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  • Conrad Rebello

Top 8 Must-Read Books for Product Managers in 2024

Article title with the words 'Must-Read Books' and 'Product Management Leaders' highlighted. The logo for Outproduct appears as well.

The role of a product manager presents a unique challenge in today's demanding environment. Effective PMs must be inquisitive, constantly seeking to understand user behaviour and the root causes behind feature performance. A day in the life of one can encompass data analysis, product roadmap creation, and the development of persuasive presentations. Adaptability and the ability to switch gears quickly are essential qualities for success as well as survival.

While the complexities of product management can be daunting, there is a wealth of knowledge available from experienced practitioners in the field. The following eight books are highly recommended for product managers at all stages of their careers, regardless of years of experience. These resources provide valuable insights and frameworks for continuous learning and professional development. Feel free to dive into any of these eight books; the sequence is up to you.

Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri

Front cover of the book “Escaping the Build Trap” by Melissa Perri

Melissa Perri's "Escaping the Build Trap" addresses the common issue of focusing on feature delivery over actual results, known as the "build trap." Perri defines this as prioritizing deadlines over customer value, leading to lost market share and disruption. Her solution involves strong product management practices that emphasize intentional development and maximize value for businesses and consumers.

The book explores the role of the product manager and team, highlighting effective responsibilities and career paths. It stresses the importance of clear strategy, aligning company vision with strategic intents and product portfolios. Perri introduces the "Product Kata," a framework for outcome-focused development, setting success metrics, and optimizing solutions.

Escaping the Build Trap is a must-read for anyone in product management, emphasizing customer-centricity, strategic alignment, and outcome-driven development in today's ever-changing landscape.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

Front cover of the book “Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan

Inspired by Marty Cagan provides a roadmap for tech companies to create products that captivate customers and drive success. Drawing from his extensive experience, Cagan offers a practical framework for building high-performing product teams and discovering the right products through deep customer understanding. The book highlights unique methods used by tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and emphasizes an adaptable development process balancing structure in product strategy with agility. It caters to startups seeking product-market fit, growing companies aiming to scale, and established organizations looking to reignite customer engagement. Cagan shares his experiences alongside stories of successful product managers and tech companies such as Apple and Netflix. With actionable advice and inspiring anecdotes, "Inspired" is an essential guide for developing exceptional tech products in today's dynamic landscape. Cagan's insights empower readers to transform their product development processes and create technology that delights customers. This book serves as another one of the “must read” books for Product managers to stay ahead in the competitive tech industry.

The Mom Test: How to Talk to Customers by Rob Fitzpatrick

Front cover of the book “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick

Rob Fitzpatrick's "The Mom Test" offers entrepreneurs a customer-centric approach to validate business ideas. The book emphasizes three principles for conducting insightful customer conversations: focus on the customer's world, actively listen without interrupting, and seek specifics and emotions about their experiences. Fitzpatrick warns against common pitfalls like discussing your idea too soon, showering customers with praise, and getting lost in hypotheticals. He stresses the importance of targeting a specific customer segment to avoid mixed needs and ensure relevant feedback. By following these steps, entrepreneurs can gain valuable validation, develop products for a clear target market, and achieve a competitive edge.

The Mom Test is an essential guide for entrepreneurs seeking genuine insights and effective product development, ensuring they invest time and resources in ideas that truly matter to their customers.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Front cover of the book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal

Hooked explores the concept of the Hook Model, a four-step process described by author Nir Eyal, used by successful companies to create habit-forming products. This model revolves around understanding and influencing user behaviour.

The first step, the trigger, can be internal like a craving or external like a notification. It prompts users to take action, which is the second step. Eyal explains how companies use psychology to make these actions appealing. The third step, variable reward, keeps users engaged through surprise. Like during the "endless scroll" on social media - you never know what you might find next. Finally, investment occurs when users put something into the product, like time and effort on their social media profiles. This investment makes them more likely to return. Eyal also grapples with the ethics of designing such products. He argues that companies should focus on creating products that enhance users' lives, not just exploit their behaviour.

Overall, Hooked offers valuable insights for anyone who wants to understand how products influence our behaviour and how to design products that keep users engaged.

