Jul 27th, 2020

The Value of Failure

New Value is a Function of Failure, not Success.

I recently stumbled across this sentence. It’s the perfect encapsulation of how to create new value. Note that this is about new value specifically, not value in general. There is, of course, plenty of value being created by optimization – leveraging Wright’s Law to bring down the cost as a function of cumulative production.

But new value is different. You can’t invent anything without failure. But not all failure is created equal: You heard about Silicon Valley’s favorite mantra: Fail fast, fail often, fail forward. Most people emphasize the first two aspects (fast and often) and forget about the third. Failing forward means learning. Failure without learning (and as such systematic, recorded and reviewed learning) is useless. Alas – we all too often get caught up in the thrill of experimentation, launching early and often and the lure of the pivot.

The best teams I ever worked with act much more like scientists in a lab than adrenaline-seeking startup jockeys. They formulate a clear, distinct and testable hypothesis, figure out the fastest and cheapest way to verify or falsify the hypothesis, run the experiment, capture the result, mull it over and create their follow-on hypothesis based on their findings.

A dear friend of mine once described this as the “drunken walk of the entrepreneur”. I think that metaphor, as lovely as it is, could be made better: The best entrepreneurs are not stumbling forward, barely knowing where it is they want to end up – but rather like the captain on a ship in rough waters: Knowing exactly where they want to go, steadying themselves against the elements but also embracing the intricate dance between their ship and the sea.

Jul 19th, 2020

The Soul of a New Company

Over the years I found that, broadly speaking, you encounter two types of startups: On one hand you have companies which are the extension of their founders brain, heart and hands. The companies which live and breath the founders’ ethos and are synonymous with the individuals which originally built that company.

And then you have the ones where which are the embodiment of an idea – detached from the founders, these companies go on to...

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Jul 11th, 2020

Time To Go Pro

Make no mistake: The direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19 are heartbreaking, awful and a tragedy.

Alas, as the virus ravages through the world, in many industries and professions it also separates the divas from the pros. Divas need everything to be perfect for the show to go on. Pros dig in, find their way through, work together as a team, accept reality for what it is, adjust and do what needs to be done.

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Jul 4th, 2020

Seek out MAPs

The other day we discussed decision making with a group of executives at a startup. The conversation moved from “how do we ensure we have clear ownership and speedy decision making” to “how do we make sure we make the best possible decisions (in the shortest amount of time)?”

Surely a good question to ask – and one which too few people deliberate over. Most of us, if at all, spend a tiny amount of...

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Jun 20th, 2020

Pragmatism and Poetry

The other day a dear friend of mine asked me about a post he thought I had written about how you need to run your company between stories and spreadsheets. Turns out, I never wrote that. But it is, indeed, a very good point. And one which reminded me of a line we used at Mozilla all the time: Pragmatism and Poetry. Stories and Spreadsheets.

See, you need both to be successful. Stories are what...

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Jun 14th, 2020

Be Known (or be Nothing)

A few days ago, at a Learning Exchange we did with a client, one of the participants mentioned a video from Simon Sinek (of “Start With Why”-fame) to me. It is a recording of an internal team meeting where he talks about “These Are Not Unprecedented Times”. It’s a good prep talk. But that is not my point.

Watch the video and you will see him talk repeatedly about “the infinite mindset”...

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Jun 1st, 2020

This Too Shall Pass

The other day I watched a standup comedy on Amazon Prime where the Indian-born comedian made fun of the Persian adage “This too shall pass”. During his routine he commented on the fact that this sentiment is meant to remind us that not only the bad things will pass (as I heard many people use this phrase in the context of COVID-19) but we also have to realize that the good things are temporary,...

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May 28th, 2020

Get Your PhD in Leadership in 30 Seconds

Dee Hock, architect of payment juggernaut VISA, inventor of chaordic organizations and visionary-extraordinaire once summarized his most important leadership advice as:

Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.

It truly summarizes a PhD in leadership in four short sentences.

Mulling this over, it...

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May 16th, 2020

The Future of (Most) Everything

Prof Scott Galloway (of No Mercy / No Malice) recently made some pretty bleak predictions about the future of higher-ed in light of COVID-19. The tl;dr: As classes move online, campuses enforce social distancing and the whole allure of a $100,000 have-as-much-fun-as-possible while building a network-for-life essentially gone, money will dry up for colleges. This will lead to a dying of the middle (here it is again, our hourglass economics model)....

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May 12th, 2020

Competition vs Customers

It has been a while…

COVID-19 ripped through my life most likely very similar to what it did for yours: It went from 💩 to 😝 to 😱 to… you get the picture (or emoji)?

Now let’s resume (somewhat) regular programming.

The amazing Kevin Kelly recently turned 68. In best KK fashion he posted a list of 68 bits of unsolicited advice.

Pretty much in the middle you will find this:

You...

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