Product Marty Cagan

Social Contract for Product Managers

If I were starting my career in product today, I would do anything I could to get into a very innovative program at Stanford called the Stanford Design School (aka “”).  I absolutely love the curriculum and the faculty.  But this article is not really about this program.

One of the most creative minds I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with is Michael Dearing, and he co-teaches a graduate course called “Launchpad.”

A friend of mine told me about the “social contract” that the instructors require every student to explicitly agree to as part of the application to get accepted to this special course.  Here is the heart of that contract:

  • We will not complain about the workload.
  • We will launch our product / service in the market.
  • We will think with our hands through rapid prototyping.
  • We will use both sides of our brains (creative and analytical).
  • We will approach every activity with an open mind and a beginner’s mind.
  • We will help design and iterate LaunchPad this quarter and in the future.

When I read it I thought that this was a remarkably good characterization of the commitment and mindset required to be a very strong product leader.  If we were to rephrase the last item to “We will strive to continuously improve how we create and launch products” then we’ve got a pretty strong social contract for strong product leaders.

I’ve written earlier about the skills of a strong product leader.  I think this social contract complements this list of skills well by emphasizing the commitment and mindset necessary for creating anything of real value.

I’m hoping to see many more multi-disciplinary programs like the start up around the world, and I’m especially looking forward to the products the graduates will create.