In 1954, a saxophone-playing engineer changed the face of popular music forever with an electric guitar he couldn’t even play.
Here are 5 lessons every product manager can learn from Leo Fender and the birth of the Stratocaster.
You don’t have to dogfood your own product
Despite his name being synonymous with the evolution of the electric guitar, Leo Fender never learned to play.
Legend has it he couldn’t even tune one, but that didn’t stop him revolutionising the way guitars were designed, built and played.
You need to have a deep understanding of your market, and your customers
Even though he wasn’t a player, Fender had an intimate knowledge of the challenges facing guitarists in the early 1950s.
Spending at least a quarter of his working day just talking to musicians meant Fender could build an instrument with the needs of its users at its very heart.
Solving the problem comes first
Unlike his rivals at Gibson and Gretch, whose electric instruments echoed their old designs, Fender brought a first principles approach to the Stratocaster.
Instead of just thinking about electrification, Fender focused on the fundamental question of how to improve the experience of guitar playing for the musician.
When you’ve got a great idea, go with it until it’s proven wrong
Fender’s long-standing colleague George Fullerton said, “If he had an idea to try something, the only way you’d ever change him would be to prove that what he had would not work.”.
Many of Fender’s most important innovations stemmed from ideas he wouldn’t let go of.
If you love what you do, it’ll never feel like work
The day before his death in 1991 at the age of 81, Leo Fender had been at his workbench doing exactly what he loved.
If you care deeply about the problem you’re solving it’ll never be a chore.