Inspired - Marty Cagan

Inspired - Marty Cagan

Discover how to develop successful innovative and technological products, learning how to optimize and improve teams, services and processes.

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Have you ever wondered how and why certain products are successful? How do some brands gain so much market dominance even though they have so many competitors? Or, even more, why so many great products and services don't get the recognition and receptivity it should?

The answers to all these questions are found in product management (or lack thereof), the area responsible for product development from initial idealization to post-sales. In the summary of author Marty Cagan's book, "Inspired", we will see that there is no recipe for producing a successful product.

Despite this, Cagan promises to offer alternatives to create a culture to develop successful technological projects, dealing with the set of discoveries and techniques so that the best tools can be used in each specific problem to be faced.

Are you curious to discover Marty's teachings and apply them to your projects, raising your level of competence, productivity, quality and management? You will find that you don't need great strategies to put them into practice, just be committed and open to changes!

About the book "Inspired"

The book "Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love" was published in 2017, by author Marty Cagan. It has 368 pages and is its second version, which focuses on the challenges of growing technology companies and the quality of their products.

It is divided into 5 parts, which deal with lessons from the main technology companies, to how to develop the right people, products, processes and organizational culture.

About the author Marty Cagan

Marty Cagan has held and managed roles in engineering, management, product testing and marketing, user experience design, and various other managerial roles in large organizations.

The author has worked as an executive developer for big tech companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HP), Netscape Communications and eBay. He also founded the Silicon Valley Product Group to deepen and share his knowledge of successful product development.

To whom is this book indicated?

The book "Inspired", by Marty Cagan, is indicated for product managers or aspirants, especially those in the technology field. It is also recommended for development team members such as those responsible for marketing, sales, design, engineering, and user experience.

Main ideas of the book "Inspired"

  • Many bad ideas and failures will emerge until the ideal is implemented and generates business value;
  • The success of a product depends on many variables besides the product's own quality;
  • Doesn't matter how good your development team is if they're not given something worth developing;
  • A great product is the result of combining technology and design to solve real customer problems in a way that meets the needs of the business;
  • Investing in user experience, design, marketing, and customer service is just as important as product research and development.

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[Book Summary] Inspired - Marty Cagan

Lessons from Top Tech Companies

According to Marty Cagan, there is a big difference between the way the best companies produce products and the way most companies do it. And, behind the greatest successes, there are always those responsible for making the necessary combinations to meet the needs of customers and the business.

The author uses lessons learned from large technology companies, highlighting that the most important things are:

  1. Have a well-defined purpose;
  2. Have a product that is worth developing: that solves a problem, creates value and is usable by the customer;
  3. Have a quality, unified and well-led development team;
  4. Have adequate processes for product development.

Technology-Powered Products and Services

The focus of the book is on the challenges encountered during the creation and implementation of technological services and experiences, the author cites the main services and companies that stand out in the way they deliver their products, such as:

  1. E-commerce or marketplaces such as Airbnb, Etsy or Netflix;
  2. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin;
  3. Business services such as Salesforce. com, Workday or Workiva;
  4. Consumer devices such as Apple, Sonos or Tesla;
  5. Mobile apps like Uber, Instagram or Audible.

Products Development in Different Levels

According to Marty Cagan, the way in which products are developed must be adapted to the different circumstances of each company, taking into account factors such as the size of teams, available resources, presence of supply and demand, its condition in the market, current and future objectives, etc.

Therefore, the author listed the companies at three levels: Startups, Growth-Stage Companies and Enterprise Companies, dealing with the peculiarities of each one individually.


Cagan defines startups as new product companies that have yet to achieve a product fit with the market. This means that, at this moment, the company needs to develop something that makes the business viable, proving to new customers that the product can solve their pain.

Therefore, the biggest focus of startups is necessarily on the product itself. In these cases, the product manager is usually one of the founders, and considering the common financial constraint, his main mission is to make the product's connection to the market before the money runs out.

