Inspired by Marty Cagan Book Review

February 20th, 2024

A few months ago I was fortunate to get the opportunity to switch from my software engineering role to a product management one at work. I hope that’s the right idea for myself and I’m thrilled about the prospect; however, I have no product management training whatsoever. After some online research, it seemed like Inspired would be a good place to look for an introduction to the discipline and it certainly delivers.

Inspired is structured as an overview of the many components of product management and Marty Cagan draws from his own experience in the role along with the stories of other noteworthy product managers to exemplify the techniques and processes he covers.

His experience—and his advice—is geared toward building tech products at companies with a product-led approach. For readers lucky enough to find themselves in an environment near Cagan’s ideal, I think the book would be an excellent introduction to a product manager’s day-to-day. For other readers, it still effectively gets the product-thinking juices flowing. He gives approachable advice for a new PM, but it’s not clear how such a reader would go about making the institutional changes he recommends should such a reader find themselves in a less than optimal corporate structure.

The main focus of Inspired is on product discovery, the process of identifying customers and their needs and imagining a delightful, feasible product that can be made to service them. Cagan especially emphasizes the importance of this process to startups, where the product discovery process is critical to achieving product-market fit. Readers are easily able to understand the importance of close relationships with real customers, data driven decision making and rapid iteration cycles. Inspired also describes some actionable techniques for actually doing product discovery, chiefly the importance of reference customers (customers whose needs you focus on and who give feedback regularly) and the need to involve all internal stakeholders (design, marketing, execs, engineering) in the discovery process.

I felt that Inspired lived up to my expectations as a strong introduction to the discipline but covered so much ground that I was occasionally left wanting more detail. I’d recommend it to other aspiring product managers.

Some of my takeaways