Hypothetical conversation between two Product Managers:
A: What if our products were measured by their positive impact in society?
B: Wow. That sounds really abstract. Tell me more.
A: Instead of just measuring business results, we could try to capture our social footprint.
B: Wait, but you still need to deliver business results. How are you going to keep the company afloat otherwise?
A: Of course. One thing does not exclude the other. I mean, you can be a profitable business and at the same time make a positive impact beyond your company walls.
B: Isn’t that what every company says? I have never seen anybody saying: we will give results at the expense of leaving a worse world behind.
A: Right. But is it really happening? Who is accountable for it in your company?
B: I don’t know. I guess the CEO. Or somebody appointed by the CEO.
A: I bet nobody knows in most places.
B: But surely shareholders care.
A: Have you looked at successful companies in any big index? NASAQ, Dow Jones, FTSE500? They are not all poster boys.
B: Ok, I get your point. What do you propose?
A: For starters, we could commit ourselves to build products for good.Or at least to try to leave the world a tiny bit better than we found it. Think of a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath, but for Product.
B: A Product Management Oath?
A: A Conscious Product Oath. It could go something like:
I swear to fulfil, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those professionals in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of society, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of business results at the expense of any kind of negative impact on society.
I will remember that there is art to Product Management as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the programming skills or psychological techniques used to achieve business results.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for the success of my products.
I will respect the privacy of my customers and consumers, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of personal data. If it is given me to help a customer, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to harm a customer; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat with users, but human beings, whose experiences with the products I built may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to crate products to be used by people.
I will prevent negative social impact whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of creating great Products and helping businesses thrive.