As an experienced and successful product leader, I firmly believe that having strong opinions is essential for success.
I want to share eight reasons behind this belief and some real-world examples to make the point.
Building thought leadership
Consistently expressing well-informed opinions builds trust and credibility among stakeholders, establishing product managers as knowledgeable leaders and experts.
Sam Altman's views on the power and risks of AI have helped him stand out as a thought leader in the space.
Enable Effective Stakeholder Management
Strong opinions are critical to making discussions meaningful. Only meaningful discussions can enable product managers to effectively engage, inspire, and align stakeholders on the direction and the roadmap.
Satya Nadella's strong opinion on the importance of adopting open-source technologies led to a significant cultural shift within the company. That has led to Microsoft collaborating with the open-source community and driving success in cloud computing with Azure.
Lead out-of-the-box and innovative thinking
Great product managers are known to challenge the status quo and lead innovation within product teams. And that is only possible to do with having clear and strong opinions.
Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, firmly believed that the future of entertainment was streaming. His belief has transformed Netflix from a DVD rental service into the world's largest online streaming platform, forever changing how we consume media.
Demonstrating knowledge and awareness
Opinions showcase a product manager's depth of knowledge and awareness of the product, customers, market and business, positioning them as the most trusted source of knowledge. This expertise fosters respect and credibility among colleagues and stakeholders.
Mary Meeker, a renowned venture capitalist and former partner at Kleiner Perkins, gained recognition as a thought leader in internet trends. Through her influential annual "Internet Trends" reports, Meeker shares opinions backed by extensive research. Her expertise and insights have established her as an authority in the industry.
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Inspiring Decision-Making in Uncertainty:
When there is no apparent clear path forward, product managers' opinions offer fresh perspectives and alternative options for consideration. Their informed viewpoints help people navigate ambiguity and make informed decisions, guiding the team towards the best possible outcomes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, product managers at Zoom believed in adapting Zoom to serve professional meetings and various social and recreational purposes. This opinion inspired the team to expand the platform's capabilities, introducing features like virtual backgrounds, breakout rooms, and interactive games. As a result, Zoom is the go-to platform for virtual gatherings, family reunions, online parties, and even virtual weddings.
Encouraging Professional Growth and Success:
Developing and expressing opinions requires extensive research, continuous learning, and a deep understanding of the industry. Product managers set themselves up for long-term professional growth by investing in building knowledge and awareness.
Most product managers who have gathered expertise, knowledge, and awareness about their niche usually grow very rapidly in their career.
Drive Product Iteration and Improvement:
Having strong and many opinions also forces product managers to be highly critical of their opinions. And this makes product managers identify areas for improvement continuously.
Sundar Pichai strongly believed in the importance of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This opinion has pushed Google to incorporate AI technologies into various products (like the new search experience and Bard.)
Differentiate in a Competitive Landscape:
Having unique and distinct opinions help products stand out in a competitive market by challenging industry norms. If done well, this helps capture customers' attention and loyalty.
Slack entered a market dominated by traditional email and messaging tools. By having a clear opinion of the drawbacks of existing solutions, Slack created a differentiated product that revolutionized work communication.