One of the most common feelings in the world of product development, whether it is product management, design, business analysis, or engineering, is imposter syndrome. I imagine that imposter syndrome is one of the most common feelings in most high demand fields if we're being honest. The idea that we don't belong because we're not as smart or capable as those around us. Or we have little to offer. And we'll be found out.
I love the tweet above. Sahil is the founder of Gumroad, a cool platform for creators if you're not familiar. It really captures my feelings as well because all of us feel like imposters frequently.
For some of us it is because we are generalists in a specialist's world. For others, it is because we interact with so many incredibly intelligent people every day. Still for others, it is because we compare ourselves right now with those who have been doing our role for far longer. Or it may be some combination of these factors among many others.
Understanding that we all feel like imposters at various times can help. Understanding that each perspective and experience is unique and critical in product development is also important. We all started somewhere. Muddling along while we learned the ropes. We are all still learning no matter our profession or years of experience.
We shouldn't let imposter syndrome hold us back, but let it drive us forward, helping us to become better, understanding that even the best of the best feel like imposters at times.
Embrace Your Imposter Syndrome (video) - Even the most successful people, from authors to product leaders to astronauts feel like imposters. But that shouldn't stop us from doing our best work. Because it is often the awkwardness we feel that can help make magic happen.
Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome (podcast) - Coming from a technical background into product, or from any other background, brings benefits and drawbacks. Playing to one's strengths and working on one's weaknesses helps bridge the gap.
Nobody Knows Nothing (article) - Another great article from a great blogger. While the title feels pessimistic, it is meant to convey the idea that nobody has a monopoly on knowledge (nobody knows nothing) and the inverse (everybody knows something). But he conveys it with more fun anecdotes.
The key to building excellent products, at least in my opinion, is understanding your users. And you can't do that if you're not spending time with them, watching how they work, seeing their issues, asking questions, and diving deeper. We can gain this kind of understanding through in-depth research or through periodic, less formal conversations. The key point is that it happens. And the more regularly the better.
One of my favorite stories along these lines comes from the early days of Airbnb when Paul Graham asked the founders where their customers were. They answered they had a few in New York. So he asked them what they were still doing in California. They needed to be in New York knocking on doors, getting to know their customers. So that's what they did. And they went from small startup to major disruptor by better understanding their users.
Do Things That Don't Scale - Startups (and products) take off because their founders (and teams) make them take off. They often require a push. That may mean getting people to buy in one by one until you get traction. But that is often what it takes.
Democratizing Research (podcast) - Democratizing research is understanding that the world is moving fast so we need to enable teams to react fast. Product teams (and businesses) need the tools to do research to inform decisions. A good listen.
Doing User Research (podcast) - Eva and I dive into user research. It's critical for product teams to understand user needs and find out what you don't know. While it would be great to have a dedicated user research team, user research is also the responsibility of product managers and product designers to inform the product design, gather insights, and guide the overall direction.