Growth-Stage Companies

Companies in the growth stage need to deal with the growing demand for services and the expansion of the structure and core business, needing to hire and manage more people, maintain the quality of their current products and, in addition, develop new adjacent products and services.

In this case, there may be misalignment between some areas, when subdivided. It can also be a big challenge for leaders, who need to adapt their leadership mechanisms and behaviors, because what worked for a small company will certainly not work for a rising one.

Enterprise Companies

Finally, established companies face different challenges in relation to their products, the main one is to ensure constant innovation in their products, which can be done by generating new value for customers and businesses.

It is necessary to adjust and optimize existing products and, at the same time, develop new services. At this stage, many giant companies end up losing their power. This happens because they ended up focused on products that one day leveraged their brand and stopped innovating.

Inconvenient Truths About Products Development

The author of "Inspired" brings in his book two facts that he calls "inconvenient truths", from which product development teams cannot avoid, but rather, learn to deal with them.

The first refers to the relationship between the number of proposed ideas and those that are successful. According to Marty, at least half of our ideas will not work and this can happen for several reasons.

Ideas may not prosper because customers don't receive it as well as its creators; or sometimes they want to use them but the product's operation turns out to be extremely complicated; another possibility is that the idea is very good, but its progress turns out to be much more complex than expected.

Cagan's second truth is that even with ideas that do prove to have potential, it typically takes several iterations to get it implemented until it delivers business value.

This means that, most likely, an idea will not follow a linear path to success, ending up facing problems and impediments that can lead to a lot of waste of time in its development, and, consequently, loss of money.

The Right People

It is known that every product is based on integrated knowledge from different areas, and the way in which this integration and collaboration takes place is what defines the success or failure of a product or service.

Based on this, the author cites the "principles of strong product teams", which encompass motivation, composition, empowerment, team size, hierarchical structure, collaboration, location, scope, stability and team autonomy.

The Product Manager

The product manager can be considered one of the main support pillars of a product team, they are responsible for assisting their team, evaluating opportunities and determining what will be developed and delivered to the customer.

It must have extensive knowledge of technology and data analysis, business and market skills, credibility with executives, knowledge of clients, respect from his team and, most importantly, passion for the product.

The Product Designer

The product designer is connected to customers and to the value a product can offer them. Furthermore, it understands the restrictions of the product itself or of the business, adapting them to the product's own interfaces.

Finally, it is the designer who recognizes, above all, the importance of the user experience, which is as important to the customer as the features and solutions offered by the developed item.

The Engineers

Would it be ironic if engineers were considered the other important pillar of the products? Well, according to Marty Cagan, in "Inspired," the most important relationship in the product development process is between the product manager and the engineers.

Do you agree that an idea is just an idea until there are people capable of making it a reality? (It's the engineers who do this!). And that great people won't have their potential exploited if they don't have something relevant to work on? (If you say that product managers offer this, you're right!).

Product Marketing Managers

The importance of marketing teams is often underestimated, considered not as necessary as other areas or even those in which there is the least allocation of resources, whether financial, of time or people.

But, do you agree that it's no use having a revolutionary product without knowing how to offer it to the customer? Often great ideas are lost because of this. So be ready to recognize marketing as your ally.

The Supporting Roles

Finally, the book "Inspired" also reminds us of the importance of supporting roles, which, depending on the size of the company, are performed by the same professionals from other areas, as a complementary function.

As such, support functions span many areas, the main ones being: data organization and analysis, automation, testing and prototyping, user experience support, sales and customer service.

Such activities are also carried out by those who are entering the labor market and can apply their knowledge in the company (You know who we are talking about! Never forget the importance of interns).

The Right Product

Marty Cagan makes it very clear, in his book "Inspired", that the main focus of product development must be on results, and not on deliveries. Okay, but what does that mean? This means that generating a quality final product is more important than the bureaucracy, deadlines, goals and fixed methodologies.

