The Depth Year for Product Managers

Written by Published in News and truths, Product Management

Every year is the same: December comes around, we slow down and start making plans for the year ahead. Our so-called New Year’s resolutions. In the beginning, we are full of energy and enthusiasm, but often feel a sense of frustration when we start to realize we are not even close to achieving our (lofty) goals.

We like to start new things, but forget to maintain and even go deeper with the ones we already have. Every year, we put resolutions like “start playing piano”, “learn a new language”, “start taking tennis lessons” on our lists, but rarely do we focus deliberately on improving the skills we already have.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about this idea of “depth year” or “going deeper, not wider”, as David Cain put it in his blog it’s better if “You improve skills rather than learning new ones.”. I find the idea fascinating and, after reading Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and following The Minimalists, the importance of reducing and focusing on the things at hand has become evident.

How does this idea apply to you as a product manager?

Depth of product

How can you apply the concept of depth when it comes to products? First of all, dust off that Backlog. Take a look at things which have always been there but postponed for the “next big thing”. Go through them again and see if it’s not time to tackle them. A feature sitting since ages on the backlog might not be as shiny as a fresh idea, and not give you that thrill of something new, but sometimes it might be more valuable.

What if you take on an even bigger challenge? How about one year without launching any new products, just focusing on what you already have. Are you ready for even more? How about a year without any new features in your product? Just refining and optimizing the existing ones.

If you take a whole year to go deeper instead of wider, you and your team will create a product that is polished and its features carefully curated, rather than a hoard of semi-used features. Are you familiar with the 80/20 principle? It says that usually 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. Why not focus on those people/that audience and your main feature?

Whether it is in our personal or professional lives, novelty gives us a “little high”. But our brains are tricky things: once they get accustomed to something, dopamine levels diminish and the reward feeling disappears. One year without new things might mean you have to learn to live and work without this little high, and at the same time find the capacity to cultivate the enthusiasm and energy necessary to deliver your best. But at the end you will feel more grateful for the things you already have an not even realise.

Depth for you as a product manager

We hear over and over that specialists are the most best-paid and sought after professionals, and while sometimes being a product manager means being a “Jack of all trades”, there are some skills you really don’t need. So maybe it’s time to stop planning to learn to code. You have developers who can do that, and probably better than you. Unfortunately we can’t all be Leonardo Da Vinci, masters of many disciplines, and we need to choose carefully our battles.

Purposely setting limits for yourself will help you become an expert and a master of your craft. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who dedicate themselves to their craft. So start with the question if you want to be one of them.

Education as a form of going deeper: INSEAD PMEP

If you are a senior product manager and want more, it’s time to go more in- depth and become an expert in product management. But how? INSEAD and Product Management Festival Partner recently launched the Product Management Executive Programme.

This is a 5-day executive-level programme that provides accelerated leadership talent development from award-winning INSEAD faculty and advanced PM-specific sessions from PM executives at the top technology companies.

As product executives advance in their careers, the type of responsibilities they face grow. Part of the programme will involve real cases from leading digital companies. Attendees will learn from leading tech companies how they organise, lead, and run PM from an executive’s standpoint. PM execs also have to focus more on topics such as influencing and shaping organizations, leading without authority, communicating at the board level, and more. A standard PM education is insufficient at this point. INSEAD’s Noah Askin, who has experience teaching these topics at the executive level, will help participants go deeper into becoming product experts with leadership skills.

Make this year, the year you go for more depth in product management, no matter which path you choose.

(Originally posted at

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