• April Marie Canillo

What is a Product Mindset?

Updated: Nov 6



As new technologies and product professions evolve, there are more opportunities to make mistakes than there are successes, so honing a growth mindset will be key to succeeding in Product.


🧠 First let's define then break down the two types of mindsets


A mindset is a habitual attitude or way of thinking (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). There are two different mindsets someone can choose to operate in throughout life: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Fixed mindsets do not thrive on challenges, rather it operates under the belief that talent is gifted to a selected few and their abilities are unchanging (Dweck, 2016). Alternatively, though failure can be a painful experience, those with growth mindsets understand that failure doesn’t define them, and believe their abilities can be developed and improved.


Individuals that put more energy into learning and believed their talents could be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others, were more collaborative, shared information, sought feedback, and admitted errors (OTL, 2021).


A growth mindset encourages risk-taking without worrying about failure because mistakes represent a chance to learn.


When NASA was soliciting applications for astronauts, they rejected people with histories of pure success and selected instead people who had significant failures that they had bounced back from (Dweck 2016). This decision was made in an effort to reject the idea of fixed ability and select instead for a growth mindset.



🚀 So then what is a Product Mindset?


A Product Mindset refers to the habits, attitudes, or ways of thinking that product people embody that enable them to lift their team towards success. Since products, the market, and customer sentiments are ever-evolving, a Product Person is best primed to lead their team to success if they develop and maintain a growth mindset.


The growth mindset classically refers to personal development, and in Product, it’s about delivering value, embracing change, and discovering opportunities for growth (Sinha, 2020).


✍🏽 How do you train yourself to develop a Product Mindset?

  • Build a practice of observing reactions around you to help you gain a deeper understanding of an existing product (For example, identify: What are the product reviews saying? What are the circulating opinions online? What differentiates the product from its competitors? And why are people saying the things they are saying? etc) (Zhuo, 2021).


  • Develop a multi-layered lens or way of seeing and discovering the world or the problem, in order to better question, brainstorm, understand, predict, and envision potential needs, goals, wants, and opportunities (For example: learn about human thinking or human behaviour, analyze cultural phenomena, solicit customer feedback, ask questions, etc) (Zhuo, 2021).


  • There’s no room for ego in Product. The success of you is in the success of your team and the value the product brings to the business and its customers. Develop your soft skills and time-management abilities as soon as possible. You will need to make the best use of resources to achieve the larger goal - and though you may not be able to satisfy everyone’s needs, you’ll need to be able to understand the costs and benefits of each decision (Mansour, 2019).


The resource-consuming process of understanding a problem and undergoing the iterative journey of trial-and-error in prototype testing may not be a feasible solution for the thousands of big and small product decisions you will need to make in your career (Zhuo, 2021). At some point, you will need to rely on those trained instincts in order to make a decision. The best time to develop that instinct is now. You don’t need to be in Product to start developing a Product Mindset, you just need to be willing to practice.


Nidhi Gurnani, PMDojo mentor, hosted the ‘Developing Product Sense’ workshop for the PMDojo community, where she described Product Sense as:


understanding all the factors influencing a problem, and having the trained ability to make the right decisions despite being faced with considerable ambiguity (Gurnani, 2021). To do this, you need to identify what questions to ask, ask the right questions, and know whose answer will move you forward in the product building journey.

Having a growth mindset as a product person means that you don’t hide away when faced with problems, nuances, or challenges. Instead, by developing the product mindset, and practicing your product sense, you will have the foundations in place to continue to help your team move the needle. Product Sense is about prioritizing the most painful problem and converting it into the most impactful opportunity. The Product Mindset is the foundational step before Product Sense: it is the realization that abilities are not fixed, and having the agility and training in place to seek challenges and information that pushes you to think outside-of-the-box, in order to improve yourself, your team, your business, and the products people use.


If you’re interested in an immersive way of learning to develop your Product Mindset alongside a team of folks from diverse backgrounds and a dedicated team of mentors that want to see you succeed, check out PMDojo’s Accelerator Program! Applications for the next cohort is closing soon🔥

📝 References


Dweck, Carol S. “Mindset: The new psychology of success. How we can fulfill our potential.” Random House, 2016.


Gurnani, Nidhi. “Developing Product Sense” PMDojo Workshop, 2021.


Mansour, Sherif. “Product Manager: The role and best practices for beginners” 19 July 2019, www.atlassian.com/agile/product-management/product-manager.


“Mindset” Definition of Mindset by Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindset.


Sinha, Abhijeet. “Product Mindset vs Project Mindset |” Opensense Labs, 26 Feb. 2020, opensenselabs.com/blog/articles/product-mindset-project-mindset.


The importance of having a growth mindset. The Importance of Having a Growth Mindset | Office of Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://otl.vet.ohio-state.edu/students/learning-tools-and-strategies/importance-having-growth-mindset.


Zhuo, Julie. “The Power of Product Thinking” Future, 15 June 2021, future.a16z.com/product-thinking/.

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