Therefore, Cagan bases his work on models of empowered product teams, which means that, since teams have essential skills, they should be presented with problems and receive the autonomy to find solutions in the ways they deem most efficient.

In addition, product teams also need to be in context with the necessary business, which means they must have a solid understanding of the company's current and future goals and comprehend how they can contribute to achieving them.

In this way, teams are able to understand their roles and feel part of a greater purpose and, above all, they feel more motivated by believing that their work is valued to the point of being given the freedom to innovate in the way they do their services.

The Right Process

Marty Cagan makes it clear that there is not an unique process that can be applied to all products and that, thus, will ensure their prosperity. As such, he ensures that the right process can be defined as a combination of techniques, mindset and culture.

Product Discovery

The book "Inspired" deals with the two biggest challenges for product teams, considering that most of them work to develop solutions to complex problems, which require even more complex systems to solve them.

First, it is necessary to find out what the solution should be for the customer. This part includes certifying that there is a demand for it, as well as discovering the most efficient resources for both the consumer and the business. Finally, the solution needs to be comprehensive, reaching all the necessary audiences.

Second, it is necessary to make sure to have an implementation that can be further developed and updated, and that is robust and of consistently reliable value to customers.

What risks should be considered?

Despite considering the unique situations of each product developer, the author mentions certain risks that must be evaluated during the process of implementing and developing an idea. Such risks can be observed through the questions listed below:

  1. Value risk: will the customer buy it or choose to use it?
  2. Usability risk: can the user understand how to use it?
  3. Feasibility risk: we are able to develop it?
  4. Business viability risk: does this solution work for our business?
  5. Financial risk: can we afford this solution?
  6. Business development risk: does this solution work for our partners?
  7. Marketing risk: is this solution consistent with our brand?
  8. Sales risk: is this solution something our sales team is prepared to sell?
  9. Legal risk: is this something we can do from a compliance or legal perspective?
  10. Ethical risk: should we create this solution?

The Right Culture

The right culture is based on good teams, which the author brings their characteristics and their disparities in relation to bad teams. The main characteristics of good teams are that they have a persuasive product vision, in addition to working with passion and direct dedication to the customer.

Other aspects of good teams are: getting inspiration from insights, observation and analysis; constant search for innovation; knowledge of users and customers; possess well-developed testing and experimentation techniques; share opinions and information and work together, even in different areas.

What do other authors say about it?

In "Power Play", Tim Higgins tells the story of Tesla's development and the challenges faced at each stage of growth, mentioned by Marty, from its foundation as a startup to its consolidation as one of the largest and most valuable ventures in the world.

In the book "No Rules Rules", authors Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer bring the main reason for the success of Netflix: management based on freedom and autonomy in the work environment, which provides initiatives to innovate, through which the CEO himself calls it "the culture of freedom".

Finally, Eric Berridge's book "Customer Obsessed" addresses methods that can be applied to provide the best customer experience, providing excellent products and services..

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

  • Keep your team together and make clear its importance and the roles of each member;
  • Ensure that, in addition to solving a customer's "pain", your product can also be used intuitively by the user;
  • Encourage the sharing of information among the team, this helps in solving problems and optimizing processes;
  • Teams must work integrated with each other, but, at the same time, have autonomy so that they are not too dependent on each other;
  • Become an expert on your customers and/or users;
  • Allow freedom for each employee to carry out its work in the way they deems most effective;
  • Remember that all the parts that make up a product are important.

Did you like this summary of the book "Inspired"?

So, did you like the teachings provided by Marty Cagan in "Inspired"? Are you ready to apply them with your team?

If you liked this summary, don't forget to leave your feedback in the comments, take the opportunity to tell us what you already applied and what you learned here. And, if you want to purchase the complete book for more details, just click on the image below:

Book 'Inspired', by Marty Cagan