Staying up-to-date on evolving technology and the latest consumer preferences is one of the most important elements of a product manager's role. But on top of leading product initiatives, conducting user analysis, drafting product requirements and specs, developing product roadmaps, and the pressure to launch successful products, keeping up with trends can often feel like one of the least important tasks on a long list of to-dos.
Somewhat counterintuitively, successful product management is grounded in continual learning. Some of the best product managers are relentlessly and incessantly curious. Keeping up with tech and trends should be a priority. Given that there's no shortage of people willing to share their ideas, expertise, and wisdom, reading is one easy way to accomplish this.
In fact, it's one of the best ways to glean lessons learned from the experts. On our podcast, This is Product Management, we ask all guests which books they're currently reading.
Below are the most recommended product management books, along with some of our favorites, in no particular order.
Sims does a masterful job explaining how innovation is not designed in a vacuum of brilliance. From Chris Rock to Steve Jobs, world-renowned innovators use a similar creative approach that relies on iterative development to build up to major breakthroughs. While Sims shows how a ‘little bets’ approach can be applied to various areas of one’s life, it is a particularly useful strategy for enterprises looking to innovate while mitigating risk. This is one of the product management books at the core of Feedback Loop's strategy.
While this classic is basically mandatory reading for designers, you likely won't find this in the 'product management books' section of the book store. But that doesn't make it any less relevant. Product managers will enjoy Don Norman's thorough analysis of why design is the key aspect of any product, and why some products delight customers while others frustrate them.
The leader of the Silicon Valley Product Group explores the creative process that inspiring products go through, from validation to feasibility.
In this product management book, the Google Ventures team documents the approach they've used with hundreds of startups in their portfolio and network. The result is the compelling five-day 'Sprint' which helps organizations prioritize and test product and feature concepts.
This is essentially the official guide to usability principles and information architecture. Steve Krug presents user experiences and product managers with the rules of the road for building modern and intuitive products.
Another example of a good read that's not necessarily in the category of product management books. Pixar co-founder, Ed Catmull, takes readers through the Pixar Animation factory where some of the most creative and originals films were designed. This book is a gold mine for product management lessons.
Treat this book as your introduction to design thinking, a concept that's critical to taking a customer-centric approach to building products. Legendary IDEO leader, Tim Brown, dispels common myths about innovation and argues that it doesn't take genius, but instead takes a rigorous and disciplined approach, with a side of experimentation. There are so many great stories and anecdotes in Brown's book that are worth a read for product managers.
Lean product managers understand the value of rapid user feedback and early adopters, but often hit roadblocks when it comes to gaining widespread adoption. Crossing the Chasm illustrates the importance of product road mapping, customer segmentation, and involving other departments like sales and marketing into the product lifecycle.
Software is eating the world and changing every industry in the process. Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, explains the idea of “disruption,” and how large corporations can avoid it. Prominent venture capitalist, Mark Suster cites this book as one of the most influential books in informing his investment decisions.
The Innovator's Dilemma presented a pretty bleak case for established organizations. Fortunately, in a follow-up to The Innovator’s Solution, Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor explain how companies can become disruptors themselves.
Before there was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, there were The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. The Startup Owner’s Manual is an updated and revised version of The Four Steps to the Epiphany. This book provides a detailed account of the entire product development lifecycle, including customer development and innovation accounting metrics. If you’re looking for practical applications and step-by-step instructions on applying Lean to product development, let this book be your bible.
Brian, Pamela and The 280 Group have been at the forefront of standardizing and defining product management for nearly two decades. In Product Management for Dummies, the duo provides the strategies and methodologies that will shape the next generation of great product managers.
While we consider all the books on this list must-reads, what separates The Hard Thing About Hard Things is its complete disregard for the formulaic strategies that dominate the pages of its cohort. In often rant-like, profanity-laced form, Ben Horowitz gets down and dirty discussing some of the most difficult decisions that product owners must makes for which there is no playbook. He 'tells it like it is' in this sobering tale that will get product managers nodding in agreement and reminiscence.
Sometimes the success of a product is not as simple as solving a problem. Creating engaging products that “hook” users can take you from a product people like to a product people love. In Hooked, Nir Eyal shares his extensive research based on psychological principles for how to create habit-forming products.
Dan Ariely gives Malcolm Gladwell a run for his money in this psychological thriller. Ariely explores the irrationality of human behavior in a book that has many lessons for product managers seeking to build sticky products.
As a product manager, you’re juggling many different tasks and responsibilities all at once. This book provides an actionable framework for managing your workflow in such a way that reduces opportunity for error and maximizes productivity. If you have a backlog of to-dos going into 2015, this can help you tear through them.
The former chairman and CEO at Intel explains how to build and run a company. This is one of the premier product management books and can teach product managers the art of leading by influence.
We've all heard the myths about Google's recruiting process. Well, the Head of People Operations finally spills the beans on the organization's unique approach to attracting and retaining the world's best talent.