Thumbnail for version as of 08:33, 26 May 2007This may sound like a strange question to begin with, but what is the definition of ‘amuse’? If you were to respond with something related to entertainment, you would be spot on with how we use the word today. But what if I were to tell you that over time the context of the word has changed?

If you will recall English classes from school, when you place the letter ‘a’ in front of a word it serves to negate the original meaning. And if you were to look up the definition of ‘muse’, you would find it means ‘to think about something carefully or thoroughly’ (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). So in its archaic context, the word ‘amuse’ would have actually meant ‘to stupefy … to stare stupidly’, or more simply to not think.

Interesting point, but what in the world does this have to do with Product Management or Leadership? Well, I was sitting with a group of business leaders not too long ago, and part of the discussion reflected on the fact that 90% of leadership is about preparation.  We also discussed that many leaders simply do not take take the time to be intentional about preparation … about thinking through something carefully or thoroughly. All too often our days begin with meetings (especially if you have offices you interact with in varying time zones or halfway around the world), or fire drills (often with schedule delays or customer issues), or with job responsibilities (focusing on the many deliverables expected of us) or even with employee issues for those who manage people. And while these tactical/operational elements of our jobs are important and often necessary, all too often they consume our mind share and energy to the point we sacrifice the strategic.

What I have found over the years is that if you are not intentional about carving out time to think, you are not being as effective in your role as you could be. For example, how many of us have signed up for email notifications from analysts and/or publications only to discard or ignore them when they hit your inbox because you don’t have enough time to focus on it? Or how many of us fail to sit and think about the um-teen different customer conversations that have taken place over the past month looking for a common comment or theme that could allude to a new market need? How many of us have even looked at our competitors lately to see what they are up to and how it might impact us?

Just a few examples, but you get the picture. Carve out some time in your calendar to muse … to think carefully and thoroughly. You will have to be intentional about it, because something else will come up … it always does!