Top 12 Product Management Insights From 2018
With 2018 rapidly coming to a close, let’s take a moment to look back at this year’s top product management insights coupled with a parade of pop culture highs and super depressing lows.
Low: The people of Hawaii collectively soil themselves when their phones receive an emergency alert warning of a “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII.” Fortunately, the alarm is false — the result of human error, and possibly bad UX.
High: Snow falls for the third time in 40 years in the Sahara Desert. The effect is simultaneously bizarre and beautiful.
Product: Daniel Zacarias shows how you can bring clarity to your stakeholders by optimizing internal product communications around content, audience, timing, and format.
Also: People take sides in the Aziz Ansari debate.
Low: Heather Locklear is arrested for domestic violence and assaulting a police officer. Things get progressively worse for her throughout 2018.
High: Marvel’s Black Panther debuts to rave reviews for its storytelling, cinematography, and challenging themes. Ultimately earns $1.3 billion worldwide for its theatrical run.
Product: Nils Davis shares three practical ways product managers can help marketing find and collect the ideal prospects for your sales team.
Low: Whistleblowers reveal that data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed data from 50 million Facebook users – without the users’ permission – during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
High: Tyler “Ninja” Blevins explains how he went from working at Noodles & Company to making $500,000 a month as a professional gamer.
Product: For channel training to be effective, Steve Johnson emphasizes that product managers need to avoid teaching sales how to use the product and focus instead on teaching sales how to help buyers buy your product.
Low: Smallville actress Allison Mack is arrested for her alleged role in a secretive sub-group within the “self-help group” NXIVM. Mack is accused of using coercive sex, restrictive diets and blackmail to keep members in line.
High: DC Comics celebrates a Superman milestone as Action Comics reaches its landmark 1000th issue.
Product: Liam Smith provides a detailed case study of his journey to product-market fit, and why fit matters so much.
Also: Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington. To apologize, meme, and deflect.
Low: Because it’s 2018, Roseanne Barr torpedoes the successful revival of her popular TV sitcom with a Twitter rant.
High: Avengers: Infinity War becomes the first superhero film to earn over $2 billion at the box office. Peter doesn’t feel too good about it.
Product: Christopher Ratcliff helps augment our UX thinking with this overview of 23 qualitative and quantitative user research methods.
Also: Charles Barkley tries to heal a nation divided between Laurel and Yanny.
Low: StumbleUpon shuts down.
High: In the first live public debate between a human and an AI, IBM’s Project Debater succeeds in creating some surprisingly persuasive arguments. #riseofthemachines
Product: PMs can get stuck trying to craft the perfect customer journey map. Bill Haines’ core approach can get you moving in the right direction.
Also: Space Force.
Low: Elon Musk says multiple mad things on Twitter in 2018 – possibly because of his extreme work weeks – but one of his most demented tweets implies, without evidence, that heroic cave diver Vernon Unsworth is a pedophile.
High: Vernon Unsworth, the Thai Navy Seals and volunteer cave divers from around the world rescue the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach who had been trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for a grueling 18 days.
Product: Is there such a thing as a “full stack” product manager? (Spoiler: The Clever PM doesn’t think so.)
RIP: The amazing Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee, dies at age 90.
Low: America’s comic book scene suffers three more losses within seven days… artist Russ Heath (G.I. Combat) dies at age 91; writer Gary Friedrich (co-creator of Ghost Rider) dies at age 75; and artist and colorist Marie Severin (EC Comics, Mad), dies at age 89.
High: Advertising agency Barbarian leaves guests in the hands of its new virtual assistant Barb, who welcomes them from the screen of an Amazon Echo Show, and moves its human receptionist inside the office to focus on event planning. #prstunt or #aielevatinghumanity
Product: Teresa Torres provides 6 guiding principles for effective product discovery with a handy diagram of the process.
Also: Former *NSYNC singer Lance Bass says “bye, bye, bye” to the Brady Bunch house after his real estate deal for the property goes pop.
Oh, and by the way: Google still tracks you even with Location turned off
Low: Cardi B throws a shoe at Nicki Minaj. To be clear, the “low” isn’t that this event occurred. The “low” is that there are about 7,120,000 results on Google for the search “Cardi B Threw a Shoe at Nicki Minaj”.
High: Former TV star Geoffrey Owens is spotted working at Trader Joe’s and gets job-shamed. Owens then reminds us: “There is no job that’s better than another. It may pay better, it may have better benefits, it may look better on paper. But it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile.”
Product: The folks at Proficientz show how to avoid reactive product decisions by developing a cohesive strategy that articulates where you’re going, how you’ll get there, and why you’ll succeed.
RIP: Artist Norm Breyfogle dies at age 58. He’s my all-time favorite Batman artist, and his work left a lasting impression on me and a generation of fans.
Low: Former Jersey Shore star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is sentenced to eight months in jail for tax fraud.
High: Japanese gamer outsmarts a mobile app’s loot box mechanic using a hot dog.
Even Better: Jodie Whittaker debuts on Doctor Who as the first female Doctor and wins people over by capturing the spirit of the Doctor and bringing her own energy to the role.
Product: Kyle Evans explains the significant difference between project thinking (delivery focus) and product thinking (outcome focus) so we can deliver the right value to our customers.
Also: Is that Ross from ‘Friends’ stealing beer?
Low: Legendary comic book creator Stan Lee passes away at age 95. Bill Maher can’t fathom why this event saddens so many around the world.
High: Police located and arrested the David Schwimmer lookalike who ran off with all that beer back in October.
Product: Rich Mironov explores the slippery slope of sales-led development – including an important distinction between product companies and professional services companies.
Low: The New York Times reveals Facebook gave Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix and over 100 other companies far greater access to your personal data than the social network has ever disclosed.
High: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse debuts and quickly becomes the best-reviewed Spider-Man movie, ever.
Product: Will 3D printing make all of our product management dreams come true? Dr. Jim Anderson sure thinks so!
What Were Your Favorite Stories From 2018?
Creating these lists is always a challenge. What were your favorite highs and lows?