The Smartest Guy in the Room

The Smartest Guy in the Room 

屋子里最聪明的家伙

As product people, were first and foremost in the idea business. We have to come up with great ideas and then make them a reality. While this takes skill and practice, the main ingredient is something that I don’t know how to teach. We depend on smart people for the smart ideas.  Sometimes these ideas come from ourselves, but if we depend only on ourselves for the smart ideas, were severely limiting our potential.

在理想的企业中,产品经理是第一位的。我们必须提出了不起的想法然后把他们变为现实。然而这是需要技能和实践的,但主要的因素是我不知道如何教导这样去做。我们倚赖有聪明想法的聪明人。有时这些想法来自我们本身,但是如果仅依靠我们自己,那么就会严重限制我们的潜力。

Probably the single most important lesson I have learned in the product business is to start by seeking out the smartest people in the company. I have found that every organization has at least some very smart people, and these people may hold the key to unlocking your company’s potential, if you can just find them. They’re not always where you’d guess, and sometimes in fact they’re even being hidden from you. I never cease to be amazed though at how petty office politics, ego, xenophobia and insecurity can get in the way of something so potentially beneficial for a company.

或许我在产品事务中学到的最重要一课就是开始在公司内寻找最聪明的人。我已经发现每个组织中至少都有一些非常聪明的人,这些人是打开公司潜能的关键,如果你能找到他们的话。他们通常不会出现在你能猜到的地方,事实上有时候他们是隐藏在你的背后的。尽管烦人的办公室政治,自我为中心,排外和无安全感在某些方面对公司也有一些潜在的益处,但是我从来对此不感到惊奇。

When you do find these people, you can use them any number of ways. I like to consider these people deputy product managers and sometimes I even give them public recognition as such, and often I’ll recruit these people to come join the product team.

当你找到这些人的时候,你可以用各种方法来用他们。我喜欢把他们当成产品经理的副手,我也会让他们同样得到公众认可,我也经常把他们补充到产品团队中。

To illustrate the many different corners of your company that may be hiding these people, let me give you some of my favorite examples from my career. I promise you that every one of these examples is based on a real person, but I have changed their names.

为了说明在你的公司的不同角落里正隐藏着这些人,让我用我的职业经历来做个现身说法。我保证这例子中的每个人都是真实的,只是改变了他们的名字。

It took me longer to find Sam than it should have because his manager was actively bad-mouthing him. However, it quickly became clear that it was the manager that was clueless, and what was really going on was that the manager was insecure and intimidated by Sams mind.  So not only had Sam not been recognized and utilized, he had actually been demoted! Today, the manager is history and Sam is one of the best product leaders I know.

我花了很长的时间去寻找Sam,只是因为他的经理经常中伤他。然而,事实很快就清晰了,他的经理是愚蠢的,真相是因为这个经理为Sam的想法感到不安和恐惧。因此,Sam不仅仅是不被认可和使用,事实上他反而被降职了。但是现在,这个经理已经成为历史,而Sam则成为我所知道的最好的产品领导者之一。

I met Chris when I was out assisting on a customer visit with a Fortune 100 technology team, and our sales people were making little sense when they were trying to describe to us the local considerations. Finally, an SE (systems engineer they provide technical assistance to the sales staff) stepped in did an outstanding job articulating what the situation was. I could see the respect that the customer had for the SE, and afterwards I invited him to grab a beer. It was soon very clear to me that I was sitting with an extremely talented guy. I asked him why he was hiding in the Midwest as an SE, and he explained he had family in the area, that he had never thought of living elsewhere, and that he had taken the best job he could find. I immediately began to use Chris as a sounding board and source of product ideas, and while it took a while, I finally got him to relocate and today he is a general manager. While engineers often have great insight into the available technologies, people from the field often have great insight into customer needs.

当我外出协助财富100的技术团队进行客户访谈的时候遇到了Chris,当他们正努力向我们描述本地影响的时候,我们的销售人员犯了一些错误。最后,一个SE(他们提供给销售团队技术支持的系统工程师)在当时的情形下介入了进来出色的搞定了这件事情。我能够看到客户对这个SE的敬佩,然后,我请他喝了几杯。我很快就清晰地发现,和我坐在一起的是一个非常有才能的家伙。我问他为什么默默地在中西部做一个SE,他解释说这里有他的家庭,从来没有想过到其它地方去生活,他也找到了他能找到的最好的工作。我立刻开始把Chris作为sounding board和产品想法的来源,过了一段时间,我最后重新给了他一个职位,现在他已经是一个总经理了。因为工程师通常对可用技术有着良好的洞察力,来自于这个领域的人通常对对客户的需要也有良好的洞察力。

As is so often the case, I found Alex deep in the ranks of the engineering staff. He was shy and introverted, and not especially ambitious. But the guy was incredibly smart. He not only knew technologies extremely well, but he had natural product sense, understood the broader technology trends, and he was a constant champion of the user experience. He is one of those people that is a great engineer, and people assumed that that represented his potential. However, Alex had an equally talented product mind. One of those rare people are great at just about everything. He never made the move to product, but he did become one of the thought leaders in the company and was consulted on virtually every product decision, and the product was much better for it.

这种事情经常发生,我发现了深陷于工程师团队中的Alex。他既害羞,又内向,尤其没有野心。但是这个家伙是难以置信的聪明。他不但精通技术,而且对产品有着天生的感觉,知道重大技术的趋势,也是一个UE方面的佼佼者。他是伟大工程师当中的一个,人们认为这就代表了他的潜质。然而,Alex具有一种天赋的产品理念。他是那些稀有的擅长每一件事情的家伙中的一个。他从来没有涉及过产品,但是他却变成了公司中的一个意见领袖,事实上,每个产品决策都要向他咨询,这样才能让产品变得更好。

I wish this was not the case, but I do believe there remain many forms of discrimination in business, even in high-tech. But one that I had thought would have been gone by now is discriminating due to youth. Matt is probably the most brilliant person I have ever worked with.  He graduated college before he was old enough to drive, and he never slowed down. But when I met Matt he was dramatically underutilized because his manager couldn’t imagine giving someone so young that much responsibility. Big mistake. Matt jumped ship and went on to found a startup that has improved the lives of millions.

