The Secret to Startup Success
Weathering storms is a critical ingredient to a startup’s success. Every startup I’ve worked at and most of the famously successful ones came close to failing at least at once. My premise has become: It’s not the fastest ship that wins the race, it’s the one that can weather the storms.
What sets those apart that succeed is being adaptable and resilient and hence able to rationally course correct to whatever challenges arose. Challenges come in many forms:
- Paradigms shifts like rapid advances in generative AI, a global pandemic, quantum advances in bio-tech, geopolitical turmoil, etc
- Error in the Product-Market fit hypothesis
- Unexpected changes in the economy economic situation that dry up funding and/or disposable income of prospective customers
- Emergence of a competitor that out-markets or outperforms you in your current space
Organizations and leaders need to be adaptable and open to the coming changes and resilient to weather the storms of upheaval. To do so will be the difference to succumbing to the changes of thriving as a result. Below is a list of 10 areas to focus on to create such organizations.
Ten Tenets for Weathering Storms
In the ever-shifting landscape of our world, navigating the unpredictable waves of change requires not just a steadfast ship but a skilled and adaptable crew. The secret to thriving amid volatility and ambiguity is not just about survival; it’s about harnessing the winds of change to sail ahead.
To build an organization that not only withstands the storms but also rides the tides of transformation, there are ten pivotal areas you must master.
- Crew Selection – the right team and leaders matter
- On-Boarding Crew – On-boarding for alignment and impact
- Compass of Purpose – The Why of Mission / Vision
- Charting the Course Together – Transparent, honest cultures foster engagement and resilience
- Human Anchor – Genuine care for team is an anchor in rough seas
- Navigational Foresight – Remain vigilant of changes
- Constructing a Resilient Vessel – Build upon a solid base – the rest can change
- Mosaic of Perspectives – Diversity of mind increases adaptability and global affinity
- Cultivating Growth – Even in the toughest times, people want to grow
- Balanced Ship – Stay afloat (keeping the lights on) while moving forward
Let us delve into each of these tenets, charting a course for success in an era where change is the only constant.
1. The Crew Selection
Begin by assembling a resilient, inspired, and adaptable crew. You want people with growth mindsets seeking a journey towards a vision they believe in. There are conscious and effective methods to finding such a crew; however, these are all too often not applied.
Studies on Interviewer’s Decisions
- 75% of hiring managers have made a decision about a candidate by the end of their first interview – Top Employers Institute (2022). The Global Hiring Survey.
- University of Texas at Austin found that interviewers made up their minds about candidates within 2 minutes – Baron, R. A., & Hattrup, K. (2002). An investigation of the importance of first impressions in hiring interviews. Journal of Managerial Issues, 14(2), 214-228.
- A study published in the Journal of Management in 1992 found that interviewers’ first impressions were based on a number of factors, including the candidate’s appearance, demeanor, and communication skills. These first impressions were then used to make hiring decisions. The study’s authors concluded that “the first impression formed by an interviewer within 30 seconds of meeting a job candidate is an important predictor of the candidate’s hiring outcome.” – Cuddy, A. J., Knight, W. G., & Bevelandi, J. L. (1992). First impressions in job interviews: A test of the validity of candidate expectations. Journal of Management, 18(1), 125-139.
- The largest block, 52% of interviewers make their decision about a candidate in between five and fifteen minutes of the interview. – Article: Workopolis: Study: How quickly do interviewers really make decisions? Study: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Set up rubrics and review interviewers observations against them
In all my years of being interviewed for leadership roles, I’ve always been surprised how little structure the was to the interview process for what is often the most important role in a tech startup. Improving the interview process is one of the first challenges I usually take on. In my previous role, the person I had groomed to be my replacement unfortunately also decided to leave when I was ready to move on.
