ResourcesBlogProduct Management Monday: AI and Product Managers: What We Can Learn From Iron Man 

Product Management Monday: AI and Product Managers: What We Can Learn From Iron Man 

Will AI Take My Job? Product Manager Edition

Is anyone else jealous of Tony Stark’s workshop? Of course he can build the Iron Man suit, I could too if I had voice-automated robots that anticipated my needs, a computer infrastructure managed by a near sentient AI, and endless resources at my disposal. Well, I guess there is a little bit of a difference between Tony Stark and me that goes beyond his wealth.  

Areas of Expertise Tony Stark Me 
Mechanical and Electrical Engineering  
Computer Science  
Artificial Intelligence  
Quantum Mechanics  
Creating analogies with comic book characters  

Honestly, all I could do for Tony Stark is hold a flashlight for him, drill and cut where he shows me, and respond to any other labor requests. These are all the things that he replaced with AI and robots.  

The key question in determining how likely AI is to take your job is “who are you?” Are you Tony Stark or me, his assistant? 

The answer to this question depends on the capabilities you leverage in your role as a product manager. Let’s go through a list of product manager capabilities. We will evaluate each on a scale from augment to automate (1-5). Augment means that the AI can assist and enable this capability. Automate means that AI could replace the product manager completely.  

AI Replacement Spectrum 

Capability Score 
Empathy and Customer Connection 1 (Augment) 
Crafting Compelling Narratives 
Balancing Quantitative and Qualitative Data 
Gaining Buy-in Across Stakeholders 
Uncovering Hidden Outcomes and Problems 
Creating Experiments to Test Hypotheses 
Developing Product Strategies 
Product Documentation 
Competitive Analysis 
Managing Backlogs 
Project Management 5 (Automate) 

The scoring reflects the level of humanity required for each capability. Capabilities scored 1-2 typically involve aspects where human intuition, empathy, and creativity are paramount, making them less susceptible to full AI replacement.  

  1. Empathy and Customer Connection 
  • Example: A product manager conducts in-depth interviews with customers to understand their pain points and challenges. Through empathetic listening and probing questions, the product manager uncovers underlying needs and motivations that go beyond what quantitative data alone can reveal. This deep understanding of customer emotions and context informs product decisions and enhancements that truly resonate with users. 
  1. Crafting Compelling Narratives 
  • Example: A product manager presents the vision for a new product feature to the development team using a narrative that highlights the problem it solves, the benefits it brings to users, and the broader impact on the company’s strategic goals. While AI-generated content could outline the feature’s technical specifications, it’s the product manager’s storytelling ability to understand their audience and respond in the moment that captures the team’s imagination and fosters excitement and alignment around the project.  
  1. Balancing Quantitative and Qualitative Data 
  • Example: A product manager reviews user feedback from surveys and customer support interactions alongside quantitative data on product usage and engagement metrics. While AI algorithms can crunch the numbers and highlight trends, the product manager’s human judgment is necessary to weigh qualitative insights against quantitative data, prioritizing feature improvements or bug fixes based on both data sets. 
  1. Gaining Buy-in Across Stakeholders 
  • Example: A product manager leads cross-functional meetings to discuss upcoming product initiatives and gather input from stakeholders across marketing, sales, engineering, and customer support teams. While AI tools can facilitate communication and data sharing during these meetings, it’s the product manager’s interpersonal skills and ability to build consensus that ultimately secure buy-in and alignment on product priorities. For instance, they may need to navigate conflicting priorities between departments and find compromises that satisfy everyone’s needs while still driving the product forward. 
  1. Uncovering Hidden Outcomes and Problems 
  • Example: A product manager needs to uncover hidden outcomes and problems to identify subtle, underlying issues during user interactions or data analysis. This skill involves keen observation and intuition to spot and creatively solve problems that are not immediately apparent. This way product managers can ensure products truly meet user needs and enhance market fit

In contrast, capabilities scored 4-5 involve tasks that can be more easily automated by AI, such as data analysis, documentation, and project management. 

If your skillset aligns more with the capabilities with a score of 4 or 5 on our AI Replacement Spectrum, then you are in danger of being replaced. If you’re looking for direction in which skills to grow, you should start with the capabilities in the 1 – 2 range.  

Stay Ahead of AI by Improving Your Skills

Productside has courses to help you build the skills you need to stay ahead of the evolving product management landscape.  

Remember Tony Stark created the first Iron Man suit in a cave in Afghanistan. I’m sure he appreciated the efficiency and higher quality provided by his nifty tools. But Tony Stark didn’t need the tools to prove his value.  

Todd Blaquiere
June 18, 2024