Note to readers: A new position at Adobe finds me broadening my focus, embracing all I have learned as a digital marketer to build strong product management skills. Back when I first started in digital marketing, especially B2B, I experimented. A lot. That trial and error, in addition to invaluable mentors that I sought out to satisfy a voracious appetite for learning, honed an edge for life: I still love to learn.

I was tremendously lucky that the leaders I sought to follow early on returned my enthusiasm five-fold. I certainly held up my end of the bargain, but whenever I reached out to Marketing Sherpa founder Ann Holland or Marketing Experiments leader Dr. Flint McLoughlin, I always learned more than I asked for, and I will always be grateful for that. 

To sharpen my B2B digital marketing skills, I turned to Sirius Decisions’ Tony Jaros. Through a monthly call with real-life mentors, I quickly developed a strong digital marketing knowledge base. I followed a similar path in taking this step up at Adobe. I asked questions and sought wisdom, finding myself with no less than a dozen new books suggested by respected upper-level managers in the field.

One such book, 42 Rules of Product Management, a compilation of guiding principles put together by Brian Lawley and Greg Cohen, proved a quick study that helped me to hit the ground running. In this next blog series I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned as I dovetail lessons from the digital marketing world with new skills in product management. My goal is to enhance applications, solutions, and technology through my own individual practical experience as well as through leadership management of 120 digital marketing staff.

Product management for digital marketers. By digital marketers. Halleleujah! The only thing that could make it better is your input. I’d love to hear your feedback on LinkedIn, Twitter, and this blog site.

Passion is contagious. When people are passionate about something, they find unconventional paths that lead to success, driven by inner fires that burn with ideas, inventions, and innovation. Applying such passion may require bending the rules a bit, but that’s okay if you know, as the Dalai Lama says, how to break them properly. Many great ideas have been born outside the proper box of conventional wisdom.

Recently, I’ve put on a new hat here at Adobe. It is allowing me to explore my passion from a more internal perspective. For the past 10 to 15 years, I’ve been focused on marketing, more specifically, digital marketing, peering through the external lens of the customer. As I dive into the new, more internal realm of product management, I have found sage advice in a handsome little volume simply titled 42 Rules of Product Management.

The first rule in the book? Rules are meant to be broken. I’m liking these guys already.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that rules are important, but life is dynamic and things change, requiring, if you will, new interpretations to accommodate progress. If men did not have passions that led them to curious experimentation, progress would be nonexistent. These guys get it, though.

The editors run through the successes of Henry Ford and the Model T automobile, Frederick Smith and FedEx’s triumph over the postal service, and Masura Ibuka’s Sony pocket transistor radio, highlighting the multiple failures that forced all of them to move rules around a bit in order to succeed. They all had passions and they all nudged the perimeters of the rules a bit, finally finding success after multiple tries. Yes, that means failures.

Believing in themselves, and nurturing their desires to bring customers new products they believed had huge value, innovative men like Ford, Smith, and Ibuka delivered new and interesting products that made life better than it was before their existence. They tried. They failed. They persevered. And they broke a few rules along the way.

Bending, or even breaking, rules is allowed. Especially if it advances, improves, or enhances customers’ lives in valuable ways. But be prepared to defend your passionate path, especially if you, like many successful innovators, don’t succeed on your first try. They didn’t say it would be easy. They did say it would be worth it.