So, I came up with a structure set of questions for a CTO role that would not so much probe their knowledge as their interest and ability to think on their feet. VP and CTO candidates can go off on tangents; so, I set up speed-dating rules. I ask 15 questions, you get two minutes to answer each. The interesting part came after that. See Speed-Dating Interview Questions. I also have a selection of interview questions to help find the elusive 10x engineers. See also a great list from First Round: Hire Better Managers: 35 Interview Questions for Assessing a Candidate
Lean Startup Approach
At IMVU (aka The Lean Startup) we had devised a set of engineering interview questions. Interviewers needed to get certified to ask these questions which included shadowing others and then being shadowed. Each question started out reasonably straight forward but had a designed path to becoming increasingly complex. The idea was to go beyond the candidate’s knowledge and see how they collaboratively solve a problem they hadn’t seen before. Knowledge is a proxy for ability to learn, it is the desire and ability to learn that you really want to assess in a world where things change quickly. I speak more to that in looking at the Root Cause of a 10x Engineer.
2. On-Boarding New Crew
There are two key facets to on-boarding a new team member:
I. Bringing a new member, especially a leader. up to speed and into alignment
On-boarding is not merely an introduction but an investment in culture crafting. Here, every new addition is a moment to reinforce the resilience of your team, mirroring the mentorship excellence of The Lean Startup. At IMVU (aka The Lean Startup), we had dedicated mentors that would spin up new hires. What I added to that process was to make part of the spin-up tasks for the new hire and the mentor to include improving the spin-up process. That way it was always current and improving. However, more importantly, it starts out underscoring the mindset of continuous improvement related to anything and everything we do. I brought that process to Twitch, continued with it at Pure Storage, Prosper Marketplace and Hum Capital. It’s explained in greater depth at New Hires.
II. Validating you made the right hire
Given how crew selection is often done, it is even more surprising how little crew vetting happens after a hire. You want sailors that can take you through calm and rough seas as part of your crew. While it’s incredibly harsh to bring on a new person and then let them go in the first 90 days, no interview process is perfect.
As you’re bringing someone up to speed in their job, in the company culture and into alignment with company vision and mission. It’s critical to identify red flags early and determine if they can be corrected or not. It may seem straightforward to let someone go if they aren’t proving to be the right hire. However, the impact of letting someone go, especially like that, can send the wrong message to those that remain. It can leave them feeling not valued, not safe and their well-being not a concern of the company’s leadership. Ben Horowitz speaks to the impact on employees that remain after a layoff in his book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. That also applies to letting an individual go.
Nonetheless, if you made a poor decision in hiring that you discover later, you need to address it. This then provides an opportunity to revisit the interview process to see if it can be improved to catch what you missed. Doing this with empathy and the perspective that you don’t want to repeat bringing someone on that’s not a fit can help with the healing and moving forward.
3. The Compass of Purpose
Identifying and aligning with your ‘why‘ (a la Simon Sinek) is akin to setting your compass. It keeps you on course, no matter how the tides turn, ensuring every small step is moving you towards the objective.
At Prosper Marketplace, I remember asking everyone why they worked there. When it came to why Prosper there was a common answer: The “My Prosper Story” videos where customers explained how a loan from Prosper had significantly helped them in their lives. This also really helped drive focus during Covid when people struggled to pay off their loans.
At BroadVision, the core Why was delivering personalized content. The company had started with delivering streamed videos (before Netflix) that were suggestion based on your past viewing and viewing of others. It wasn’t going great, but when the paradigm shift of the internet came, the platform allowed us to shift to web content which led us to a $25 Billion valuation.
4. Charting the Course Together
Promote a culture where ideas are treasures, and candid feedback is the currency of growth. Empower through servant leadership that serves the collective journey, not just individual paths.
Radical candor is touted as a great thing, but it doesn’t work if it’s received as criticism or it doesn’t come from a mindset of being helpful. There are effective ways of delivering Radical Candor.
Celebrating the learnings of a failure through a successful 5-Whys post-mortem leads to more resilient systems and processes rather than calling out an individual for having brought down the site. Likewise, framing code and design reviews as things that are gifts where the reviewer is helping the recipient improve their craft also builds a collaborative culture. When reviews are seen as criticisms, they lead to resentment and division.
An informed team will always be more aligned and engaged with helping build alignment around collective objectives and challenges. I have always preferred open calendars, shared content from board and exec meetings (except individual HR issues) and meeting agendas with recordings so people can follow up if they missed something. It can be tricky to change overnight, but one can either start with transparency or move toward gradually.
