It’s true that the best way to learn about product management is through experience. However, the best way to prepare for real life experience is to read high quality books by seasoned experts.
With plenty of resources available today, like blogs, books, eBooks, and journals, it’s essential to choose reliable, engaging resources. The right books will help you to learn about technical topics in a way that works for you. Books with examples and case studies from the real-life experiences of their authors will also inspire you as you advance your career.
Below is a list of books that will help you up your product management game.
By Edward Tufte
Design is one of the most important aspects of product management. And just as it’s important to understand why design matters, it’s also vital to understand the major principles behind good design. In Beautiful Evidence, Edward Tufte deconstructs the design of historical images and charts such as ancient paintings, book covers, and Victorian botanical diagrams, in order to expose what makes each design compelling or successful. This approach helps to illustrate the power of design to the reader, rather than simply listing design and product management principles.
Tufte also includes some choice words about sources of questionable modern design, namely Microsoft PowerPoint. The author takes aim at the popular presentation program, stating: “The PP slide format has the worst signal/noise ratio of any known method of communication on paper or computer screen.” According to Tufte, the design options in PowerPoint and its workflow can be blamed for many poor presentations in the modern business world.
Overall, this book provides a great insight into the fundamentals of good design and the pitfalls of using flawed ones. Product designers and managers will derive great value from this book.
The Team That Managed Itself: A Story of Leadership
By Christina Wodtke
In The Team That Managed Itself, Author Christine Wodtke guides the reader through the process of building and leading a high-performance product management team. Her suggestions and guidance come from her own experiences in the trenches of Silicon Valley. Her story is highly engaging and provides the reader with plenty of actionable takeaways to put into practice throughout their product management career.
Using a fable storytelling format, Wodtke’s fictional main character, Allie, tackles questions like:
How do you work if the work environment is not healthy?
How should you deal with work pressure and deadlines?
How can different individuals work in harmony?
How should you set and achieve achievable goals?
If you’re the kind of person who asks yourself these questions, you’ll love the answers offered in this book. Allie’s compelling story and the anecdotes shared in this book will help you get a fresh perspective on the day-to-day challenges you face as a product manager.
The Product Book: How to Become a Great Product Manager
By Josh Anon and Carlos González de Villaumbrosia
This book is a must-read for beginners and experienced product managers alike. It’s loaded with practical and actionable suggestions, and presents innovative ideas along with the best methods of execution. The Product Book is a treasure trove of product management lessons shared by people from companies like Netflix, Google, and Facebook.
Whether you’re an aspiring product manager or already working in the field, you’ll have something to learn from this book.
Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love
By Marty Cagan
Why do some products succeed in getting customer approval while others fail? Product managers have a major role to play in answering this question, and this book outlines how. According to the author, product management expert Marty Cagan, you need to have both the confidence and evidence that your product will do well before putting all of your resources into building it. Researching and analyzing the opportunities for your product is the important first step that product managers should not ignore.
Cagan also explains how to strike the right balance of sales, customers, marketing, engineering, and design to achieve success. She introduces the term “product culture”, which is crucial to the entire process of product creation and management. Her shared experiences in the tech industry will help you to up your game in the product management industry and help you learn to create products your customers will love. After reading this book, you’ll come away with a strong understanding of the factors that will make or break the commercial success of a product.
High Output Management
By Andrew Grove
What’s the one biggest factor that successful businesses and commercially successful products have in common? According to Andrew Grove, author of High Output Management, the word you’re looking for is “management”. This book is like a crash course in product management.
Grove tells you how to create and manage highly productive teams, how to motivate team members, and how to take their performance to the next level. You’ll also get to know the mistakes you should never make in your career as a product manager. This book might just revolutionize your way of working. For managers, it will provide new perspectives and possibly even boost your career.
Bill Campbell, former coach to Steve Jobs, has said about this book, “High Output Management is a bible that every entrepreneur and every manager in the country should look at, read and understand.”
The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
By Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz’s reputation as co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz precedes this product management book. His insights will provide you with all the information you need to start a business. Anyone can encourage you to start your own business, but Horowitz’s book will prepare you for the real challenges that you may face, should you choose to follow this path. Drawing from his own experiences, he explains everyday problems in the fields of investing, managing, buying, selling, and marketing: all key stages of a product life cycle, and essential to product management.
Horowitz discusses real incidents from his life where he’s had to fire people, poach competitors, and learn how to be a good CEO. The book is highly recommended for beginners, however even veteran entrepreneurs will benefit from reading about Horowitz’s journey and achievements.
Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value
By Melissa Perri
This is the product management book that popularized the term “the build trap.” In simple terms, the build trap refers to when businesses focus on building just anything for the sake of it rather than focusing on building something with quality or meaning. According to author Melissa Perri, a lot of product teams are stuck in it. That’s why it’s important we endeavor to build valuable things, instead of simply maximizing production of product. Perri is opposed to the idea of a linear process, instead favoring a product development process guided by the needs of customers. Companies should not blindly go on producing unnecessary products.
Perri considers three factors the most important in the internal functioning of any business: process, strategy, and culture. If these three are implemented correctly, then product management becomes a piece of cake. Focusing on solving the problems of customers is ultimately what will add value to the business.
Interested in Product Management?
Each of these books provides a unique opportunity to learn and grow from the experiences of influential product managers that have gone before you. You can advance your product management career by following in their footsteps, and by avoiding the mistakes they have made along the way.
Thinkful’s flexible product management course provides an ideal stepping stone into the industry, and offers the security of a career guarantee when you graduate. If you’re interested in finding out more about product management and the people who have carved out successful careers in this exciting space, don’t forget to check out Thinkful’s product management blog.