Sunday, October 30, 2005

Can a product manager be a star?

Am I glamorizing the product management? Can a product manager be a star? For all their potential, most corporations' product managers are process-focuses contributors. Here is sample of what a PM should manage from Product Development Management Association (PDMA) (

Commercialization, PAC (Product Approval Committee), Performance Satisfaction Surveys, Product Requirements Document , Six Sigmas, SWOT Analysis, Worth What Paid For (WWPF)... Each concept is a time consuming process. Their sheer number overwhelms and shifts the focus from creativity to the obsession of meeting a certain deadline. PMs have tens and even hundreds of tedious items on their to do lists.

So where are the Product Managers who make products out of words and intention? PDMA offers this definition, copied from someone else book:

Creativity: "An arbitrary harmony, an expected astonishment, a habitual revelation, a familiar surprise, a generous selfishness, an unexpected certainty, a formable stubbornness, a vital triviality, a disciplined freedom, an intoxicating steadiness, a repeated initiation, a difficult delight, a predictable gamble, an ephemeral solidity, a unifying difference, a demanding satisfier, a miraculous expectation, and accustomed amazement." (George M. Prince, The Practice of Creativity, 1970) Creativity is the ability to produce work that is both novel and appropriate.

This is similar to poet Rimbaud definition of poetry: ''a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses.”

Engineers may become stars. CEOs are stars. Product Managers must be first promoted or start their own companies, together with their favorite and trusted engineers. A star product is not an act of solitary creativity, like poetry.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Giacomo Casanova as a product

Giacomo Casanova seduced 116 women and detailed his adventures in a massive autobiography written in the eighteenth century. He is the most famous womanizer in the world, a spy, a diplomat, an opera librettist, a mathematician, a poet, a cleric, a fugitive, a librarian, a gambler (he created the business of lottery), a magic practitioner conversant with the Jewish Kabbalah. He was a Freemason.

He spoke French, Italian, Latin, Greek and English. He translated Iliada in Italian He did not speak German, yet he spent the last fourteen years of his life in the Dax Palace of Count Waldstein in Bohemia. “The world greatest lover” as an old man was sexually impotent, and a broken dreamer. The servants of Count Waldstein made him suffer indignities, like using pages of his books as toilet paper. He had only the pleasure of remembering, which brought at the same time grief. German poet J.W. Goethe visited him

Casanova deeply believed in God and his faith sustained him. He never participated in an orgy and believed that pleasure should received and given equally. His publishers, Brockhaus, ironically were German, the only major language Casanova did not speak . He wrote 4554 pages in French, not Italian which was his native tongue. He died before he finished his memoirs in 1798, just as the nineteenth century was about to step in.

From now on, Casanova became an unending series of products. In 1821, a heavily edited German version was published for the puritan German audience. The German censorship raised difficulties.

French editions copied the German version. Brockhaus published in 1832 a French Edition, but French Censorship was even harsher than the German. So the French edition was published in Brussels, Belgium..

These editions even had text added that Casanova never wrote. Casanova was not recollecting his life. He was re-living it. So the original manuscript was withheld for more than 160 years. The final , original Casanova was published in February 1960. The American edition was published between 1966 and 1971 , an original translation of Willard Trask. The paper back edition is from John Hopkins University Press.

In age of Viagra and Howard Stern, Giacomo Casanova image is benign. He had the elegance to practice the true sexual emotional adventure, which is claimed by voluptuous ED (Erectile Dysfunctional) drug companies, Casanova was not a chemical automated button. He was witty conversationalist, a man with magic and an encyclopaedic mind.

Giacomo Casanova's 116 women record in 1700's pales in comparison to Bill Wyman, who claimed he slept with 2000 women during his time with the Rolling Stones.
[Casanova] is superior to all other erotic writers because of his pleasure in news, gossip, in... the whole personality of his mistresses. (V.S. Pritchet)
A search on for Casanova yielded 1,063 books, 131 videos, and among other , one software title: Casanova: The Duel of the Black Rose . It is a video game published in February 2005

The time has come for the software Casanovas. We can call a grid architecture or an Operating System or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application, Casanova. No software is perfect. As it goes through release after release, it aims at a perfection that will never achieve.

As Casanova himself writes, unabridged and in the original manuscript:
My ill fortune nor less than my good proved to me that both in this physical world and in the moral world good comes from evil and evil comes from good.... The one thing necessary is courage, for strength without confidence is useless.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Buddha and the Product Manager

If Robert Frost defined literature as "words that have become deeds" then product management is " words that have become products."

Proctor and Gamble created the position of product manager in the 1940's. The PM run the business of a product or brand. There was not high technology at stake. On the surface just staples, like soap and shampoos

My own definition of a Product Manager is for 2005. A PM has the ability to take engineering ideas and make them pay off. S/he treats engineering talent as an equity which needs constantly to increase its valuation.

A entrepreneurial Product Manager creates tangibles (investors, revenues, partners) out of words, ideas, and intentions that come both from engineering and from customers.

Ideally, he has to have , like the great original Budha, Siddhartha Gautama,
... a cool head and warm heart, a blend that shielded him from sentimentality, on one hand, and indiference, on the other.... Every problem that came his way was automatically subjected to cool, dispassionate analysis...yet this critical logical component was balanced by a strong component of tenderness and compassion.

(Smith and Novak, Budhism, HarperSanFrancisco)
This chemistry makes the greatest products ever. Business 101 books recommend never to negotiate with a lower authority not empowered to make concessions. Buddha did talk to the supreme Spirituality in the Nature.


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AI and ML for Conversational Economy