Over the course of a series of blogs, we have established that a Product Manager wears multiple hats depending on the team, product and situation/problem that you’re solving. While we established it, we did address how a Product Manager tackles these challenges – Do they take a reactive or a proactive approach? Is the Product Manager a leader or a follower? In the Marvel universe, is the Product Manager an Ironman or Captain America?
I have used the Marvel reference to draw analogies and references, and it’s more fun this way!
If you look at the character of Captain America, he is the one who responds reactively to a threat/problem. Ideally, he would assemble the team (using his most famous line from the comics – Avengers Assemble) and try to solve the problem as a team. He has powerful instincts and portrays the character of a leader, irrespective of how the situation may arise.
If this analogy was to be taken to the Product Management side of the world, the threat or the problem that the Product Manager is trying to solve could be the competitive advantage of the fellow competitor. In this case, the Product Manager is reactively trying to approach the issue. One of the most proven approaches is to tackle this sort of a situation is catching up to the competition and thus, become a follower.
For example: Go back a few years when Flipkart had launched Cash on Delivery which accelerated the growth of e-commerce and flipkart in India. Immediately, the likes of snapdeal and Amazon when they entered the Indian market with COD was for the same reason (something which makes sense to the customer and catching up to the competition).
On the other hand, if you look at Iron man, he is one of those characters who is a thought leader. Let it be the hulk buster (to defeat the hulk) or creating an AI (Jarvis) way more advanced that any of the AI’s available or the Iron Man suit itself. He is more proactive and portrays the character of a visionary.
If this analogy was to be taken on the PM side, it would be something like coming up with a concept/feature or solution to a problem before any one of the competitors are thinking about it. This would provide a competitive advantage to the product in the market. In this case, the PM is trying to proactively approach the issue at hand and thus, a leader. In the above example, Ironman would be Flipkart with respect to the COD feature while Amazon the likes of Captain America.
What do you think a Product Manager should do? Should be a follower or leader? Should a Product Manager be proactive or reactive? Would you rather be an Iron Man or Captain America?
In my view, Cap’s role is to catch up to the competition and be a leader to achieve the goal while the Iron man’s role is to be a thought leader and provide the advantage for your product before your competition thinks of it. In my view, both are important. In a competitive product environment, it is important to catch up with the competition, so that you don’t lose out and at the same time, it is important to have an advantage over the competition.
Would you agree or do you think one plays a more important role than the other?
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Also, read our blog on The History of PoS