我希望这不只是案例,但我确信不仅在传统行业,包括高科技行业都有很多识别的方法。但我想其中的一种可能已经过时了,就是不让年轻人承担责任。Matt可能是和我工作过的人当中最有才气的。在他可以具备驾驶资格之前(编者注:基本是在18岁)就从大学毕业了,但他并没有让自己懈怠。但当我遇到Matt的时候,他却被戏剧般的闲置着,因为他的经理不能想象让一个如此年轻的人去承担责任。天大的错误。Matt辞职继而发现并开始了一种能够提高成千上万人生活的工作。

Hecha had it twice as tough. She was female and Indian. In this loud, heavily male, technology-driven industry, women are easily overlooked. And culturally, Indians are often quiet and reluctant to challenge authority, their managers or their colleagues. But Hecha was easily the smartest guy in the room, and it didn’t take long to draw her out of her shell and for her to establish herself as the product leader she was meant to be. I have seen this with Chinese nationals as well. Don’t let cultural norms or an accent through you off these may be the product minds you’re searching for.

Hecha有两次痛苦的经历。她是女性,并且又是印度人。在这种嘈杂的,男性居多,技术驱动的行业里,女性是很容易被忽视的。从文化上来说,印度人通常是平和而不愿去挑战权威、他们的经理或者同行的。但是Hecha显然是这个屋子里最聪明的家伙,没过多久,她就破茧而出,建立起她应有的产品领导者的地位。这种事情在中国移民中也发生过。不要让文化规范或者语言的原因,而使你苦苦寻觅的具有产品理念的人从你身边走掉。

I have also found that sometimes the greatest product minds are right there in front of you.  You may be at a company that’s enjoyed some success, and the product mind that got you there is now CEO or chairman of the board, and seemingly unreachable to today’s product team. If the founder is good, he is probably trying not to step in and micro-manage things himself, but that doesn’t mean that he is not very willing to help. If you’re lucky enough to have great product people as founders, you should initiate a channel with them and invite their feedback and suggestions on your product plans. They typically are all too happy to do so, and you should absolutely find a way to utilize that resource.

一直以来,我发现有时候最伟大的产品理念其实就在你的面前。你或许正在一家公司享受着成功,但是记住,现在的CEO或者董事会主席给你的产品理念对你现在的产品团队看起来是遥不可及的。如果这个创建者是不错的,他可能会试着不去事事亲为,但是这并不是说他不愿去提供帮助。如果你足够幸运,创建者是一个了不起的产品经理出身,那么,你应该和他们有一个沟通的渠道,邀请他们对你的产品计划提供反馈和建议。他们通常都会乐意这样去做,而你绝对应该发现运用那些资源的方式。

The bottom line is that these minds can be hidden anywhere engineering, sales, customer service, professional services, or the exec team. It is your job to find them. How do you do that?

本质是这些理念可能被隐藏在工程师、销售、客服、专业服务或者执行团队中。你的事情就是发现他们。你如何去做呢?

– Ask! You’ll be surprised if you ask at all levels of the company who people think are the really great minds.

-问!如果你在公司内问所有级别的人他们认为谁是真正有了不起理念的人,你一定会感到吃惊的。

– MBWA. From the HP Way, “Management By Wandering Around.”  It is easy and it works.

-MBWA。来自HP的方法。“到处走走的管理方法”。这是容易的,去做吧。

– Listen to the dialog in meetings and conversations.

-听取会上的对话和谈话。

– Keep your door open; make sure everyone knows that they are welcome to drop in with product suggestions.

-让你的门一直开着;确信让每个人知道带着产品建议来拜访是受欢迎的。

– Share. If you are willing to share with others the issues that you’re struggling with, you’ll find that word will get around and you may find people coming by with suggestions.

-共享。如果你愿意和其他人分享你正绞尽脑汁在想的想法,你将会发现这个想法会传播开来,那些有建议的人会走到你的面前。

– Hang Out. All too often the product people hang out with other product managers, and execs with other execs. But if you make an effort to spend time with people at all levels of your company you’ll get a much better idea of what’s going on in general, and who the hidden gems are in particular.

-闲聊。通常的情况是产品经理只和产品经理,执行者只和执行者闲聊。但是如果你努力花些时间和公司内各个级别的人闲聊,那么你就会对目前的发展情况有更好的想法,对谁是难得的人才也有更好的认识。

Finally, the main reason why I think most product managers are not focused on the above is ego. They think that they are the ones that must always come up with the big ideas, and that if someone else did, what would their purpose be? While sometimes I come up with an idea I like, more often than not I get my inspiration or the core idea itself from others. You still need to be able to recognize that great idea, and make that idea a reality. Just remember that the only thing that really matters is shipping great products. Anything that helps you do that is all good.

最后,我认为大多数产品经理不把关注点放在上面的主要原因是以自我为中心。他们认为他们是诞生伟大想法的人群,而如果其他人也做了,他们的目的是什么?有时候,我会有一个我喜欢的想法,但多半我的灵感或者核心想法都是来自其他人。你仍然需要能够辨别出伟大的想法,并让这个想法实现。只要记住真正重要的事情是交付一个伟大的产品。那么,任何有助于你的事情就都是有用的。

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