Top 12 Product Management Insights From 2021
It’s that time of year when we reflect on the top product management insights from the last 12 months, align them with a calendrical cavalcade of highs and lows from pop culture, and add a soupçon of viral trends.
“But I don’t need to reflect on insights from product management this year.”
- High: Dayglow releases the irresistibly groovy song “Close To You” which inspires a product management lesson on overthinking.
- Low: Armie Hammer exits stage right after disturbing DMs allegedly sent by the actor were leaked to the press.
- Product: Jessica Box, Head of Growth at social platform Linktree, shares her recipe for explosive product-led growth.
- Viral: Bernie Sanders’ cozy outfit becomes a meme.
- Puzzling TV: WandaVision debuts on Disney+ and it takes multiple episodes for viewers to figure out what the show is actually about. Then it takes a turn, which I write about at Matthew Brake’s Pop Culture & Theology.
- RIP: Legendary talk show host Larry King.
- Low: Disney fires actress Gina Carano from The Mandalorian for tweets they didn’t like.
- High: Carano fights back, uncanceling herself with the unexpected assistance of The DailyWire.
- Product: Vasanth Rajasekaran shares advice on how to gain product management experience outside of an actual product role.
- Best Super Bowl Ad: Toyota spotlights Jessica Long’s journey from double amputee to Paralympic champion. The ad’s hopeful, beautiful point of view that “life won’t be easy but it will be great” is truly inspiring.
- High: Godzilla vs King Kong debuts and destroys expectations with an impressive $50 million opening weekend.
- Low: Director Zack Snyder offends fans during a livestream to raise money for suicide prevention.
- Product: Philipp Römer, VP of Product at Forto, debuts The Product Management Skill Book.
- Viral: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who previously bemoaned their lack of privacy, sit down for an interview with Oprah which pulls in over 11 million viewers.
- RIP: Actor Yaphet Kotto.
- High: The season finale of Invincible stuns audiences (who had not read the comic books the series was based on).
- Low: Eren stuns fans with his shockingly cruel treatment of best friends Armin and Mikasa as Attack On Titan nears its end. Theories abound on his motivation.
- Product: Jeff Goethelf answers our top 10 questions about objectives and key results in his OKR FAQ.
- Viral: A tweet about a “demonic Chihuahua” warns potential adopters about what to expect from this “neurotic, man hating, animal hating, children hating” dog.
- High: High schooler Joshua Nelson earns a college scholarship and uses his savings to help a fellow student pay for college. Nelson explains, “I thought it was important to give back to my community that poured in so much to me.”
- Low: Russia’s Minister of Defenses announces plans to clone an army of 3,000-year-old Scythian warriors.
- Product: In her debut article on medium, Tobi Lufadeju explains where a PM’s loyalty should lie.
- Viral: Actor Vin Diesel’s old breakdancing video resurfaces thanks to The Masked Singer.
- RIP: Love Boat captain Gavin MacLeod.
- High: F9 earns $70 million in box office receipts during its opening weekend, setting a new pandemic record.
- Low: Actress Ellie Kemper apologizes for participating at a debutante ball as a teenager.
- Product: David Pereira, Head of Product Management at Virtual Identity, interrogates vanity metrics.
- Viral: Corey Calliet debuts as Panthro in an amazing Thundercats fan film.
- Batman Returns: Michael Keaton revisits the world of the Dark Knight on the set of The Flash.
- High: Chris Pratt leaps into the future in The Tomorrow War and Ryan George steals the show with his Screen Rant pitch meeting.
- Low: Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe reboot gets review bombed by disappointed fans.
- Product: Userpilot outlines four types of SaaS product growth strategies.
- Viral: Danny Gonzalaz gives away a Tesla to a stranger and doesn’t appear to ruin the winner’s life.
- High: U.S. Olympic gold medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock melts hearts with her love for her country.
- Low: Celebrities won’t stop telling us about their bathing habits.
- Product: Aditi Priya provides 10 visual models to help you simplify complex ideas for your stakeholders.
- Viral: Commuters are not thrilled by the Cinderella flashmob in L.A.
- Winning: Marvels’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings expertly introduces an obscure character into a well-known universe and leaves audiences wanting more.
- High: Korean survival drama Squid Game debuts on Netflix and proceeds to shatter a variety of records.
- Low: Lawsuits abound over the ownership of Spider-Man and the Avengers.
- Product: Roman Pichler details three qualities of great product roadmaps.
- Shameless Self-Promotion: EngageOne Communicate wins Unified Communications Product of the Year at Computing Magazine’s Cloud Excellence Awards.
- RIP: Comedian Norm MacDonald. Nick Rowan looks back on Norm’s public spiritual journey.
- High: The gang at Rifftrax releases RiffTrax Live: Hobgoblins so non-Kickstarter audiences can meet the Seneschal, an irritable medieval man with green fabric draped across his head.
- Low: DC drops ‘The American Way’ from Superman’s ‘Truth, Justice’ motto.
- Product: The Product Manifesto debuts to help PMs stay grounded while navigating an ever-shifting terrain of challenges and opportunities.
- RIP: US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
- High: #FreeBritney becomes reality when a judge unexpectedly ends Britney Spears’ conservatorship after 13 years.
- Low: In a dramatic contrast to Shang-Chi, Marvel’s Eternals awkwardly introduces obscure characters to a well-known universe and leaves audiences confounded.
- Product: Author Rita McGrath explores why Zillow Offers flopped, and flopped hard. Hint: It was a boss’ pet project.
- Viral: Heroic taxi driver stops a terror attack by locking the bomber in his cab.
- High: In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange accidentally fracture the multiverse and create the first pandemic-era film to surpass the $100 million mark in its first weekend of release.
- Low: Acclaimed writer and artist George Pérez diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer.
- Product: Michael Dubinsky, Head of Product Management for Symantec, offers a practical guide to defining a product strategy.
- Viral: A Web MD joke goes viral on Twitter because it’s a fresh take on an Internet classic.
- RIP: US senator Bob Dole.
What Were Your Favorite Moments From 2021?
The big surprise for me this year was Shang-Chi – and how much I loved it. I’ve only read a handful of stories with him and none of them were memorable, so I wasn’t really excited for the movie. However, the movie makes significant, yet smart, changes to the character and creates an experience that adheres to the classic Marvel movie formula (e.g., the ol’ third act mega battle with hordes of nameless monsters) while introducing exciting new elements and fighting styles. Very well done, and the main cast worked well together.
What moments from 2021 stand out to you?