Since the debut of ChatGPT, the business press has been one steady drumbeat of takes on how generative AI will transform how organizations operate. No team or function will be left unchanged is the general consensus. But the nature of AI’s impact on product managers in particular is one that’s generated a wide array of opinion, even fierce debate.
Think back: Putting the AI question itself aside, the future of product management has by no means been clear. To take just one (albeit extreme) example, Airbnb recently made headlines when it announced it would do away with its product management function entirely. In hindsight, this move was not so much substantive as rhetorical—the core responsibilities of a PM still exist at Airbnb, but are now rolled into the product marketing function—but it left a great many PMs uncertain about what lies ahead for their career field.
Flash forward a few weeks, and now the product manager story that’s broken through to the greater news cycle is almost completely opposite the Airbnb example. Netflix recently posted a job for an AI product manager with a staggering $900k salary.
Netflix’s AI bet—and product’s role in it
So what’s the future of product management going to be? Granted, there’s a lot of possible outcomes in the space between outright role elimination vs. elevating the PM to near seven-figure salary status. Nevertheless, what to take from the Netflix story is that AI will play an outsize role in the future of product management. And effective product leadership will be instrumental to any successful business effort leveraging AI.
Netflix has long been a leader in AI, leveraging machine learning (ML) to power their recommendation engines, for example. So it makes sense that they’re now expanding their use of AI into the realm of content. When it comes to AI, the kind of agile development practice that Netflix has been known for, one in which PMs operate “on the edge of chaos,” is a tremendous advantage.
To win with AI, double down on product leadership
Simply put, the pace of AI innovation right now is incredible. To harness it and move fast, you need to have a culture like Netflix’s, one that’s comfortable with ambiguity and the ability to move forward without all the answers. The best way to navigate the chaos is through strong PM leadership.
Product teams are in the natural position to take the lead on AI efforts. As a function that sits at the intersection of engineering, customer success, sales and marketing, and increasingly even finance, product is more and more becoming the center of the wheel for business motions. Doing their job well necessitates having a finger on the pulse of all the major motions in the greater organization, so they’re the ideal team to take the lead on implementing a technology that will affect every aspect of a business. We’ve already seen how businesses have rallied around product teams when times get tough—now they’re set to do the same with the dawn of a technology that will make them infinitely better.
In other words, for any business that has a future, the path to AI-powered prosperity runs through product.
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