Published on May 5, 2020
Read time 8 minutes
Ultimate Tips for Product Managers on How to Embrace Uncertainty
There come many a time when product managers are desperately wrestling with the need to control uncertainty created by many of the phenomena happening in the organizational paradigm.
They plan out everything from the very start of the project to the potential outcome. Their expectations with the outcome are quite binding and if these expectations are not met or are not met correctly as they desired, these managers can get very disappointed.
Mind you, the need to perfectly control every outcome or every uncertainty around you doesn’t stem from just being a product manager. It is a trait that is rooted deep inside that person’s psyche which makes them control every outcome of every inevitable uncertainty.
If you are working or have been working as a product manager for many years, then you would know that there is always a sixth sense in your mind that is forcing you to double-check everything and that if you don’t overlook everything, things were going to be out of your hands in the future.
Yes, we know it all looks dark and gloomy but let us now discuss the deep-rooted psychology behind uncertainty that makes a person so skeptical about everything, and then we can finally move on to the tips that can help you embrace that uncertainty and use it to your advantage.
A Deep Look into the Psychology of Uncertainty
Uncertainty is a deep-rooted fear of every human. Whether we make it come out and haunt us is a whole other story. There is a fear that arises from uncertainty and its companion is a feeling that we can control every outcome that is bound to come forth due to this uncertainty.
Both can cloud the thinking process of even the brightest of minds.
According to different human studies from all over the world, scientists have found out that humans as a species are wired in a way that they would always choose comfort and safety over any form of loss, anxiety, or tragedy.
They would always want to take the longer one with nothing dangerous over a much shorter route that is not 100% safe and sound. These are some of the traits that have been passed down to us by our most ancient ancestors that we would always want to avoid getting eaten by the lion.
We came across a book a few years back named Thinking, Fast and Slow which is written by Daniel Kahneman who has won a Nobel in the field of Economics. In this book, he did a lot of research on the way humans think in different scenarios daily consciously or unconsciously.
His work showed that humans would always choose positive options about the future or less dangerous options that would not bring harm to them. This way of thinking has been shaped and shaped into perfection by years and years of avoidance taught to us by our parents.
There is one another thing that he discussed and that is that humans don’t behave or think at the most optimum levels of intelligence when they are presented with the same choice in 4 different ways. We don’t know which one to discard and which one to accept.
Take one example from the book. Humans would always think that a disease that kills about 1,286 people out of 10K is more dangerous than a disease that is likely to kill 25% of the whole population. Even though the risk of the first disease killing them is less than the alternative.
One thing to also take note of is that humans tend to overestimate their capabilities to control all of the events happening in their life. To be honest, every person who thinks that they can control any situation in their life is living in a fantasy.
If we want to become successful in our pursuit to tackle uncertainty, then we need to stop for a moment and change the whole thinking process that forces us to dwell on different illusionary techniques that we can use to overcome our uncertainty and embrace the uncertainty.
We are only able to control what we think and we are more likely to be successful if we embrace every iteration, every change and every opportunity that knocks on our door and make the best of it for as long as we can.
Check out the different thinking processes:
Ultimate Tips for Product Managers on How to Embrace Uncertainty
Studying this philosophy, we think that there are several lessons in it for humans as a species. Discussed below are some of the few tips and tricks project managers all around the world can use to embrace uncertainty while working in the Agile development paradigm. Let’s begin.
Your Decisions Should always be based on Outcomes
There are a lot of ways to teach a person how to live with their uncertainty and one of the most effective ones on that list is to relax your whole thinking process about the exact planning of a product or a project development process and make all of your decisions based on outcomes.
For example, when you create a product or a service that is going to be your top seller, as a product manager you need to make sure that you don’t list a million functionalities of your product that it can perform but instead you need to highlight what the product can do for the customer.
This will help the customers envision themselves using the product even more frequently and with much gusto. Also, you will let the customers know what you want them to achieve using the product or service you’re selling to them.
When you will have an outcome map in front of you, your production team and you will have the time and the headspace to think of new and exciting opportunities to achieve your ultimate milestones and goals.
Stop Your Focus from Trailing off into the Distant Future
If you have started working as a product manager or you have been working in the industry for a while, you would know that there is immense pressure on a person in that position to envision a distant future of the product and how it holds up in the minds and eyes of its potential customers.
Sometimes, this future-gazing pays out a lot as you prep your team into producing a wonderful application or a service that is an instant bestseller. But most of the time this future-gazing doesn’t pan out.
Why? Because if you think that a product manager can predict what’ll happen with the product in more than two or even a single year, then you are sadly mistaken. Things in the ever-changing and cut-throat markets of today never stay the same even for two seconds rather than years.
Applications, genres, processes, and strategies among many other factors are always changing as you move forward and even the goals and milestones for your own company will keep changing from time to time. So how can you think that your product manager can envision the distant future?
If you continue to think on these lines, then you are heading for a severe disappointment down the line which will only decrease your morale and stop you from ever achieving perfection.
So, to achieve perfection, you need to make sure that your product managers stay in the moment and make it the most perfect for the product, team, and company.
They need to stop thinking about the future so much so that they can focus on what’s happening right in front of them and tackle those challenges before anything else.
Learn the two mindsets explained in this blog:
Embrace the Discomfort
As a product manager, you need to make sure that you don’t spend any of your precious time overthinking and dwelling on problems at work. You need to also make sure that you stop thinking those what-if scenarios that you love to do oh so dearly.
All of these activities stress you a lot instead of doing anything else. And this stress is not only limited to your work life but it will also infest your personal life too if you don’t put a stop to it at once.
You need to spend more and more time solving problems for your team in the production process and your customers when they receive the product you are selling. These are the problems that you need to be focussed on rather than dwelling on something that isn’t troubling you and is just in your head.
For all those nay Sayers and pessimists, you need to cut all of these negative energies and thought processes from your mind-body, and soul. Why do you feel the need to focus all your attention on something that isn’t even happening and is just in your head?
So, just think positively and broaden your mind to recognize new opportunities and options that are surrounding you and you are too close-minded to understand and acknowledge them.
Read this blog:
Another thing that you as a manager have to do is to be brave in the face of adversity. You need to make sure that everything and everyone that comes in your way receive an earful.
You need to stop pretending that everything is okay and there is nothing to worry about. Instead, you need to make sure that you never again avoid any difficult conversation regarding your work.
You need to be upfront and crystal clear about everything to your team, your stakeholders, and eventually with your customers.
If a team member asks for more resources and you don’t have them, be upfront with them and tell them why they can’t have them instead of avoiding a difficult conversation.
If a stakeholder asks for more advanced functionality in the application, tell them why they can or can’t have it. And also, if you can’t comply with a customer’s request due to some structural or economic issues related to the company, you need to have that conversation if you want them to trust you.
Create Your Custom Mantra for Stress Reduction
The very last thing that you need to take away from this article is that to be more embracing of all of the uncertainties that haunt your work and personal life, you need to make sure that you have your system of stress reduction.
Stress is a clingy adversary that will pounce the moment you let your guard down. So, to make your life stress-free, do some exercise or yoga or any form of workout that can help you shed those stress birds off. You can even sleep longer to achieve this.
Instead, get involved in these productive activities:
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