Become a better Product Manager by learning Investing?!

I've been an amateur, unprofessional investor for close to ten years now.  Since I've made the first saveable dollar after college, I've been interested in how to grow this nest egg to retire early.

Over the years, I've made some silly investment.  My first investment was literally a gold mine, or rather a gold rush to a prospecting for potential gold based on limited data.  It was a true venture capital company.  Needless to say my investment (though small) was not a good return on investment.

Over the years, I've learned that investing isn't just about turning $5 to $500, but it's much more and I had to learn the hard way to get there.

It continues to be an education, in reading, in writing about it, in learning by doing, and reading some more 10k and 10q.  Luckily I like reading.

When I think of the investment world, I think that there are many similarities between being an investor (like a Warren Buffett) and being a digital Product Manager.  I'll list of these below and also why learning from a more established industry like investment management and investors are applicable to how you can be a better product manager.

Product Management & Investment Management

Both have management and it there is some degree of managing people, things involved.  Here are some things that are similar:

  1. Can be consider an 'Art'
  2. Can be consider a 'Science'
  3. People in it have all types of paths to follow, not just one
  4. Both are concerned with finding a needle in a haystack
  5. Both have individuals who have excelled without formal education

There are many similarities but let's talk about the most important, high-level distinction and how it can make your a better product manager.

Product Management as an Art Form

Besides reading quarterly or annual financial report, a good investor may also follow other good and professional investors to better understand their thinking, their mindset and to follow in the footsteps of those who have achieved consistent and measurable successful over years and decades.

One of the Investment Management company that I read is Giverny Capital's annual letters.  The main investor of the company is Francois Rochon and he was recently invited to Google to give a talk on his investment style and approach to finding great companies to invest in.

Rochon uses the analogy of art. Investing as an art and how we can learn how to become better investors, and I would argue, better product managers by approaching investing management as trying to master an art form.

This mindset is very important because it provides more freedom to develop your own style, but at the same time being mindful that we need to learn from established people in the industry and seek mentorship.

In Rochon's Talk at Google, he mentioned that mastering an art form has the following components or elements:

  • Choose an art from you truly love
  • Study the art's masters
  • As a painter paints, an investor invests!
  • Develop your own unique style
  • Have an independent mind
  • Always strive for improvements

In the way that Rochon has distilled the art of investing, I think it's 100% applicable for product managers to be come better, more adaptable to think of a career in product management as going into an "art".

So translating this for Product Management I would that the following would look like:

  1. Choose a type of product that you would truly love.
  2. Study and learn from the best (the master) product managers.
  3. Product managers because better at their skills by throwing themselves in the ring, so start now and apply yourself.
  4. No two product managers are alike.  Develop a way that works for you and your team and adapt to the changing conditions.
  5. Remain independent and use critical thinking, judgment or smart guessing.
  6. Find ways to continually improve yourself and the team you lead

In many ways, being a successful and better product manager is the same as being a great investor.  People look to Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway success in the investing world.  There are many others in the investing world that are more visible and more famous masters of investment management.

There should also be where Master Product Managers to learn from.  Sometimes these individuals may be mentors for a specific niche, sometimes they are much more generic.  That's why Product Management is an art and a science -- otherwise we can just automate this job/role!!!