Episode 11: Product Mindsets w/Ken Sandy

2 June, 2020 / Host: Magnus Billgren

How to Think Like a Product Manager

Product managers play a critical role in driving innovation and growth in businesses. They are responsible for identifying customer needs, developing new products, and ensuring that they meet customer needs and are profitable. To be successful in this role, a product manager must have a variety of skills and a particular mindset. In this article, we will explore the insights shared by Ken Sandy, a seasoned product executive and author of "The Influential Product Manager," on how to think like a product manager.

The Importance of a Product Mindset

Over the years, Ken Sandy has met with thousands of product managers and has seen both successful and failed product teams. Based on his experience, he believes that the key to success as a product manager is having the right mindset. In his book, he identifies four distinct mindsets that product managers should be able to deploy throughout the product lifecycle. These mindsets are the explorer mindset, the analyst mindset, the challenger mindset, and the evangelist mindset.

The Four Product Mindsets

Ken Sandy identifies two axes, one that spans from imagine to inspect and the other from divergent to convergent thinking. These axes form the basis for the four distinct mindsets that PMs should deploy throughout the product lifecycle.

1. Explorer Mindset

The explorer mindset sets context and customer needs. It's about exploring the landscape and understanding what customers want and need. This mindset is about identifying unmet needs and figuring out how to meet them. Product managers who have an explorer mindset are curious, open-minded, and willing to take risks.

2. Analyst Mindset

The analyst mindset develops customer understanding. It's about taking a deep dive into customer data and insights to understand their needs and preferences. Product managers with an analyst mindset are data-driven and analytical, with a deep understanding of customer behavior.

3. Challenger Mindset

The challenger mindset questions assumptions and prioritizes risks. It's about challenging the status quo and finding new ways to solve problems. Product managers with a challenger mindset are willing to take risks and challenge conventional wisdom to find innovative solutions.

4. Evangelist Mindset

The evangelist mindset is about inspiring and motivating others to achieve a common goal. Successful product managers with a evangelist mindset are skilled in building and leading cross-functional teams, communicating effectively with stakeholders, and navigating conflicts. They are also skilled in setting a vision for the product and rallying the team around this vision.

Combining the Four Mindsets

Successful product managers need to be able to switch between these four mindsets depending on the situation. For example, a product manager may need to have a explorer mindset when conducting user research, a analyst mindset when creating a revenue model, a challenger mindset when developing a product, and a evangelist mindset when leading a team.

Sandy emphasized that it's not enough to simply have these mindsets - successful product managers also need to know when and how to use them. For example, a product manager with a strong explorer mindset may need to shift to an analyst or challenger mindset when dealing with a stakeholder who is more concerned with revenue than customer needs.


  • Product management is a challenging role that requires a diverse set of skills, including strategic thinking, customer empathy, and effective communication.
  • The four distinct mindsets - the explorer, the analyst, the challenger, and the evangelist - can help product managers approach different stages of the product life cycle with the right perspective.
  • The ability to switch between the four distinct mindsets of product management and understanding when and how to use them is crucial for success as a product manager.

If you're interested in growing your career in product management, The Productbeats Product Management Certification Program can help you develop the skills and mindset necessary for success in this field. Our program provides a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of product management, from ideation to launch to scaling. With a focus on practical, hands-on learning, you'll gain the skills and confidence you need to succeed as a product manager.
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