Why Creatives Make the Best Product Managers

The Product Manager role has gained prominence in recent years as companies are becoming more Agile focused to better compete in a continuously changing technology sector, where business cycles are rapidly shrinking from months to weeks to days.

However, the Product Management role is in danger of obsolescence because it’s becoming overly technical and highly mundane, often leading to the deployment of crappy products. One major problem is that companies heavily rely on engineers to develop creative products and solutions, instead of, well, Creatives!

So here’s my 6 reasons why Creatives make k*ckass Product Managers…


Reason #1: Creatives are Visual Thinkers

Creatives are intellectually curious with a deep and persistent desire to know and constantly ask “why?” One of our primary advantages in learning and ideation is that we’re visual thinkers, where we think through situations, information & data, and problems by visualizing them in our minds.

Most people are overwhelmed by the unlimited data and information that surrounds us everyday, and yet creatives are able to leverage this ability as visual thinkers to organize large amounts of data, which improves our ability to think, communicate, and convey complex information.img - visual thinker

This helps Creatives in just about any creative endeavor, including product development, where we can easily develop new products and feature ideas simply by visualizing them in our minds!

It’s an extraordinary capability highly unique to Creatives, and one that provides a distinct advantage over left brain thinkers. And since Product Managers are responsible for developing the product vision & strategy, you should highly consider a Creative for this important responsibility.


Reason #2: Creatives Have Higher Levels of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Creatives have higher levels of emotional intelligence (EQ), which makes it easier for us to empathize with customers by engaging, listening, and learning from them; which is the secret to building awesome products.

img - emotional intelligenceEmotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include four core skills: emotional self-awareness, social awareness (empathy), self-management (motivation), and relationship management (social skills).


Reason #3: Creatives are Systems Thinkers

Creatives are a naturally curious, often daydreaming brainstorming new ideas and creative solutions to difficult problems. Where others see a blank canvas, we see full-scale solutions without having to understand – or be constrained – by the limitations of technology.

img - systems thinking productThis is due to the fact that Creatives are systems thinkers, which involves moving from observing events or data, to identifying patterns of behavior, to surfacing the underlying structures that drive those events and patterns. We internalize all of this and continue to pull and shape our mental models, perceptions, and data into innovative concepts and solutions. We can even do this when we’re not focused on the problem, as our subconscious minds continue to design and iterate!

This system thinking ability is natural for Creatives, because we embody curiosity, clarity, compassion, choice, and courage.


Reason #4: Creatives Feed Off of Adversity

Creatives don’t run from adversity. We embrace it.

For us, adversity is where the creative process starts.

img - creative thinking lightbulb

A problem is nothing more than an opportunity to create something better. To see things differently. To discover new paths forward.

Additionally, we thrive on collaborating within diverse teams in order to hear a variety of perspectives – including opposing views – because we know that these can lead to bigger and better ideas.


Reason #5: Creatives are Visionaries

Creatives utilize all of the above skills – visual thinking, emotional intelligence, systems thinking – combined with the spark from adversity to radically alter the typical approach to solving problems with ingenious solutions.

img - quote picasso

It’s the ability to see opportunities where others see problems, to make complex ideas simple, and to passionately seek to change the world for the better.

That is what it means to be visionary.


Reason #6: Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates

The battle between Steve Jobs “the creative” versus Bill Gates “the engineer” is the ultimate battle of the minds. Both were extraordinarily brilliant and developed great companies. However, Bill was a convergent thinker and was often constrained by his limitations of hardware and software, where Steve transcended technology with divergent thinking by developing new product ideas without having the technological solution to build it.

Steve utilized Strategic Design to continuously innovate by launching the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, not to mention redefining commerce with iTunes and Apple retail stores.

img - steve jobs vs bill gates

He built Apple into one of the most valuable companies on the planet with a market cap today of a trillion dollars, a distinction that only one other company has ever achieved (and it’s not Microsoft).

Microsoft simply could not keep up with Apple or the technology space and came close to irrelevance in early 2000’s by launching several failed products (Windows Vista, etc.), and was only more recently pulled back from the brink of extinction by Satya Nadella.


So What Happens When the Product Requires Technical Direction?

This seems to be the main issue holding companies back from hiring creatives into Product Management, when the answer is simple: the Tech Lead should be focused on backlog grooming (with the Product Manager) and providing technical direction on user stories and acceptance criteria. Or if it’s super technical, then it should be escalated to the technical architect. But Product Managers aren’t supposed to be technical (except for technical PM roles, duh), nor are they supposed to be tech architects. It simply isn’t necessary.

emoji - cryingWhaaat? Product Managers not technical? I can practically hear all the engineers crying in their tacos.

That’s right, I said it.

It’s only a matter of time before robots take over software development, and that’s when creatives will rule the world! img - man dancing

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