Learning to Learn Again in 2022
As the CEO and Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Eleox, I'm learning again — and, in many ways, learning to learn again. It's been four years since I captained a startup, and I'm discovering new information and tools every day that weren't available four years ago. Some weren't even available two years ago.
I'm not the only one. The entire globe is alive with startups! Per Richard Florida and Ian Hathaway of Harvard Business Review (HBR.org), the number of venture capital deals expanded from 8,500 in 2010 to 14,800 in 2017. That's a growth of 73% in a mere seven years. The amount of capital involved skyrocketed, too, surging from $52 billion in 2010 to $171 billion in 2017. That's an astonishing gain of 231%!
As the world finally bounces back from a global pandemic, we'll surely see more. Once strapped into the daily rat race but now freed, brilliant individuals have had more time to identify problems and imagine solutions. The tools and technology to work from home — and organize efforts with teams and studios worldwide — are now so commonplace most second-graders can use it. And they do!
So if 2022 is your year to captain a new ship, then you're in the right place. This piece explores some of the best books and podcasts a CPO and CEO can experience this year.
- Inspired by Marty Cagan
- Measure What Matters by John Doerr
- The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
- And some other tools, like podcasts for CPOs at Apple Podcasts
And I'm open to more! Be sure to leave a comment below if I've missed a good one.
Let's start with the best reads.
The Top 3 Books for CPOs and PMs in 2022
One Book to Rule Them All: Inspired by Marty Cagan
Niles Janse of Delibr.com calls this a "must-read" for CPOs, and I agree! The book introduces a two-step process for creating and sustaining successful tech products, but you don't need to have a strictly technological concept to learn something important here. It's a great bedside book because you can take these new strategies and sleep on them, letting them work into your subconscious. This book is useful for CPOs, whether they're learning to learn again or have been in the position for years.
Key Takeaways to Get You Interested
Cagan suggests that entrepreneurs follow these two steps:
- Organize effective teams.
- Develop products using a flexible "discovery process."
Cagan also explains the vital role of product managers and presents some hurdles most tech startups must leap when designing products. Key points include:
- Use a "flat" reporting model; all designers involved in a project should have equal access to the CPO. When you do this, each designer feels they have a valuable voice and effect on development.
- Focus on designer teams and delegation, which leads to team ownership of certain problems. It also helps keep teams focused on the issue at hand.
Inspired isn't a new book. It was first published in 2008 and updated in 2018 to address evolving concepts such as lean and agile techniques. As we learn to learn again, we need to pick through relevant information and discard outdated ideas.
For example, Cagan suggests that teams always work side-by-side and share access to each other's monitors throughout the day. In 2022, top talent might be remote talent, but there are a ton of workarounds that will allow your developers fast access to one another. (Check out my previous blog about tools and tech to learn more about them.)
Now that you're thinking about the best ways to organize your teams, you'll want to measure their success.
A Super Close 2nd Place: Measure What Matters by John Doerr
Doerr's Measure What Matters will show you how to use the OKR system — "Objectives and Key Results," a goal-setting system Doerr developed from one used at Intel — to identify priorities, set goals, measure and track your progress, and motivate your team. It's another good bedside read.
The OKR system is famous in the startup world! It helped Sergey Brin and Larry Page turn a cute little company called Google into one of the most innovative and ambitious companies in the history of humanity. You can also implement the same management system used by Google, Intel, and Disney, among others. This book is the absolute bible of OKRs and is almost tied with Cagan's Inspired.
So far, we've covered two perfect reads for product managers in 2022. Here's a great list of more. Now, let's switch gears for a moment and take you back to an almost-retro read.
If You’re Getting on a Plane, It's Time to (Re)Read: The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
This book is not about product management. It's about people management. This is an absolute must-read for entrepreneurs who want to focus on learning to learn again! It's lighthearted, clearly written, and "dumbed down" to the point it makes a great airplane read.
I love it because, as a CEO, CPO, or even PM, you'll need to communicate quickly with everyone involved in your projects. You'll need to gain their trust, establish working relationships, and outline your goals quickly at this stage of your game. You'll also need to make fast corrections when things go awry.
The One-Minute Manager is a little folksy. Blanchard and Johnson use parables to illustrate how to deal with individuals as your working relationship grows and how to praise and rebuke failed efforts quickly and effectively. You won't need to sit and ponder deep thoughts or take notes as you're learning to learn again with this book.
Fast decision-making and management skills are uber-important in 2022. But again, you'll need to read this book with a "take it or leave it" mentality. Corporate culture is also evolving rapidly. But the in-person, effective reprimand/correction is a life skill you can master here and apply to the rest of your business and personal life as needed.
A Few More to Consider If You're Learning to Learn Again
I've also found inspiration — and you might, too — with these works:
- Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Sprint by Jake Knapp
- User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton
- And Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra
But I'd love to hear from you about what else I need to read!
Cool Story. But Who Has Time to Read Like That? (Or, What If You HATE Reading?)
As a busy entrepreneur, you're swamped! It's hard to find time to read, uninterrupted by business and family needs. If you do find the time, then maybe you prefer to read to escape the work-world. Perhaps that last 30 minutes of your day is sacrosanct for religious reading or escaping stress through science fiction books.
Evening reading is a great tool to un-harness the mind from its daily toils, set aside your real-world problems, and relax. Maybe the last thing you want to do is get those business neurons fired up right before bed. I get it.
If that's you, then try some podcasts for learning to learn again. They're educational, entertaining, and you can take from them what you will. They're a great way to learn new insights while working out, commuting, or waiting around for a flight.
Great Podcasts for Chief Product Managers
At the time of writing, Apple's list of CPO podcasts includes great topics like:
- VP of Product at Google on Being a Great 0 to 1 Product Leader
- CPO of Coinbase on Enabling Disruptive Technologies
- CEO of CODA on Rituals of Great Product Teams
But that's only a few. There are a total of eight, and they're worth hearing.
Currently, Spotify's podcasts include a few of the pieces above. They also have:
These are just a few good podcasts that can help you learn in the downtime, lobbies, and waiting rooms of life. They're probably most valuable for auditory learners — those who learn best by hearing about things and discussing them. Let me know if there's another resource you love for podcasts!
Make a Commitment to Keep Reading, Listening, and Learning to Learn Again in 2022
As 2022 dawns, all new and fresh with potential, it's an American tradition to spell out some resolutions. While it's always a good idea to get healthy or shed a few pounds, you can make New Year's resolutions from the CPO standpoint, too!
I'm not going to give you some vague clue like "innovate more" or "get creative." We'll leave that to the keynote speakers and bullshitters. Specifically, resolve to keep learning and use that new knowledge to boost your product or organization in defined ways.
Want some precise examples? Then try:
- Listening to customers or end-users more: Provide them with more outlets to communicate ideas, and take action on their pain points.
- Obsess about your people: Ensure your employees and teams have a great experience. It will boost their productivity.
- Try some team building: Whether you like a corporate getaway or an evening at Dave and Busters to blow off steam, this stuff works!
Ultimately, 2022 is a new year, and for me, it means a whole new business. I'm excited as heck to learn my way through it as CEO and CPO of Eleox.com.