One thing I love to do when I visit with companies is collect their favorite quotes and mantras. It helps me to understand their culture and their values. We all deal with certain truths about building technology products, and I find that certain quotes resonate strongly with people and help them internalize important concepts or ideas. For this article, I thought I’d share my current list of favorites.
Tracking down the original author of these types of quotes is hard. People collect them over their careers, and as they move companies, the principles follow, and I often find the same quotes in many companies. However, certain quotes do get associated with specific companies mainly because they try so hard to live up to the principle, and I try to indicate that below, but I can’t be confident of the origination of any of these, other than to say that I don’t take personal credit for any of them.
- “Our job is to invent on behalf of our users” – I attribute this to Amazon, as it emphasizes the all-important point that our customers and users can’t tell us what to build (they don’t know what’s possible, and they don’t know what they want until after they see it), so it is our job to invent great solutions on their behalf.
- “Making a profit is never the purpose, it is simply an outcome” – I attribute this to Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” and I like this because it applies not just to the need for product vision, but also to understanding the appropriate relationship of product to P&L.
- “Think in leaps, but iterate in steps” – I attribute this to Google, and I like it because it helps to highlight the need for both product vision and for Agile methods, and to help teams understand why these goals are not in conflict.
- “Be stubborn on vision but flexible on details” – I attribute this to Amazon, as it helps product people to understand where they should persist, and where they should quickly toss out bad ideas and move to the next.
- “Don’t fall In love” – I attribute this to Facebook and it speaks to the importance of not getting too attached to our own ideas. See “flexible on details” above.
- “If you’re not testing, you’re guessing” – I see this at many companies so I don’t attribute it to any one, but I spend so much of my time trying to get teams to the point where they can test their ideas quickly and effectively.
- “Fake it before you make it” – Another quote I attribute to Google, it is arguing for creating user prototypes as fast and cheap as possible so that you can test before you take the time to build production software.
- “If you continue to improve a product enough, you’ll eventually ruin it” – I attribute this to David Pogue of the New York Times, and I love this quote because I see so many teams that fall into the trap of feature chasing and they don’t understand why their product doesn’t move forward.
- “Data beats opinions” – Yet another great quote I attribute to Google. Similar to one of my favorite quotes from Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape, “If you don’t have any facts, we’ll just use my opinion.”
- “The company cares about what the leader cares about” – I attribute this to Bill Campbell, the product legend known as the Coach of Silicon Valley, and I argue this applies not just to the CEO, but also to the product managers (the team cares about what the product manager cares about).
Very hard for me to pick just ten. I have literally hundreds that I’ve aggregated and curated. And my favorites change over time and depending on the company. You can see from the list above that I am spending a lot of time lately on product vision, and on testing techniques. I also have favorite quotes around portfolio management, product development, process, optimization, roles and leadership.
Hopefully there are some quotes in here that are new to you. And please send me your favorite quotes as well.