These things only really work if you’ve also filtered well during the hiring process.
5. Steadfast Anchor and Beacon
Genuine care for your team is your anchor in rough seas. It fosters unity and resilience, and when storms hit, it’s the compassion that will guide you through the necessary but difficult decisions. However, some will make the mistake of believing “Servant Leadership” means that I leader should be a servant to their team. Blindly doing what your team wants is not leadership. However, doing things that are in service of them within the context of symbiotic benefit between employee and company is.
A captain’s steadfast dedication to their crew needs to be like a lighthouse on solid rock that stands unfazed not matter how many storms it has been battered by. Just as a lighthouse beacon provides guidance to seafarers amidst the fury of an untamed sea, a captain’s unwavering commitment to his crew illuminates the secure passage to the envisioned journey’s destination. In the face of raging storms, it is this bond that anchors the spirit and ensures that no gale is too fierce to overcome. When the captain charts the course with the welfare of their crew at the helm, the ship is not merely a vessel navigating the waves, but a testament to the enduring strength of unified resolve against the onslaught of the unpredictable sea.
In tough times I have heard managers suggest employees should be glad they have a job. There is truth to that. There is a difference between being able to do what you love and loving what you do. By supporting members of a carefully selected crew, you create a symbiotic relationship. Their love of their craft and having positive impact benefits from removing obstacles and feeling valued. Start with trust.
6. Navigational Foresight
Remain vigilant like a seasoned captain. Foresee changes in the horizon and adjust your sails before the storm hits. Embrace fear as a tool, but steer clear of panic’s treacherous waters. In “Only the Paranoid Survive,” Andy Grove emphasizes the importance of vigilance in business, advocating for constant attention to potential threats and the readiness to adapt swiftly to change. However, it is also important not to panic when a threat appears on the horizon. Fear is healthy, but panic is deadly. It is important to respond thoughtfully, not to react viscerally.
7. Constructing a Resilient Vessel
At the heart of your odyssey is your mission, supported by data and a platform with open architecture. This foundation allows you to adapt your strategies without altering your course.
At BroadVision, we had built a product and underlying platform to deliver videos and movies via broadband using a recommendation engine that would look at your preferences, preferences of people that made similar selections etc. It was live and doing ok when dot com hit. Given the platform and well designed APIs, we were able to pivot to delivering internet content and helped build site like American Airlines online. We became the fastest growing software company on Nasdaq. We achieved a $25 billion valuation. This was due to us being able to pivot at the point of an industry paradigm shift.
The “platform” need not be a technical one. Before Covid, the company In Good Taste acquired a patent on nice little glass bottles for wine that they were going to sell to airlines and hotels. Then Covid hit and no one wanted to fly or stay at a hotel right when they we about to launch. So, no customers. The saw an opportunity to pivot with their platform. The started a virtual wine-tasting when they’d send out these little bottles of wines to various people in a group. They hire wine sommeliers to host virtual wine tastings. We know, because we became avid customers. It seems their business went from a dream to looking like a failure to them doing far better in that first year than they ever imagined.
8. A Mosaic of Perspectives
In the tumultuous seas of a world transformed by rapid technological advancements, societal shifts, and environmental upheavals, the ability to adapt, embrace change, and navigate the uncharted waters of the future will be the hallmark of those who thrive. Just as a sturdy ship, guided by a skilled captain and crew, weathers the fiercest storms, so too must we, as individuals and as a collective, cultivate the qualities that will enable us to ride the waves of change.
There are several benefits of having a diverse team in a changing world and a global market. Build a crew of diverse thinkers, as the richness of perspectives is your map to uncharted territories. It’s the mosaic of insights that will illuminate paths to new horizons.
Diversity can help businesses to better understand and meet the needs of their customers.
In today’s global marketplace, businesses need to be able to understand and cater to a wide range of customers from different backgrounds and cultures. A diverse team can bring a variety of perspectives to the table, which can help businesses to develop products and services that are more appealing to a wider audience.
Diversity can help businesses to be more innovative and creative.
