Johannes' blog

Key Takeaways from "INSPIRED" by Marty Cagan

INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

Overall I thought "INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love" by Marty Cagan was a great read. It's a great job description for product managers as it breaks down the job. The book comprises five important areas of product management in a company: 1) Lessons from top tech companies, 2) The right people, 3) The right product, 4) The right process, and 5) The right culture. In the following I will briefly summarize the areas and then follow-up with some of the most important insights on my end.

In the first part, the book starts by describing companies at different stages where different decisions are more critical. For example, for a startup, where you want to find product-market fit for your product and try to survive, to a big corporate where it is of utmost importance to make innovation part of the culture. It further dives into how different the role of a product manager is at different company stages.

The second part focuses on people that a product manager works with and how you should work together. As a product manager, you are the information hub for the product. You bring together the opinions and try to involve the right people at the right moment. During the product development process, the product manager is not the person who should propose solutions but try to define the problem that the team should solve. The book highlights each individual's strengths in a product team and how a product manager should collaborate and enable people to work together. One of the aspects that stuck out was that it is essential to share learnings with your team. Where you are not only responsible for bringing insights to the team but rather to let the team learn the same things that you learned.

The third part is about how to find and build the right product. What is the "right" product? The definition of right is that your work is adding value for customers. The book makes the point that your product should solve problems for your customers. To find the right product, you need to identify and work together with the customers (i.e., the people you want to solve problems for). As a product manager, it is your responsibility to understand what the customer wants. Hence, you need to study your customers and get to a point where you are confident that you know what they expect. The book focuses not only on empathy and predicting what customers want but also on involving customers in the product discovery process as soon as possible. It is a vital aspect of delivering valuable products.

The fourth part focuses on the process of building good products. The book describes a scientific approach to product management. Every product discovery starts with a model of reality, which you then successively try to improve through experiments. You come up with hypotheses that you then challenge with qualitative and quantitative experiments. A product manager needs to iterate as fast and as often as possible to improve this reality model. Here you find a lot of useful methodological approaches for how to collect insights from customers. One very important method is customer interviews, where the product manager tries to study how a customer works with the product. The goal is to intervene as little as possible. Furthermore, the book emphasizes how important it is to share these learnings with your product designers and engineers. The goal is to share learnings and let the team participated in this learning process. You want to involve everyone (i.e., the team and the customer) as closely as possible when you build a product.

Finally, the book gives further insights into building the right culture for product teams to strive. One of the most important drivers of success for a product manager is building trust and engaging the people involved in the product development process.