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From ‘Mini CEOs’ to Teammates

Bose Chief Product Officer Raza Haider shares how the mindsets of product officers have evolved

What is happening in the Product Leader space.? We asked Raza Haider, the newly appointed CPO for Bose, about his journey to product leadership and his view on the role in today’s innovation landscape.

What was your pathway to product?

It was actually an introduction to Design Thinking that led me to Product.  I was very fortunate to have exposure to many different areas during my time at McKinsey, and it was during one of our conferences in 2008 that I heard someone from IDEO give a talk about Design Thinking. I became fascinated with the concept that non-technical people could come up with amazing product ideas through a customer backed, observation oriented, rapid prototyping approach.  My colleagues and I decided to learn more, take it to clients, and start iterating on it.  That was my introduction, and pretty soon I wanted to stop just talking about it with clients and start doing it.
 
What do you think most CEOs misunderstand about product?

I don’t want to generalize, but I really like when a CEO takes the time to immerse themselves in a product and the customer experience and when they make time for informal brainstorming and let the creative process play out. I appreciate when they are comfortable looking at early versions and not final product and when they directly listen to field observations and customer feedback. It’s helpful when they talk about the product to the press, the board, and partners, and most importantly, when they let teams feel safe enough to change direction based on what they’re learning - early and often. 
 
How have you seen the priorities, competencies, or skills for product leaders change over time?

Perhaps the biggest, and most welcome, change I have seen is the evolution from the “dictator” to “teammate." I’ve seen product leaders evolve from being the decision makers to seeing themselves as responsible for the speed and quality of the decision. I’ve seen them shift from being the idea generators to the drivers of a Design Thinking mindset and process that produces great ideas. They’ve expanded from being technical experts to having deep curiosity about the underlying tech, coupled with a humility about details that are best left to engineering.  That leads to a great partnership to solve customer problems. I’ve seen the role emerge from being removed from sales and marketing to being a strong partner with the GTM teams with the empathy to realize how hard that job is. 

All this has made the once catchy phrase of “Product leaders are mini-CEOs” less of a truism. Now, a product leader can be seen as a great teammate who feels responsible for the final outcome and strives to bring the best of the company together to deliver products to the market that customers love and buy.
 
What’s in store for the future of the function?

I think this function role has always been pretty constant - Purpose, People, Profit. Though I am starting to see “Planet” find its way onto that priority list.    
 
What’s your advice for others seeking a CPO role as their next step?

  • Don’t force it and don’t focus on the title.  Do stuff you enjoy with people you trust - learn from and it will happen.
  • Find ways to work on projects/products where you have the most degrees of freedom to deliver the solution to customers. These may not always be the largest or most revenue generating things but the more levers you have at your disposal the better you will become at solving the complete customer problem.
  • Push yourself into more and more uncomfortable situations but do it with people you trust and enjoy working with.  
  • Have faith in your ability but question the means and tools that you and your teams are using.
  •  Build great teams, support your team members, and watch the resulting amplification of the impact you are having. That will open doors and opportunities for you. 

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