Diverse teams are more likely to challenge assumptions and come up with new ideas. This is because they have a wider range of experiences and perspectives to draw from.
Diversity can help businesses to be more successful in the long run.
Companies with more diverse work-forces are more likely to be engaged, innovative, and successful. This is because diversity can lead to a more positive and productive work environment.
Diversity of Experience
In his book Range, David Epstein argues that generalists, who have broad and varied experiences, are often at an advantage in today’s rapidly changing world over specialists, who have deep but narrow expertise. He cites the example of Roger Federer, who excelled in multiple sports, including tennis, soccer, and basketball, before focusing on tennis full-time. Federer’s varied experiences helped him to develop a wide range of skills and abilities, including athleticism, coordination, and problem-solving skills, which have contributed to his success in tennis.
In contrast, Tiger Woods is a specialist who has focused on golf since he was a child. While Woods is undoubtedly one of the greatest golfers of all time, his narrow focus has also made it more difficult for him to adapt to changes in the game. For example, Woods struggled to adapt to the new rules and equipment that were introduced in the early 2000s.
In today’s ever-changing world, leaders with varied experiences are at an advantage because they are better able to:
- Identify and adapt to new trends.
Leaders with a wide range of experiences are more likely to be exposed to new ideas and trends. This makes them better able to identify opportunities and threats early on, and to develop strategies to adapt to change.
- Solve complex problems.
Leaders with varied experiences have a broader range of tools and perspectives to draw on when solving problems. This makes them better able to solve complex problems that require creative solutions.
- Lead diverse teams.
Leaders with varied experiences are better able to understand and relate to people from different backgrounds. This makes them more effective leaders of diverse teams.
Respected business journals on the benefits of having a diverse team in a changing world with a global market:
“Diversity’s Sweet Spot” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buckler
Harvard Business Review (2013) found that companies with more diverse leadership teams were more likely to have above-average financial performance.
“The Diversity Advantage” by Scott E. Page
Harvard Business Review (2007) found that diverse groups were better at solving complex problems than homogeneous groups.
“Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter” by Katherine W. Phillips
Harvard Business Review (2016) found that diverse teams were more likely to challenge assumptions and come up with innovative solutions.
“The New Science of Diversity” by Scott E. Page
Basic Books (2017) found that diversity is not just a matter of fairness and inclusion, but also a matter of economic survival.
“The Power of Diversity” by Josh Bersin
Deloitte Review (2018) found that companies with more diverse work-forces were more likely to be engaged, innovative, and successful.
SAGE Journals – Team Leadership and Team Cultural Diversity
This source discusses how cultural diversity can introduce a variety of information and perspectives, benefiting teams in problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, and innovation, ultimately enhancing team performance.
Harvard Business Review – Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter
This article emphasizes that striving to increase workplace diversity is not just a slogan but a sound business decision. It underscores the smarter outcomes of diverse teams due to varied perspectives and ideas.
SAGE Journals – Managing Diversity for Organizational Efficiency
This journal explores the influence of employee diversity and inclusion on organizational management. It investigates the benefits and constraints of diversity in the workplace and the necessary tools for managing it effectively.
Harvard Business Review – Are You Prepared to Lead a Diverse Team?
Highlighting the importance of developing cultural competence, this article focuses on the need for leaders to understand and appreciate diverse backgrounds and perspectives, especially in managerial roles.
National Center for Biotechnology Information – Diversity Impact on Organizational Performance
This source emphasizes the growth and success of businesses when they incorporate diverse experiences from various age groups within the organization, noting the significance of age diversity in the current business environment.
9. Cultivating Growth
In times when tangible rewards are scarce, nurture growth through clear pathways to personal and professional development. This investment turns today’s crew into tomorrow’s captains.
Providing team members with transparency into how the business works both enables them to build better solutions and it broadens their horizons. At a time where money is tight and most folks are happy to have a job, promotions and raises can be out of the picture. However, it is human nature to want to grow. It should never be a mystery of what it takes to advance to the next level. I have always created rubrics of what is expected at what level along different vectors. This helps in review conversations, but it is also useful in career coaching.
