💎 Hidden Gems for PM's Inside Taylor Swift Lyrics
Eras Tour (Mind the Beet's Version)
Seattle is 🔥 with Taylor fever this weekend as the town gears up for her two-night stopover on her Eras Tour. In fact, as I post this, Helen and our oldest daughter are at the concert and Taylor is taking the stage. So, this seemed like a perfect week to revisit our old tongue-and-cheek post on what product makers can learn from Taylor Swift lyrics.
Without further ado, here are some tips on product that all you Swifties out there can relate to.
👋 Mind The Beet: Two working parents (both product leaders in tech) discuss our journey with career, parenting, and life. We publish every Sunday. Subscribing is free.
🎵It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me. 🎵
Enough said. If you are PM, Step 1: Show up. Step 2: Take accountability. Step 3: Be a part of the solution. Many times being helpful is more useful than being right.
🎵 I polish up real nice. 🎵
One of the most magical parts of product management is the art of great synthesis. PM’s transform raw and messy customer input, data and market trends into a coherent product idea that will drive impact.
🎵 And it’s fine to fake it til you make it. Til you do. Til it’s true. 🎵
Everyone has Imposter Syndrome. Product making is part art, part science, part intuition. Developing that intuition takes time and practice - you should lean in and establish your support system.
🎵I keep my side of the street clean.🎵
Set a quality bar for your own work higher than what’s expected of you and sweat the details.
🎵Get out your map, pick somewhere, and just run.🎵
In product making, if you are standing still, you are falling behind. Analysis paralysis is a real thing. You learn by doing & collecting data.
🎵If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Strategy sets the scene for the tale.🎵
Great PM’s know how to use a strategy to quicken decision-making. A strategy provides the wooden barriers of the sandbox that you play in. Strategies are not step-by-step playbooks, but they help you generate energy when getting started and create clarity later on.
🎵 He wanted it comfortable. I wanted that pain. He stayed the same. All of me changed. 🎵
You can’t develop product intuition without failure, pain, and trying new things. Find a team where it’s ok to fail and learn. View boredom and comfort as signs of needing change.
🎵 Bend when you can. Snap when you have to.🎵
Iterate or pivot? Change is costly, so as Taylor is saying here, always iterate and grind it out when you can, but don’t be afraid to pivot when the data is clear that what you are doing is not working.
🎵 Sometimes, I feel like everyone is a sexy baby and I’m a monster on the hill. 🎵
This is a common trap for PMs who work in an area for a long time. You use your product deeper and more frequently than any of your customers, and you see the micro-flaws. But your product is not central to the lives of your customers as much as it’s central to your life. This causes several forms of bias, including seeing flaws in their product that just aren’t critical when looked at from the customer’s perspective.
🎵Familiarity breeds contempt. 🎵
If you work in software long enough, you know that user experiences age. People worship disruption and sometimes a “new way of doing the same thing” is a feature in itself. Startups by definition need to counterposition against incumbents, so there is a natural tendency to look down upon the current solutions. Great PMs are aware of this context.
🎵She needed cold hard proof, so I gave her some. 🎵
Clearly, Taylor goes out of her way to have a great relationship with her Data Science team. Definitely a top tip for any new product manager. Our jobs are to wire up neurons and build social proof for ideas and many problems can be framed with data.
🎵 Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room, and every single one of your friends was making fun of you, but fifteen seconds later, they were clapping too? 🎵
Figuring out how to manage a non-consensus bet is an important part of product making. Persistent, differentiated product success often comes from seeing something other people don’t and capturing it. It takes careful management of your stakeholders to survive through the crucible of judgment before the bet clearly plays off.
🎵 I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this.🎵
You’ll work on many features that end up shipping, but there will be a time when you’ve poured everything in, but the feature needs to get cut. Sometimes not shipping is a feature and that’s ok. You earn your stripes as a PM upon your first failed experiment or cut feature.
🎵I’ll stare directly in the sun, but never in the mirror. 🎵
Context required here: Taylor is talking about the anti-hero, or what not to do! Shiny-object syndrome is common in product work, and it’s easy to fool yourself and go too long on a losing path. Establishing stage gates and asking the team to meet them creates accountability - honest self-reflection is key.
🎵If it feels like a trap, you're already in one.🎵
Taylor, were you talking to Clay? If you work in Big Tech, you think about the Innovator’s Dilemma - your current customers will encourage you to iterate on what is perceived as the highest value, only to be disrupted by new entrants who focused on lower-value customers and then iterate to the next big thing. The tough part of this strategic quagmire is that incumbents don’t know they are in this situation until it’s too late.
🎵So what if I told you none of it was accidental. Cause I’m a mastermind.🎵
Yes you are, Taylor, yes you are.
▶️ Retro Playlist
Since we are talking music, here’s a great playlist Helen created to kick off team retrospectives: Retro playlist on Spotify. Top songs like these will get you in a reflective frame of mind:
With A Little Help From My Friends by the Beatles
SOS by Abba
Bad Day by REM
Try Everything by Shakira
🎧 Taylor Swift (Acquired’s Version)
Ben and David did an awesome overview of the life and business decisions of Taylor Swift in Season 10 of their Acquired Podcast, the story of great companies and the playbooks behind them. You will learn all you need to know about the music business and how Taylor transformed it.