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

Front cover of the book “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore

Geoffrey Moore's work, Crossing the Chasm, tackles a critical challenge for tech startups: navigating the chasm between early adopters and the mainstream market. This insightful book lays out a customer adoption lifecycle, identifying five distinct segments – from pioneering innovators to budget-minded conservatives. Each segment requires a tailored approach, and Moore emphasizes the importance of focus.

He argues against the temptation to chase every opportunity to build the best product, advocating instead for dominating a specific niche market before expanding. This "land and expand" strategy allows companies to build a strong foundation and refine their offerings before venturing into the broader market. While companies and technologies evolve, the core principles remain relevant. By understanding the different customer segments and adapting their approach accordingly, tech companies can increase their chances of bridging the chasm and achieving sustainable success.

Overall, this book is a valuable resource for anyone involved in the tech industry, offering a roadmap for navigating the complexities of customer adoption and achieving long-term growth.

Product Management's Sacred Seven: The Skills Required to be a World-Class PM by Aditya Agashe, Neel Mehta, and Parth Detroja

Front cover of the book “The Sacred Seven: The Skills Required to Crush Product Manager Interviews and be a World-Class PM”

The book on Sacred Seven is a comprehensive guide authored by three seasoned Product Managers, Neel, Parth, and Aditya, from tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. They conducted interviews with 67 leaders from 52 top companies to identify the knowledge and skills that make winning product managers. The book delves into the seven essential areas that distinguish top-notch Product Managers from the rest: Product Design, Economics, Psychology, User Experience, Data Science, Law & Policy, and Marketing & Growth.

Through engaging stories, real-world case studies, and a plethora of images and diagrams, the authors share insights gleaned from interviewing 67 product leaders, including ones from FAANG and unicorns like Coinbase and TikTok. The book aims to equip aspiring Product Managers with the must-know knowledge and applied skills to excel in their careers, offering battle-tested interview tips and free access to bonus video content.

Overall, it's a comprehensive resource for those seeking to become world-class Product Managers in today's competitive landscape.

Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products by Marty Cagan & Chris Jones

Front cover of the book “Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products” by Marty Cagan and Chris Jones

Empowered, another masterpiece by Marty Cagan, co-written by Chris Jones, is a must-read for product leaders looking to unlock their teams' full potential. Building on the success of "Inspired," this book dives deep into the art of creating an environment that fosters innovation and empowers teams to solve complex problems.

From identifying the right business challenges to equipping teams with the necessary skills, Cagan and Jones share invaluable insights from the world's most innovative companies. They explore crucial aspects like staffing, on-boarding, performance reviews, and aligning teams around a compelling vision and strategy. The authors also emphasize the importance of minimizing the "blast radius" of significant changes through pilot programs.

With practical advice, real-world examples, and a deep understanding of the mindset required for true empowerment, Empowered is a comprehensive guide to transforming your leadership approach and unlocking your team's greatness. Highly recommended for any product leader seeking to thrive in today's competitive landscape.

The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen

Front cover of the book “The Lean Product Playbook” by Dan Olsen

The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen is a practical guide that provides clear, step-by-step instructions for building products that customers love. Drawing from his extensive experience as a Lean product expert, Olsen offers a repeatable methodology called the "Lean Product Process" to help teams achieve product-market fit.

The book covers essential steps like identifying target customers, understanding underserved needs, creating a winning strategy, designing and testing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and rapidly iterating based on customer feedback. Olsen's hands-on approach, honed through consulting for companies like Facebook and Box, makes this a valuable resource for any organization struggling to adopt Lean Startup principles effectively. The book emphasizes that most products fail not due to poor execution, but because they fail to delight customers. Olsen's systematic process aims to solve this by keeping teams focused on delivering value that resonates with their target market.

With its actionable advice, real-world examples, and focus on delighting customers, this book is a must-read for product teams seeking to improve their chances of building successful, market-winning products.

In Conclusion

These eight product management books are not merely guideposts, but in fact springboards. They propel you into the heart of product management, where challenges become opportunities for innovation and user empathy fuels success to build great products. The future of impactful products rests on the shoulders of those who dare to learn, adapt, and create. Finally, it is important to remember that the greatest learnings often come from the products you build, not just the books you read.


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