Product managers are multidisciplinary professionals who must have working knowledge of several topics. We often get asked which are the must-read books for product managers. Given the versatile and holistic nature of the product manager role, recommended books go from subjects such as design philosophy to data analytics, passing by leadership and agile development. The product management books series will seek to introduce you to the books we consider every product manager should read, re-read and then read again, just to be sure. Today’s featured book: Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup.
A scientific approach to entrepreneurship
This book tells us the story of Ries’ experience with his own company, IMVU, and other well-known startups to illustrate the challenges, mistakes and successes in entrepreneurship. His approach is to minimize errors caused by traditional management conceptions, with what he calls a “build-measure-learn feedback loop”. The Lean Startup proposes a hypothesis and validation methodology to build products that has been adopted by both startups and corporations.
The minimum viable product (MVP)
The foundation to the lean methodology is to rapidly validate hypothesis by using minimum viable products. An MVP is essentially an incomplete “product” that is just good enough to test whether customers actually want a product or not. The MVP saves companies a lot of time, money and effort since it requires little to no development. Ries explains the cases of Dropbox, which used a video to prove that users needed a seamless file-sharing tool; a company called Food on the Table, whose founders personally acted as concierges for their first customers; and Aardvark, a search engine that used humans to replicate pieces of backend programming.
Metrics that matter
With new products and a growing customer base, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important. Metrics such as customer growth, signups, downloads, pageviews, and visits, which look great on paper but provide little insight to make future decisions, are what Ries calls “vanity metrics”. Instead, The Lean Startup proposes the usage of actionable, accessible and auditable metrics. We wrote a post on how can product managers can avoid this data trap, go check it out!
Don’t be fooled by its name, whether you’re looking for a job at a startup or an enterprise, The Lean Startup provides an excellent framework on how to build products that fit a customer’s needs.