Lots of Good Stuff for Product Managers

Note-taking techniques, Women in Product and more

By Ken Norton

When I started this newsletter I aimed to maintain a few-times-monthly pace, and I did quite well through the first year and a half. Alas, vacations, work, millennial thinkpieces, and the horror of national and global catastrophes took their toll and I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. I know a lot of you value the job listings in particular, so I’ll try to resume a somewhat predictable schedule.

The Women in Product Conference was held earlier this week to universal acclaim, and it’s not hyperbole to note that they fielded the most impressive lineup of any PM-oriented conference ever held. Every attendee I spoke with was inspired. Next time you hear a conference organizer whine that they couldn’t find any women to take their stage, point them to this page.

The WIP organization also sends out a weekly jobs newsletter. If you’re hiring, you can submit your job for free here. And finally, if you don’t identify as a woman but are wondering how you can get involved or show your support, I have good news for you: Women in Product is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and you can donate online or offer to fund sponsorships or scholarships by contacting info@womenpm.org.

Good Reads

I started taking notes using the Bullet Journal system a few months ago and I’m quite happy with the results. The system allows you to take meeting notes, jot down ideas, and track tasks linearly in a single notebook organized by date. That’s how I’ve always done it. But bullet journaling solves a longstanding problem: allowing you to find and make sense of the hodgepodge by introducing a simple system of symbols and indexing that you’ll actually adhere to. For example, you preface each note with a dash “–” and any task with a simple dot “•”. Later when you review your day, you can easily find anything that needs to be done. When the task is completed, you put an “X” through the dot or use a “>” to show that it’s been migrated to your digital task list. By occasionally updating an index you make it possible to find specific topics at a later date. It’s easy, builds on my existing habits, and lets me continue to use my beloved Leuchtturm1917 medium-sized dotted notebooks.

I first learned about bullet journaling from the excellent Recomendo weekly newsletter. Each week you get six short suggestions from the Cool Tools crew (Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, and Claudia Dawson). I always find something useful.

Stratechery, Ben Thompson’s newsletter, remains one of the most essential daily reads in tech. His deep, thoughtful analysis of the industry is unparalleled. I mention him here because Ben isn’t a big self-promoter and maintains a nice distance from Silicon Valley (quite literally – he’s based in Taiwan). Subscribe for $10 a month – or $100 yearly – it’s money well spent. If you need convincing, check out his brilliant teardown of Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition or his analysis of the iPhone X and 8 announcement.

“We need a theory of jerks. We need such a theory because, first, it can help us achieve a calm, clinical understanding when confronting such a creature in the wild.” Eric Schwitzgebel, a UC-Riverside professor, offers up A Theory of Jerks. One takeaway: are you the only reasonable person in the workplace? If so, you’re probably the jerk.

My friend and long-time colleague Jake Knapp is leading a two-day Design Sprint Bootcamp in San Francisco in November. Jake is the originator of the GV Design Sprint process and recently set out on his own to write and teach. He’s awesome and this is a great opportunity to learn directly from the master.

Google just launched a new website that consolidates every startup resource the company offers called Startup with Google. There are lots of Googlers focused on helping startups succeed, and its impressive to see all of their efforts in one place.

Years ago I took a workshop in principled negotiation and it was one of the most valuable things I’ve done for my career. Brent Tworetzky provides a TL;DR in Negotiation Skills for Product Managers: 5 Things You Need to Know. I also recommend the classic book Getting to Yes.

The Heath Brothers have authored some of my favorite business books including Made to Stick and Switch. Chip and Dan are about to release their new book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.

Originally published: September 21, 2017

Ken Norton is an executive coach who spent more than fourteen years at Google where he led product initiatives for Docs, Calendar, Google Mobile Maps, and GV (formerly Google Ventures).

  • How to Hire a Product Manager: the Classic Essay

    The classic essay that defined the product manager role
    What is product management? What makes a great product manager, and how do you become one? This is Ken Norton's classic essay on the role of product management that launched thousands of PM careers.

  • 10x Not 10%: Bold Product Strategy and Vision

    Product management by orders of magnitude
    In this ambitious essay, Ken Norton looks at the history of innovation and challenges product managers and product leaders to think bigger, to aim for 10x, not 10%.

  • Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable: Jazz and PMs

    What product managers can learn from jazz musicians
    What can product managers and product leaders learn from jazz, an art form that is all about improvisation, collaboration, and being willing to take risks?

  • Best Books for Product Managers [Updated for 2023]

    Essential product management reading
    Ken Norton shares his recommended books for product managers. The best books on product leadership, innovation, management, shipping winning products, and design thinking.

  • Ants & Aliens: Long-Term Product Vision & Strategy

    Why you need a thirty-year product vision (yes, thirty)
    How do you plan for the future and deliver an innovative and compelling product vision that will inspire your team to deliver winning products?

  • Meetings That Don’t Suck

    Break free from the tyranny of the conference room
    Most meetings suck, but it doesn't have to be that way. Ken Norton shows us how to break free and unsuck our meetings.

  • Building Products at Stripe

    Go deep, move fast, and build multi-decade abstractions
    What is Stripe's product culture like? Interview with a Stripe product leader demonstrate an embrace of going deep, moving fast, and maintaining a multi-decade perspective.

  • What Makes A Strong Product Culture?

    How a company's view of technology, product leadership, and empowerment contribute to product success
    Strong product cultures can produce winning products. They're places where product management is practiced (as we define it), where it is valued by the business, and where PMs can thrive and grow.

  • Building Products at Airbnb

    Snow White, storytelling, and a relentless focus on experiences
    What is Airbnb's product culture like? Interviews with Airbnb PMs demonstrate an embrace of Snow White, storytelling, and a relentless focus on experiences.

Executive Coaching

If you are interested in growing as a leader, I offer executive coaching. Schedule a free exploratory session.

Learn more »