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Ganesha, the Original Product Manager

Source |  | Chris Ford, Vice President of Product Management

The other night while out for drinks with friends, a woman at my table leaned over and asked me, “is that a Ganesha pendant you are wearing?” She looked a little surprised to see an image of her revered Hindu God hanging around my Irish Catholic neck. I told her, “yes it is, and I have a statue of him on my desk as well.”

“Are you Hindu,” she asked.

“No but I am a product manager, and to me Ganesha is the original product manager and I look to him for inspiration,” I said. She smiled and immediately understood. She then told me her parents always honor Ganesha before any big endeavor, such as building a house or starting a new business.

Ganesha, whose image in art has been popular in India since the 6th century, is one of the best-known, and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. He can be found throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. He is revered as the remover of obstacles, the deva of intellect and wisdom, and is often invoked during writing sessions as the patron of letters and learning.

When I’m frustrated in my role as a product manager, I often look to his image on my desk for comfort. And he reminds me that the principles of which I try to aspire, are nothing new. I’m also not alone. They’ve been a time-honored mind-set by wise people for thousands of years.

Ganesha is easily identified by his elephant head. As the story goes, his mother asked him to guard the front door and let no one in. When his father Shiva came home, Ganesha did not recognize him and would not let him pass. His father grew angry and beheaded him. Later Ganesha was brought back to life and his human head was replaced by a large elephant head. It might be a bit rough, but the morale of the story is that he lost his head because of ignorance, and it was replaced with an elephant’s, which symbolizes wisdom and knowledge.

Elephants also don’t walk around obstacles. They simply remove them and go forward effortlessly. So Ganesha is also known as “the remover of obstacles.” Does he sound like a great product manager, or what?

Whenever you see Ganesha represented in art, it’s usually always with the same important images that are symbolic of the principles that we product managers hold dear.

Here’s what it all means:

Large Ears: Allow him to listen more and hear the viewpoints of others.


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