The Radical Art of Product Management

Art

Art and product management are connected. Let me explain.

In 2008, I started something called Slow Art Day, a global event designed to help everyone – including product managers – make a radical shift in how they see and how they cultivate their love for art.

Why? First, I wanted to dramatically improve the customer experience of visiting a museum. The typical visitor looks for 5-7 seconds at a piece of art, sees nothing, moves on, and finds themselves exhausted by the end of their visit. There is a better way. Turns out if a visitor slows down and looks for 10 minutes at a single piece of art it will radically improve their experience.

My second reason for launching Slow Art Day was this: Developing an ability to see and cultivating a real love for art is, in my opinion, required for every product manager (really for anyone in business who wants their company to create great products that customers love – which should be everyone).

Product management is art and science – though, as my friend Marty Cagan said back in 2007, product management is even more art than science.

…[P]roduct invention process is fundamentally a creative process. It is more art than science.

 

Part of the art of product management is developing your ability to see and shift perspective. Product managers need to see from the point-of-view of customers and the point-of-view of colleagues.  Product managers also need to see the future while living in the present. Product managers also must focus on functional experience yet savor beauty.

And every product manager – whether this Saturday or any other day –  needs to go look slowly at art. Take 10 minutes and look at a single piece. Discover what you see from intense focus – especially what becomes clear after five, seven, or ten minutes.

You can get a good sense of the power of slow looking at art by scanning this article from the Buddhist magazine Tricycle about Slow Art Day at the Rubin Museum in New York. One of the staff of the Rubin is quoted in the article as saying that when she herself slowed down she had a ‘completely new experience.’

I was aware of things like movement in paintings—the almost subtle quality of animation in some figures—and the sheer magnetism of the central figure. I knew I had plenty of time, I was not rushing, and the central figure really held my gaze in a powerful way,” she said.

 

This same staff member also called Slow Art Day “a ‘radical shift’ from the way many people relate to art in galleries.”

Yes.

Slow Art Day is radical.
Great art is radical (at first)
Great products are radical (at first).
And great product managers are radical (throughout their careers).

So be a radical artist this Saturday (or any other day) and go look at five pieces of art for 10 minutes each.

– Phil

Phil Terry, co-author of Customers Included, is the founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, a private community of customer-focused leaders that ask each other for help in building great products, services, and companies. On the side, Phil also started and runs Slow Art Day with a group of talented volunteers and hundreds of museums all over the world.

1. Slow Art Day
Slow Art Day is this Saturday, April 9, 2016 in 170+ museums and galleries around the world (go to SlowArtDay.com to see if there’s an event near you).

2. Free copy of Customers Included?
All readers based in the US: If you’d like a free copy of my book, Customers Included, where I describe lessons learned from work with Facebook, Apple, and many others (as well as from running Slow Art Day), send me a LinkedIn email or email me at: book at collaborative gain dot com.