Home Articles A lesson about product management from an old guy in Speedos

A lesson about product management from an old guy in Speedos


Swimming laps at the local pool the other day, the old guy in the lane next to me offered some unsolicited advice.

“Your kick, too inefficient. You are using too much energy. You need to go like this…” at which point he mimicked shallow, light movements with his hands.

My reaction? I dismissed him as an old dude who couldn’t swim very well. He was labouring up the lane with a lopsided breaststroke kick. What would he know?

Hmm. Hang on a minute.

I did have a sense that my kick wasn’t good, that it wasn’t adding enough value for what it took to produce.

Whoops! By discounting this man, I was falling into the same trap that product and marketing managers sometimes find ourselves in.

You know the one: ignoring what your consumers have to offer. Shrugging them off because, in your eyes, they don’t have credibility. After all, we’re the ones actually doing it! I mean, it’s my kick/product/campaign, so I should know best of all! Right?

As entrepreneurs and business owners, it’s easy to become arrogant about our product management.

We’re dealing with it everyday, and know our product inside and out. But that guy in the next lane — the one who isn’t a great swimmer himself — can see a flaw in what I am doing.

He sees inefficiency where I cannot. His perspective is clear, it’s objective, and it’s different.

So where does that leave us?

Of course, it’s our choice what we do with the opinions and perspectives of others. Some opinions are baseless and a distraction. But at least spend the next lap thinking about that opinion and your reaction to it.

Maybe it’s the kick you need to go to the next level.

Bri Williams is a product development and consumer analytics professional who uses her blog, People Patterns, to explore behavioural insights and observations for marketers. Follow Bri at @peoplepatterns