What You Can Learn from Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate"

Product Managers and the Software Revolution

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
The Graduate, 1967

I mentioned in the Software Revolution post that my new true north is the transformational force of a world dominated by software. While in 1967, plastics might have looked like the future, it is clear more than 40 years later that software is having the greatest transformational impact on society since fire.

In the previous post, I predicted that the years roughly between 1980 – 2050 will be recognized as the era of Software Revolution. That is mainly because of the democratization of software which has led to the proliferation of teams developing it and a massive worldwide appetite for new applications. Democratization is driven by a world where all that is needed to create great software is a computer and a bold idea (and some dev chops, of course). It also is about consumption and is now dominated by a worldwide marketplace of free and low-cost apps that billions of people and millions of businesses have immediate access to.

But what is driving this great innovation cycle and the Software Revolution? Consider the following characteristics as key drivers of innovation and foundational pillars for the growth of software development.

Human creativity
For well over 50,000 years humans have been innovating. The human capacity for innovation likely emerged over hundreds of thousands of years and was driven by biological, environmental, and social factors. We continue to create because it is in our DNA and because there are new challenges to meet. We also create for the social recognition of thought leadership and the rewards that such recognition brings.

Access to resources
Entrepreneurs living in startup hotbed locations like Silicon Valley, N.Y., L.A., and Austin have access to everything they need to thrive. I personally ride my road bike a few times a week up Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif., and past over a hundred VCs with well over $50B in company funding potential. Financing for good ideas is not an issue. Founders also have access to a vibrant local community and more importantly a global network of talent. Finally, the required technology infrastructure for delivering software is available online and low cost. You can handle your incorporation and finances through online services like Clerky, Intuit, and Bank of America.

Diversity
The most vibrant startup communities are also the most diverse. This is because different life experiences and world views lead to unique perspectives on solving problems. When those perspectives are embraced and allowed to mash with other viewpoints, the outcome is often better than the individual parts. Diversity added with respect can lead to greatness. Great universities help too. I challenge you to name a great tech community that is not within 10 miles of a great university (or two). Many great innovations including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook started in a dorm room because college students are ready to challenge the norm and change the world.

Success models
Areas with a high concentration of startups also have a collection of “wins” that everyone knows about and aspires to achieve. Success breeds imitation especially in an online world where experiences and lessons are readily shared. And successful entrepreneurs often want to do it again and make even better decisions with subsequent companies. They likely made a little bit of money, have increased financial freedom, and are now looking to build something massive.

While the environment is right for billions of lines of software code to be written and increasingly ingenious products to be created, product teams still struggle to build the right applications with the right features at the right time. That is because they suffer from soft strategies, weak tools, and squishy communications.

It is not clear why product managers and the teams they work with (who could be argued are the great artists and architects of our time) have been ignored as an important group of folks in desperate need of applications themselves to get their work done. Every other group in an organization has a set of business applications they rely on (e.g. Sales, Operations, Finance, HR, etc.) but product managers have been forgotten. Until now.

We believe it is time to help product managers create brilliant roadmaps and be happy doing it. Aha! is built by product development experts for product and engineering managers. It makes it easy to set a clear strategy, define a release, and detail the key user stories in a dynamic software development environment.

There is a great future in software. Think about it. Will you think about it?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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