To Leap, Or Not To Leap

To my friends who are not going back to the same old life & bravely taking giant leaps, your courage is so inspirational. I wish you the best of luck & enjoy the new journey ⛵️.

Because I’m cheap 😅, I only dare to try little happiness, such as 4DWW by taking Thursdays off in June. Guess what, I’m loving it… mostly because of happy hour 🍻. I plan to continue that in Q3. So I can spend more time on things that are uncomfortable excited to me personally.

Luckily we now can “worry” about returning to the office. I’m really grateful for all the for & against debates. No doubt, COVID has changed the Way Americans Work forever. But when a new opportunity calls, it’s up to us to create more choices for a better new normal & to proudly leave a legacy to the next generations. For brave souls who dare to lead us toward a better world, 3 tips for the road: finding your long-term customer obsession, pushing for users first & founding a better expedition team.

Long-term customer obsession

As I keep stealing from the book — Working Backwards, e.g. How To Build A Business You Deserve. Some ask what you find useful. There are too many. So read the book, please 😉. Luckily, Colin & Bill kindly chatted with us recently & they emphasized the long-term customer obsession is the most useful principle when facing tough trade-offs.

Do it because it’s a right thing to do, even when it’s too damn hard

Indeed, when facing high-stake & high-uncertainty decisions, it’s so easy to forget a such simple but powerful principle. Some argue people can be too smart to overcomplicate things. Others say ambiguity clouds judgment. While they may be a factor of deficiency, more commonly: it was too damn hard” to take the right path instead of the easy way because of the short-term gain. So help me God to have the courage to stand by the principle always. Help me to see clearly & even lead the crowd charging into the right path. Help me aware of “slow-boiling” even when they come in different forms: keep digging the hole, staying the status quo, lingering on decision making… I don’t want to be that frog 🐸 .

Customer or user first?

The short answer: it depends on what business you are really in. Especially as a business grows bigger, many people lost sight of who their customers & users are. To be fair, when they are just numbers, it does take extra effort for us to care much. So a quick recap: customers are those who decide to buy & pay for the product/service. Whereas users are the people who use them. Sometimes users are not customers as they don’t make the purchase decision, e.g. enterprise users.

If you are in a Business-to-Consumer business rather than a Business-to-Business business, the long-term user focus is more important. Because even the users may not make the buying call, they are using it to create value. For the longer run, I hope more will prioritize the value creation over the business transaction.

Better expedition team

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. — Leo Tolstoy’s novel: Anna Karenina, 1877

A multi startup funder & incubator, Bill Gross shared a study of reasons why start-ups succeed across 200+ companies, Timing(42%) is the top factor & Team/Execution is the 2nd(32%). Furthermore, if you are willing to go beyond the simple factor analysis, you have to ask why great founders are made than born.

Kathryn Shaw, Stanford Professor’s research: repeat entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed from the records of 2.8 million small retailers in Texas. So a practical heuristic may be: form the right team & keep trying. Sooner or later, you may get “lucky” as the timing & idea are just right eventually. The question is how to build your gang better. You can see a few happy schools are alike, such as:

  • Amazon: separable teams with single-threaded leadership, aka 2 Pizza Rule. As the quote in the book, Working backwards: “The best way to fail at inventing something is by making its somebody’s part-time job.”
  • Apple: the iPhone keyboard Directly Responsible Individual (DRI), Ken Kocienda shared how they reinvented touch in his book, Creative Selection.
  • Netflix: Informed Captains to liberate top talents to achieve what Netflix pays for, and also to avoid pitfalls from committees making decisions. Which typically is slow, diffusing responsibility and accountability. More in the book, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.

You definitely can choose when to play. When you do, you better bring the right gang with you. As the famous tree swing analogy also implies what Working backwards quotes: “Better coordination was the wrong answer” 😂.

Full Disclosure

The opinions stated here are my own, not those of my company. They are mostly extrapolations from public information. I don’t have insider knowledge of those companies, nor an EV expert.



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