Top 12 Product Management Insights From 2017
With 2017 in the rearview mirror, let’s take a moment to look back at the year’s top product management insights coupled with a cavalcade of pop culture highs and lows.
< Spoiler Warning >
This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Batman’s proposal to Catwoman, and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s next business move — so read on at your own risk.
< /Spoiler Warning >
Low: The year begins with controversy over the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowd.
High: The outstanding NBC comedy The Good Place ends its first season with an insane curveball that explodes the show’s premise.
Product: “Observations result in clever features that people love, like the ‘PPI Function’ [a button on a sound mixer which does nothing but change color yet helps music producers tremendously.].” – Steve Johnson (Innovation Begins With Observation)
Low: Excitable fitness guru Richard Simmons becomes the object of a podcast titled Missing Richard Simmons. Contrary to rumors of sex changes and kidnapping, Simmons actually just wants to live the remainder of his life out of the public eye.
High: Beyonce announces her pregnancy — with twins! — on Instagram. The photoshoot was so elaborate it made me laugh out loud — and garnered over 11 million likes.
Product: In this webinar, Paul Young, VP of Product for Pragmatic Marketing, explains how product people can work more effectively with executive management to ensure the right products are conceived, built, and launched. Nothing’s worse than doing all the right work, the right way, then having executives question why you even bothered pursuing this in the first place.
Also: TV’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer sets out to slay a new monster — the $4.7 billion baking-mix industry!
Low: Marvel’s Iron Fist debuts on Netflix. Critics attack en masse.
High: Korea expert Robert Kelly (a.k.a., “BBC Dad”) becomes a viral sensation after his young kids interrupt his on-air Skype interview.
Product: “We have to raise prices so we lose some deals. And we have to raise value to stop losing deals. My recommendation: constantly do both.” – Mark Stiving (Losing On Price)
Low: Kendall Jenner stars in a sublimely tone-deaf Pepsi commercial where the model/television personality defuses a potentially hostile situation by handing a can of soda to a police officer.
High: The Fate of the Furious debuts. Engines rev at Cummings WorldWide HQ.
Product: “Deadlines work because they force critical thinking by adding a constraint. When a deadline is set on a project, magical things happen.” – Brandon Chu, Product Director at Shopify (Deadlines)
Low: The cyberattack dubbed WannaCry hits over 150 countries and affects thousands of organizations.
High: Security researcher Marcus Hutchins finds a quick fix to stop the attack before the ransomers can get their blood money. Then life gets really weird for him.
Product: “Lean startup training is not enough. In order for these practices to thrive in large companies, we have to transform the rhythm of our management systems to match the rhythm of innovators.” – Tendayi Viki (Why Lean Startup Training Is Not Enough)
Also: Covfefe bewilders a nation.
Low: Katy Perry releases Witness, ditching her usual Girl Next Door persona in favor of the new Queen of the Resistance image. She earns the dubious honor of the largest second week percentage sales drop for a #1 debuting female album.
High: Wonder Woman gets her first solo film, starring Gal Gadot. Immediately becomes the best-reviewed DC Universe film (sadly, not exactly a difficult feat) — and smashes multiple box-office records.
Product: Harvard Business Review explains how every innovation strategy fails eventually because innovation is not one-size-fits-all, and looks at four different types of innovation and the problems they solve.
Also: A Vietnamese skincare clinic accidentally(?) co-opts the evil Umbrella Corporation’s distinctive red and black logo.
Low: Joan Lee, wife of former Marvel publisher Stan Lee, passes away after complications from a stroke. Stan and Joan were married on December 5, 1947.
High: With Marvel’s help, Sony releases its first great Spider-Man movie in years. Spider-Man: Homecoming earns glowing reviews and $880M worldwide.
Product: FastCompany explains how to create a follow-up email that isn’t annoying. A very practical skill to have.
Low: Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg provide completely opposite viewpoints on whether artificial intelligence will help us or murder us. #waitandsee
High: The first total solar eclipse to cross the US from coast to coast in almost 100 years takes place. People start asking some big questions.
Product: Brent Tworetzky, EVP Product at XO Group, outlines different Product Manager career paths, by seniority level. And he includes grids!
Also: The Defenders debuts on Netflix. Krysten Reinner as Jessica Jones is awesome. Hopefully this is the last we see of The Hand.
Low: Equifax admits the data of 143 million customers had been stolen earlier in the year. The breach is especially egregious because it’s the result of appallingly poor security, not super smart hacking.
High: Record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson, 57, returns to Earth after logging 665 days in space.
Product: Instead of focusing on applying a process, Jonny Schneider (author of Understanding Design Thinking, Lean, and Agile) argues that teams should challenge how they think, try new approaches, embrace the things that work, and learn from the things that don’t.
Low: Sexual misconduct allegations sweep the media landscape, starting with reports on Harvey Weinstein. As of today’s date, nearly 100 public figures have been accused of sexual misconduct.
High: Super Mario Odyssey arrives for the Nintendo Switch, giving Mario new abilities, a new companion, and earning rave reviews and awards.
Product: Marketing messaging and value propositions that only focus on product features or company capabilities are destined to fail. According to Tim Kimber, Research Director at SiriusDecisions, messaging must resonate with all audience levels across the full buying decision process.
Also: Catwoman says ‘yes’.
Low: Uber reveals it had covered up a massive data breach affecting 57 million customers and drivers.
High: Thor: Ragnarok sets a new standard for cosmic superhero movies and buddy films. Earns $848M worldwide and startlingly positive reviews.
Product: Dilbert asks an important question of business cases: If accurate financial projections require the ability to see the future, but no human being can actually see the future, why do we ask for financial projections?
Also: Someone “accidentally” temporarily shuts down President Trump’s Twitter account.
Low: Star Wars: The Last Jedi misses a great opportunity to showcase how cool Luke Skywalker really is by making his big moment in the film a wiggy astral projection experience.
High: That epic Rey / Kylo Ren throne room battle.
Product: As the market for caskets goes away because of the rise in cremations, product managers who deal with death need to become creative. Dr. Jim Anderson explores how PMs in this market are seeking to understand their market so they can change along with it.
Also: Stan Lee turns 95 this week — and celebrates with a cameo on Jeopardy.
What Were Your Favorite Stories From 2017?
Creating these lists is never easy because there is so much great content out there. What did I miss?