Article: CS183C Session 8: Eric Schmidt

Very interesting interview between Reid Hoffman and Eric Schmidt:

Q: Is there anything you’d tell your younger self?

A: Do things sooner and make fewer mistakes. The question is, what causes me not to make those decisions quickly. Some people are quicker than others, and it’s not clear which actually need to be answered quickly. Hindsight is always that you make the important decisions more quickly.

Another gem:

Q: Talk about when you joined Google.

Almost all small companies are full of energy and no process. My list was straightforward: internationalization plans, sales plans, product plans, accounting, etc. My first meeting at Google was like being at a graduate school full of interesting people with no deadlines or deliverables. Offices at Google had 4 people because Larry and Sergey’s office at Stanford had 4 people.

The SCARF Framework

I recently read an article by David Cummings on building an irresistible organization:

Want to build a great company? Find product/market fit, a repeatable customer acquisition process, and build a simply irresistible organization.

In the article, David refers to a presentation of the same name by Josh Bersin. Josh remarks that:

Engagement still startlingly low: only 13% of employees worldwide are highly engaged (Gallup)

The presentation itself refers to "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock. The book is full of interesting insights about how your brain works and the applications for how you work. Incidentally, it's an interesting companion to "Thinking, Fast and Slow", illustrating many of the concept in Kahneman's book.

In the book, David Rock talks about his "SCARF" framework. The letters stand for:

  • Status: where do you stand in the social ladder relative to your peers?
  • Certainty: do you know what's going to happen?
  • Autonomy: are you in control of what's happening to you?
  • Relatedness: do you feel connected to others?
  • Fairness: is your sense of justice satisfied?

I found the framework simple and interesting. It explains many of the common pitfalls one might face when working in a group. As a manager, I'll try to make sure I meet the SCARF needs of my teammates in the future.

Article: Getting the Right Stuff Done

Steven Sinofsky:

A key role of product management (PM), whether as the product-focused founder (CEO, CTO) or the PM leader, is making sure product development efforts are focused. But what does it mean to be focused? This isn’t always as clear as it could be for a team. While everyone loves focus, there’s an equal love for agility, action, and moving "forward". Keeping the trains running is incredibly important, but just as important and often overlooked is making sure the destination is clear.

It might sound crazy, but it is much easier than one might think for teams to move fast, get stuff done, and break things that might not be helping the overall efforts. In fact, in my experience, this challenge has become even greater in recent years with the availability of data and telemetry. With such, it becomes very easy to find work that needs to be done to improve the app or service — the data is telling you right then and there that something is tripping up customers, performing poorly, or going unused. Taking action makes it easy to feel like the right thing is happening. It feels like moving forward. Everyone loves to get stuff done. Everyone feels focused.

But is the team focused on the right work to achieve the right results?

Very interesting article. The framework he suggests reminded me of the tools outlined in the book "Traction" by Gino Wickman: define your 10 years vision, your 3 years plan, then your yearly priority, then your rocks for the quarter, and in the end your tasks for the week. If you're always making sure that what you're working on right now is aligned with your broader goals, the risk of going astray is very low!

Article: A Leader’s Guide To Deciding: What, When, and How To Decide

Steven Sinofsky:

With that experience, my view is that before deciding something a CEO or exec should be clear how he/she contributes to a project or work, using one of the following:

  • Initiator: kicking off new projects
  • Connector: connecting people to others so the work gets better
  • Amplifier: amplifying the things that are working well or not so there is awareness of success and learning
  • Editor: fixing or changing things while they are being done

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Very interesting and insightful article. The way you choose spend your time between all types of activity says a lot about you.

Article: The Curse of Knowledge

Harvard Business Review:

When a tapper taps, it is impossible for her to avoid hearing the tune playing along to her taps. Meanwhile, all the listener can hear is a kind of bizarre Morse code. Yet the tappers were flabbergasted by how hard the listeners had to work to pick up the tune.

The problem is that once we know something—say, the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind.

In the business world, managers and employees, marketers and customers, corporate headquarters and the front line, all rely on ongoing communication but suffer from enormous information imbalances, just like the tappers and listeners.

This idea is strongly applicable in sales. In order to be successful, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person you'll be meeting with, understand their unique perspective on the world, and only then try and help them assess whether what you have to offer may fit in their picture.

In addition to this, developing a deep understanding of your prospect's needs lets you engage in a very potent sales tool, negative reverse selling, much more effectively:

- You:"I'm not sure whether what I just told you about [your specific solution] may help you fix some of the issues you're experiencing..."
- Prospect: "Well, actually I think it would help us quite a bit with our problems in [area of concern you were discussing earlier]."

When doing this, you help your prospect convince themselves that your solution can and will be valuable to them. You help them build their own case for using your solution, which will also make a rollout easier down the road since they'll be able to clearly explain to other people in their organization why your solution is worth investing in, in their specific context.

Of course, this approach can only work if you're confident that the issue you raised was an actual issue experienced by your prospect... which was the exact point why you needed to get into their shoes.