As a manager, you help help show someone areas where they have not yet demonstrated their abilities at a higher level. Together with them, you can look for opportunities to learn and/or demonstrate those abilities. That way they are advancing their career even in a company that isn’t growing, promoting or providing raises at the moment.
10. Balancing the Ship
Finally, master the art of balancing progress with perseverance. Know the difference between the leaks that demand immediate attention and those that are superficial, for it is this discernment that will keep you afloat and moving forward.
In tough times, it is tempting and perhaps necessary to chose the “quick-and-dirty” solutions. However, those solutions implemented in the past are precisely what may make things less adaptable and resilient. How do you balance keeping your ship sea-worthy and having the crew add/adjust sails to catch the new winds that appear in times of change? When it comes to things like “code-health,” there are often advocates for going in a rewriting systems. This detracts with advancing the business which may be facing challenging times. Two considerations can help find a balance:
1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
All too often, code-quality metrics such as complexity and code-coverage are used to decide which code should be fixed. In my experience, it is much more impactful to the business as well as to productivity to measure (and address) what matters. Consider a stable system that is seeing little-to-no change and has few to none bugs or customer complaints. There is little ROI in improving that system.
2. While you have the hood up, change the spark-plugs and engine-oil
Whenever a change to a system needs to be made, some context needs to be set up to ensure the changes are made in the right way and in the right places. This is true for adding features just as it is for improving code quality. It is much more efficient to make both kinds of changes at the same time. When adding an important feature it is helpful to improve the existing code or test coverage while you have the hood up anyhow. Even if there is only time for minor improvements, it will still keep your ship more sea-worthy and adaptable going forward.
The Unique Confluence of People that are Strong in Adaptability and Resilience in the U.S., California, and Silicon Valley
The United States, particularly California and especially Silicon Valley are made up of people that are risk takers that persevere through adaptability and resilience. Much of there shared values of resilience and adaptability are prevalent through a tradition attracting and accepting diverse immigrants. These shared values come from a willingness to leave behind the comfort, security and familiarity of home, family, culture to risk leaving that all behind in hope of new beginnings and opportunity. This phenomenon can be attributed to several factors:
1. Risk-Taking for New Opportunities:
Immigrants often leave behind comfort, security, and familiarity in their home countries in pursuit of new beginnings and opportunities. This decision requires a significant amount of risk-taking, a trait that is inherently linked to resilience and adaptability.
2. Cultural Diversity in California and Silicon Valley:
These regions are known for their cultural diversity and history of immigration. This environment fosters a melting pot of ideas, perspectives, and resilience, as people from different backgrounds come together, bringing their unique experiences and skills.
3. Entrepreneurial Spirit:
Silicon Valley, in particular, is renowned for its entrepreneurial culture. Immigrants, many of whom arrive with the goal of starting their own businesses or working in tech startups, must be resilient and adaptable to thrive in this highly competitive environment.
4. Adapting to New Cultures and Norms:
Immigrating to a new country entails adapting to different social, cultural, and professional norms. This process of adaptation demonstrates the resilience and flexibility of immigrants as they integrate into their new communities.
5. Economic and Professional Challenges:
Many immigrants face economic and professional challenges upon arriving in the U.S. Overcoming these obstacles often requires a high degree of resilience and the ability to adapt to new and often challenging circumstances.
6. Shared Experience of Struggle and Success:
The narrative of struggle and success is common among immigrant communities. The journey from leaving one’s homeland to establishing a successful life in a new country is a testament to their resilience and adaptability.
7. Influence on Local Culture and Economy:
Immigrants have significantly influenced the culture and economy of their new locales, particularly in places like Silicon Valley, where their contributions to the tech industry and other sectors have been immense.
The shared values of resilience and adaptability among immigrants to the United States, especially those heading to California and Silicon Valley, are evident. These values stem from their willingness to embrace change, overcome challenges, and contribute positively to their new communities. This phenomenon is a crucial aspect of the American immigrant experience and has been a driving force in the cultural and economic development of regions known for high immigrant populations.
