Dear Product Manager, your winning idea will likely not be yours...

Ope Adeoye 3 minute read

A number of times, I have been asked if Quickteller was my original idea. The answer is no. NO. Mba! I'm just a guy that was pulled in to help marshal the effort to make it happen. Someday, I'll pen down a proper origin story as I remember it from my own end of the pitch.

Also, looking back over the time that I served on the team, and the major milestone releases, I can see a pattern that looks like:

  1. Someone says something in the corridor or an email thread
  2. Someone else pokes around for data to back or challenge it
  3. Someone else describes how it may be implemented
  4. Someone else midwifes the process of seeing it done
  5. Someone hits the road to envangelise it

A lot of times, these could be different people. From the executive with the "you guys must do this" posture, to the customer service guy with the timid "I'm not too sure if this is a good idea for you guys to consider" presentation. For a PM to do well, he has to run a shop that makes these kinds of conversation easy to have, and his primary job is to supply input to the process of refining the ideas into something tangible and practical.

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Some of the times I had assumed that my job was to come up with the ideas and the job of other people was to execute on those, I either came up with foolish ideas or I couldn't drive buy-in across board to the very end.

This is not to say that a PM shouldn't try to be an idea generation machine (hell no! I still came to work every monday morning spinning a brand new idea in our internal email thread all the time, and some of it worked out fine), it just means that she should learn to generate, throw it out there and let others help to refine. Or, let others generate and she fills in any of the other actions that help to refine an idea and drive it to execution.

In fact, the more diverse the group with regards to experiences & background, the better the quality of perspectives from which a problem will be approached. And the better the quality of options that will be put on the table. 

So, as a PM, step back a little, let others be the geniuses, guide the process, help with the grunt work.

Then watch magic happen.