A room without books is like a body without a soul
When I started my journey, my focus was solely on the Scrum product owner role and hence my recommendations include books on Agile and Scrum. Gradually I moved towards the customer, product discovery, product-market fit, scaling of products, product leadership and so on.
It is very difficult to come up with the top 10 books in the product management space. Still, let me recommend some of my favourite books which helped me over the years in developing as a product manager.
1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The essential notion of Lean thinking is confirmed or validated learning. A lean startup methodology is a scientific approach to launching a startup that draws on user feedback data to guide and speed up the product’s iterative development.
One must follow the build-measure-learn loop and come up with a product that is loved by customers. In this groundbreaking book, Eric introduced new terms like Minimal Viable Products (MVP), Innovation Accounting, validated learning and the 5 Why analysis. I must recommend this book if anyone wants to learn how startups work differently than big organisations and how to minimise waste and come up with a winning product, or service.
2. The Four Steps To The Epiphany by Steve Blank
I consider The Four steps to the Epiphany as the most underrated product management book. In this book, Steve Blank focuses on customer discovery and the customer validation process. This is the book that launched the Lean Start-Up revolution. The book provides hands-on instructions on how to go about customers, sales, marketing and building your company at different stages of your business. Steve tells entrepreneurs to come out of the building, talk to the customers and regularly update (fine-tune) the business model.
This book is available as a free download on the internet.
3. What Customers Want by Anthony Ulwick
This book is based on outcome-based innovation. What Customers Want explains with examples why it is important to address customer needs rather than just focusing on products and technologies. “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”.
Tony explains three key components of outcome-based innovation:
1) Customers buy products and services to help them get jobs done
2) Customers use a set of metrics to judge how well a job is getting done and how a product performs
3) The customer metrics make possible the systematic and predictable creation of breakthrough products and services.
4. Inspired by Marty Cagan
Few consider Marty the father of modern product management. In this book, Marty Cagan explains the role of a product manager in a tech company and what it takes to be a successful product manager. Next, he focuses on the importance of creating the right product culture for success and understanding the range of product discovery and delivery techniques available to solve customer and business problems. This book is divided into five sections:
- Part I: Lessons from top tech companies
- Part II: The right people
- Part III: The right product
- Part IV: The right process
- Part V: The right culture
Whether you’re new to product management or have got some good product management experience under your belt, “Inspired: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love” is a great and valuable read.
5. Cracking The PM Interview by Gayle Laakmann and Jakie Bavaro
You should refer to this resource, if you aim to join (FAANG) Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft. Lackman successfully covers and explains how product management works in each of these companies. Book has chapters on PM resume, soft skills, coding, company research, PM role etc. But the section that I liked the most was the Estimation one, there are so many scenarios based questions like how many pizzas are delivered in Manhattan every hour? How do you design an alarm clock for the blind?
6. Hacking Growth By Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
Hacking Growth is very relevant if your product has reached an AHA moment and is ready to scale. Book talks about your North star metric. It also talks about discovering growth leavers and adopting a growth hacking cycle which involves four stages: (1) data analysis and insight gathering, (2) idea generation, (3) experiment prioritization, and (4) running the experiments. The second part of the book, titled “The Growth Hacking Playbook,” offers a detailed set of tactics for acquiring, activating, retaining, and monetizing users or customers.
7. Continuous Discovery Habits by Teresa Torres
With this book, Teresa gives us another discovery framework “Opportunity Solution Tree (OST)”. It seemed like a combination of existing frameworks like Lean Startup, Jobs to be done, and Scrum. The book starts with the formation of the continuous discovery team comprising of:
- the Product Manager
- the Design Lead
- the Tech Lead
The book focuses on the fact that a good product discovery starts with a clear outcome specified with a metric. A product outcome (OKR) measures how well the product supports a given business outcome and whether it creates business value. Once the product outcome is selected, the next step is to define and map opportunities.
What are opportunities?
They represent the customer needs, pain points, which in turn, create the business value driving your outcome (once your product solves them). Finally, we need to come up with solutions and assumptions (to be validated with tests) to address the customer’s needs and pains. In a nutshell, our solutions have to be aligned with the organisation’s outcomes/goals.
8. Testing Business Ideas by David Bland and Alexander Osterwalder
7 out of 10 new products fail to deliver on expectations. Testing Business Ideas aims to reverse that statistic. In the tradition of Alex Osterwalder’s global bestseller Business Model Generation, this practical guide contains a library of hands-on techniques for rapidly testing new business ideas.
Testing Business Ideas explains how systematically testing business ideas dramatically reduces the risk and increases the likelihood of success for any new venture or business project. It builds on the internationally popular Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas by integrating Assumptions Mapping and other powerful lean startup-style experiments. (Taken from Goodreads.com)
9. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
The Design of Everyday Things is a best-selling book by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman about how design serves as the communication between object and user, and how to optimize that conduit of communication in order to make the experience of using the object pleasurable. This book is not limited to digital products rather Don covers every aspect of daily life and how a bad design could spoil a user experience. Must have book for the product folks.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.in/Design-Everyday-Things-Don-Norman/dp/0465055710/ref=sr_1_1?crid=21MARCUNWTE12&keywords=design+of+everyday+things&qid=1651565298&s=books&sprefix=design+of+%2Cstripbooks%2C654&sr=1-1
10. UX for Lean Startups By Laura Klein
UX for Lean Startups (2013) provides an innovative, cost-effective approach to researching and designing products and services. Geared toward start-ups and companies that want to act like them, it shows that you can provide your customers with an excellent user experience while keeping your time and money expenditures as lean as possible. It applies Lean Startup principles to validate the riskiest design assumptions and make an early decision for your product.
Other notable mentions:
- Running Lean by Ash Maurya
- Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
- The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
- The Lean Product Lifecycle by Tendayi Viki
- The art of thinking clearly by Rolf Dobelli
- Crossing the chasm by Geoffrey Moore
- Hooked by Nir Eyal
- Measure What Matters by John Doerr
- Working Backwards by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
- Swipe to Unlock by Aditya Agashe, Neel Mehta, and Parth Detroja