Books to Step Up Your Product Management Game
January 22, 2015

Books to Step Up Your Product Management Game

by Brian de Haaff

I’ve written before about how product managers are often considered the CEO of their product. Everyone has high expectations for them as the success of the product rests squarely on their shoulders. From engineering to marketing, PMs are expected to embody all roles when it comes to their product.

This means that successful product managers are in a constant state of learning. If they are not moving forward, they are moving backward.

A recent study showed that 86 percent of successful people read on a regular basis. Great product managers are no exception. Although they come from a variety of backgrounds there are certain traits that are common among them. Luckily there’s no shortage of books to help you up your game, whether you’re a novice PM or a veteran.

Here are a few suggestions for how to take your understanding of the product, market, customer, and value your product delivers to the next level:

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Ever wondered why urban legends persist for centuries and your ideas do not get past the boardroom? Brothers Chip and Dan Heath outline six principles — simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories — that define ideas’ “stickiness.” We have our own Aha! public ideas portal that allows our customers to share their best ideas with the team. Great product management involves managing ideas; this book will show you how to implement the best ones.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us A raise is not enough to keep teams engaged. In one of his five best-selling books, Daniel H. Pink outlines the three elements of true motivation — autonomy, mastery, and purpose. They are traits that great PMs already have in spades. This book shows you how to connect them to your daily work visualizing and creating new things.

Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work Product managers must make countless decisions. Decisive calls us to address inherent bias that we might not know we have. But simply knowing that you’re biased isn’t enough — hence why the Heath brothers followed Made to Stick with this book. Their WRAP model will help you make more process-oriented decisions — a must for product managers.

Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things Product managers know that design matters — but designers do not often account for emotion. Author Don Norman discusses the emotional reactions that products provoke. He outlines the three ways that humans react to design, including the reflective dimension that evokes positive self-image or satisfaction. This book will reinforce how to build products with users at the forefront of your mind.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers At Aha! our goal is to help customers build great product and be happy doing it. This involves giving them the tools to visualize each new release. Business Model Generation shares our ethos of using powerful strategic ideas and tools to build business changing strategies. The book’s beautiful four-color design shows how to visualize these strategies and bring them to life in your organization.

The Product Manager’s Survival Guide Always focus on what defines your product — its business model and stage of growth. Having a solid understanding of motivation, strategy, and ideas will always serve as a strong background. These are critical concepts that will help you build better products in 2015.

What are your favorite books on product management?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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