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Product Management Mental Models for Everyone

By John Lafleur 1 minute read

TL;DR: A great list of Product Management Mental Models to help you to figure out where to invest, design & scope, ship & iterate.


Mental models are simple expressions of complex processes or relationships. These models are accumulated over time by an individual and used to make faster and better decisions.

Here’s an example: the Pareto Principle states that roughly 80% of all outputs comes from 20% of the effort.

In the context of product management, the model suggests that instead of trying to create 100% of the customer opportunity, you may want to look for how to do 20% of the effort and solve 80% of the opportunity. Product teams make this trade off all the time, and the results often looks like feature launches where 20% of customers with more complicated use cases aren’t supported.

Mental models are powerful, but their utility is limited to the contexts they were extrapolated from. To combat this, you shouldn’t rely on one or even a few mental models, you should instead be continuously building a latticework of mental models that you can draw from to make better decisions.

This post outlines some of the most useful mental models that I’ve accumulated in my career in Product Management. As I learn new models, I’ll continually update the post.

This is also not a post for just product managers, it’s for everyone that works on products. Product thinking is not sacred to the role of a PM, in fact, it’s even more useful in the hands of the builders than PMs.


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