Combining of Resilience and Adaptability with Cultural Diversity
The combination of resilience, adaptability, and cultural diversity, particularly in areas with a high concentration of immigrants like California and Silicon Valley, creates a unique environment ripe for innovation, especially in a world increasingly defined by rapid change, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). This synthesis results in a potent mix of qualities and perspectives that are particularly suited to addressing modern challenges such as climate change, advancements in artificial intelligence, and biotechnological innovations.
1. Diverse Perspectives for Complex Problem-Solving:
The confluence of different cultural backgrounds and historical experiences provides a broad spectrum of viewpoints and approaches to problem-solving. This diversity is invaluable in tackling complex issues where single-dimensional thinking falls short.
2. Resilience in the Face of Change:
Immigrants’ inherent resilience, born out of their experiences of adapting to new environments, prepares them well for the rapid changes and uncertainties of today’s world. This resilience is crucial in industries that are constantly evolving, like technology and science.
3. Adaptability to New Technologies:
The adaptability shown by immigrants, who often have to learn new languages and adapt to new cultural norms, mirrors the adaptability needed to embrace and leverage new technologies, be it AI, biotech, or environmental technologies.
4. Innovation Through Cultural Fusion:
The fusion of different cultural ideas, values, and practices often leads to innovative thinking and creativity, which is essential for breakthroughs in fields like AI and biotech.
5. Addressing Global Challenges:
The global nature of challenges such as climate change requires solutions that consider diverse perspectives and experiences. A multicultural community is better equipped to understand and address these issues in a way that is inclusive and globally relevant.
6. Entrepreneurial Drive:
The entrepreneurial spirit, often strong among immigrants who have left everything behind to start anew, aligns well with the dynamic nature of industries at the forefront of dealing with VUCA challenges.
7. Collaborative Synergies:
The collaborative environment fostered by a mix of cultures and backgrounds can lead to synergies where the sum of combined efforts is greater than individual contributions, particularly important in interdisciplinary fields like AI and biotech.
8. Ethical and Inclusive Frameworks:
The diverse backgrounds can also contribute to the development of more ethical, inclusive, and culturally sensitive frameworks in rapidly advancing fields, ensuring that technological progress benefits a broader spectrum of humanity.
In conclusion, the blend of resilience, adaptability, and cultural diversity, especially in immigrant-rich communities, provides a robust foundation for navigating and finding solutions in a rapidly changing, uncertain world. This environment is particularly conducive to innovation and problem-solving in areas affected by technological and environmental shifts. There are certainly also other areas in the world where you can find a confluence of diverse risk takers that are both resilient and adaptable.
There can be leadership challenges in bringing together such diversity much as the opportunity that this presents.
A boat crew analogy of how, as leaders, we can bring the best out of any team is provided by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. They explain how leadership can directly effect the success of a team. It comes from their first book Extreme Ownership. Afterwards, they realized there were subtle yet critical nuances they had left out of that book which actually created poor leadership practices. So, they decided to write second book to speak to some of these critically important nuances:
The Dichotomy of Leadership. If you’ve only read that book, you missed the boat.
Perspectives on Adaptability and Resilience of Highly Successful Leaders
As with anything organizational change, we need to start with ourselves. It may help to know what some of the most respected and successful business leaders have to save about adaptability and resilience.
Satya Nadella – Remarks at Microsoft Ignite 2016. Atlanta, Georgia, September 26, 2016.
“In a world that is changing faster than ever before, it’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but the most adaptable.”
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, in a speech at the MIT Sloan Leadership Conference in 2018.
“I think the biggest challenge for leaders today is to be able to adapt to change. The world is changing so rapidly, and we need to be able to change with it. We need to be able to think on our feet and make decisions quickly. And we need to be able to communicate our vision effectively to our teams.”
Bill Gates, 1998 interview with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for the book “Overdrive: The Story of Microsoft” by Steven Levy.
“The most important skill for leaders is to be able to adapt and change. If you’re not willing to adapt and change, you’re going to fail.”
Often attributed to Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc. However, there is no definitive source for the quote.
“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat”
Sam Walton, Interview with Fortune magazine, November 1993.
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.”
