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What's the next thing I need to learn?

Often product managers ask themselves this question: what is the next most valuable thing I can do? Usually, the answer to this question, like with most PM tasks, it depends.

A particular situation may require PMs to do a multitude of activities:

  • Engage with customers
  • Talk with developers
  • Research the market
  • Lead a stakeholders meeting
  • Create product mockups
  • Write press releases
  • Train the company on the product
  • the list goes on and on and on

Very often PMs are required to juggle those activities and it ends predictably:

However, there might be a better way. If we simplify PM work to a "moving product from fantasy to certainty" then the most valuable PM activity in almost any situation will be: learning the next most important thing. 

Let's look at Giff Constable's "Truth Curve".

It illustrates a PM's job in a nutshell. In the beginning, all we have is a fantasy. We noticed a problem on the market or dreamed about a product. It's nothing yet. What we need to do is to learn the next most important thing about that fantasy. So we start by quantifying the problem. At this stage, we better not spent a lot of resources on it. We definitely should not write a single line of code or say a word to our sales folks.

A fantasy passed the first test? Ready to move up the "Truth Curve"? Great! What is the next best thing you can learn? Would a paper prototype do? Or you need something slightly more advanced? Remember to not commit a lot of resources.

Somewhere on the "Truth Curve" you'll need to talk to customers, check feasibility with devs, research the market and do all other PM activities. But applying "the next most valuable learning" concept you will save you some headache with prioritizing your activities.

Most fantasies never become products. And that's not a PMs failure. It's one of the biggest PM's successes - not to waste valuable resources doing something pointless. If you'll make learning your top priority as a PM - you'll greatly increase your chances to succeed in your job.

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