manager, you probably think you don’t have anything else you need to learn about product management. You can surround yourself with a group of experts by taking a class, attending a seminar, listening to a webinar, or attending a conference.

Learning is a journey with no final destination.

In Moore’s wisdom, he pointed out that capacity was increasing and we couldn’t assume the status quo. The same is true for product managers who have to keep up with an ever-expanding horizon. Product managers are considered “know-it-alls.” Make sure you are worthy of the title.

Product Management Rule #41 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Management

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