Don’t Be An 18th Century Product Manager

Even when you find genuinely good things to copy, there’s another pitfall to be avoided. Be careful to copy what makes them good, rather than their flaws. It’s easy to be drawn into imitating flaws, because they’re easier to see, and of course easier to copy too. For example, most painters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used brownish colors. They were imitating the great painters of the Renaissance, whose paintings by that time were brown with dirt. Those paintings have since been cleaned, revealing brilliant colors; their imitators are of course still brown.

Paul Graham

The lesson here for product managers is to make sure you understand the customer for that feature you are thinking of copying.  You never know when a feature that looks so bright and shinny from the outside is another product manager’s nightmare feature on the inside.

The competitor’s customers are probably different, their customer problems are probably different, and their long term strategy is probably different.  If you aren’t building something that is truly valuable to your customer, you could end up with a feature that flops…that stays “brown”.

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Author: Jay Fisher

I'm a product guy focused on building great consumer experiences. Gathering quick feedback and building internal consensus by iteratively improving on minimally viable products. My background is in consumer products and finance, I greatly enjoy tackling the challenges involved in financial services and technical product management I love making new professional acquaintances. Reach out (public@jayfisher.info) if you want to talk technology, business, product management, or agile.

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