Jeff Bezos – 1997 Letter to Amazon Shareholders
“We need to be nimble and adaptable, and we need to be constantly evolving to meet the needs of our customers. If we stand still, we will lose our competitive edge. We need to be willing to experiment and take risks. We need to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.”
Mark Zuckerberg – Business Insider, August 2, 2016
“In a world that’s changing so quickly, the biggest risk you can take is not taking any risk.”
Elon Musk – Interview with Inc. magazine, 2014
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Sundar Pichai – “Leadership: A Conversation with Sundar Pichai.” World Economic Forum, Jan. 22, 2019
“A leader needs to be able to adapt to change, to be resilient, and to be able to make decisions in the face of uncertainty.”
Larry Page – 2002, August 1 The importance of being open to new ideas. Stanford Engineering Magazine.
“It’s important to be open to new ideas and willing to change your mind when the facts change. You should be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, and you should be able to make decisions without all the information. And you should be able to motivate and inspire others to do their best work.”
Sergey Brin – 2008 interview published by the Wall Street Journal
“You should never be afraid to try new things. If you are afraid to fail, you will never innovate
Richard Branson – The Virgin Way: Doing It Your Own Way London: Harper Business, 1998. 12.
“Business is constantly changing. An entrepreneur must be able to adapt to change and be able to bounce back when things go wrong.”
Jamie Dimon – 2014 interview with William J. Ferguson
“Leaders have to be able to adapt to change and be resilient in the face of adversity.”
Jack Ma – Speech at the Alibaba Supplier Conference, Hangzhou, China, September 19, 2009
“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be harder, but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful. And keep reminding yourself that why you started.”
John F. Kennedy – Address to Assembly Hall, Paulskirche Frankfurt, June 26, 1963
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”
Benjamin Franklin – The Writings of Benjamin Franklin. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907, p. 231.
“The world is constantly changing, and those who are not willing to change with it are destined for failure.”
What ships are best for weathering tomorrow’s storms?
Is it time to refit our ships?
For existing companies, it’s time to start thinking about how we can best integrate newer technology such as Generative AI if we hope to be able to compete and survive in tomorrow’s world.
That requires rethinking current technology stacks and tech debt. Being afraid of what’s coming is healthy. Panicking though is deadly. Instead of reacting, we need to be responding – thoughtfully, selectively making the right changes.
Innovator’s Dilemma, Innovator’s Solution
Building new ships for today to weather tomorrow’s storms.
It will be interesting to see if existing organizations, with existing teams and product market fit will be able to pivot, or whether it will be new upstarts, starting fresh that will win the day.
Crunchbase, October 3, 2023: Greylock — famous for bets on companies such as Airbnb, Coinbase and Facebook announced its 17th fund, a $1 billion vehicle focused on pre-seed, seed and Series A founders. “We expect that every company will become an AI company,” the Greylock blog reads. “While it’s been exciting to watch as the venture community has embraced AI as a thesis area over the last year, Greylock has been committed to AI investing for a decade…”
Can we weather the storms of tomorrow while holding on the values of today?
Of course we want the best of both worlds. An existing, functioning business has an established team, business, customer-base and brand. Yet, that big ship may be as hard to turn as the Titanic. However, starting from scratch comes with so many other challenges. AI itself is supposed to help humans become more effective. Yet learning how to use it and retooling your company is also challenging. Hence the notion of a partner that could help some critical aspect of your business get pulled into the future by leveraging. Although it’s only one part of what we do at Hum Capital to bring structure and normalization into various forms of financial data, it is a critical part. We have engaged a partner, enabling business of experts in Generative AI that is helping us move some of our AI/ML tech into taking advantage of the new capabilities.
Where will all of those Greylock dollars (and those of other VC’s betting on hot, new AI-Tech startups) go? Will it go to companies that look to replace existing businesses at what they do? And/or, will some of it go to enabling tech companies that will help pull some of the existing companies into the future? Could an existing engine of domain knowledge, brand, customer-base, sales and support team etc prove to be an asset worth saving while we put some new wheels on that car?
- Stories about weathering storms
- Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- Creativity, Inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
- Becoming Steve Jobs The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender
- Who you hire, how you spin them up and who you promote determines your ability to weather storms