10 Books To Make You A Better Product Manager

These are not books that tell you how to do product management. Rather, these books are full of ideas that will challenge you to work smarter, communicate better, and get in the heads of your users. Read them, share them with your cross-functional teams, and put them into practice.

  1. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Consumers by Geoffrey Moore

    Crossing the Chasm
    Realization: You can get early customers to love your product, but you can’t use those same methods to convert enough more people into customers to build a business.

    Things to remember: As a startup, you can’t do multiple things well. As a business, you need to focus on the most desperate needs of your customer (which means you must choose your the customers who have desperate needs.)

  2. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

    Realization: You don’t need to compete on the same features and benefits that your competitors value.

    Things to remember: Don’t take the vectors you compete on for granted. Map yourself against the competition. Explore what would happen if you changed things.

  3. Four Steps to the Epiphany by Stephen G. Blank

    Four Steps to the Epiphany
    Realization: This is your job: First, reduce risk. Next, prove value. Continuously validate. Don’t try to skip any of these steps.

    Things to use: Clear checklists for how to create a market, and a product and get customers. If any of your plans require outlaying tons of money and resources up-front, you’re probably wrong.

  4. The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper

    Realization: Technology products need someone advocating for the user, and that someone is not going to be the engineers who build them.

    Things to use: If you’re in an organization where user experience design is nonexistent or under-empowered, this book lays out examples to help the product manager to step in as user experience advocate until the permanent resource is in place.(Can be heavy-handed and most of the examples are outdated, but still a great read.)

  5. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton Christensen

    Realization: Listening to your customers works great for releasing new product versions… until it doesn’t. You can’t predict where markets will emerge.

    Things to remember:The key to your success will, in the short term, be incredibly destructive. In short: stay on your toes and be ready to experiment on barely-formed ideas rather than waiting for them to fully form.

  6. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Bruce M. Patton, William L. Ury, and Roger Fisher

    Realization: Negotiating instead of giving in doesn’t make you mean, it makes you effective.

    Things to remember: People want to feel heard and understood more than they need to ‘win’ in most situations.

  7. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Stephen J. Dubner OR Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions by Dan Ariely

    Predictably Irrational
    Realization: People generally don’t understand cause-and-effect, don’t behave rationally, and worry about the wrong things.

    Things to remember: You (and your coworkers fall prey to the same competitive traps that your users do, but knowing this can help you avoid them.(Both books are good, but you probably don’t need to read both unless you’re a psych/socio hobbyist.)

  8. Why Decisions Fail by Paul Nutt

    Realization: Really smart companies and people make decisions that seem ridiculous in hindsight.

    Things to remember: Recognizing potential problems can help you avoid them. If it’s too late for that, a more informed postmortem leads to better learning for next time.

  9. Super Crunchers: Why Thinking by Numbers is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres

    Realization: Nothing measures user behavior better than … measuring user behavior. Online, everything is measurable.

    Things to remember: Make sure what you’re measuring is as close as possible to the results you want. As I’ve said before, make sure you I your KP. Remember that your competitors probably have more data than you do and be appropriately concerned about that.

  10. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

    The Creative Habit
    Realization: Creativity doesn’t just happen, it requires hard work and tons of practice.

    Things to remember: Staying out of bad habits and ruts is a constant process.

18 thoughts on “10 Books To Make You A Better Product Manager

  1. Great list. I’d have to add: Tipping Point, Experience Economy, and Whole New Mind to the list as well.

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  4. Thanks Cindy for your insights – good theory is always practical :-)

    Would you want to add Alexander Osterwalder's book (or just the framework) on Business models to the book list? I personally feel it helps to keep an overview on how it all the parts connect.

    Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0 is a fantastic read for tons of actionable advice independent of analytics tool.

    Jim Camp's Start with No and Richard Shell's Bargaining for advantage seem to me to be preferable to the Harvard Approach, since they helped me more on finding the value in a practical manner.

    And I think every product manager should definitely add either one of Cialdini's books on Persuasion (Influence or Yes!) to their list.

    What's your practical list for getting the job done? I am very curious to read about them in a future post.

  5. I would also add:

    “Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love”

    Great book from the Silicon Valley Product Group.

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