The Bullshit of Innocence.

by Adam Lawrence

Enterprise software. Focused on execution. Doer. Occasional thinker.

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Email Culture

This came from a memo of mine a few years ago. Links to internal resources and specifics have been removed.

I want to lay out the reasons why I think email is the proper way to do most of our communication. I support the use email for vigorous debate instead of meetings or direct conversations. In my opinion these are some of the benefits of having a robust email culture:

  • Multiple threads. With email it’s possible to work on solving multiple issues at once. This multithreaded approach allows a group of people to work on multiple different issues at once.

  • Emails don’t interrupt you. The email format allows responses to be sent independently of when the original email is received. Unlike an interruption, this doesn’t require a difficult context switch, allowing you to continue to focus on your current task.

  • Divorce of logic and emotion. Emails, by nature are less emotional then...

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The Applicant Black Hole

Many job applicants never get a response when they apply to an open position. It boggles my mind that companies simply ignore people who apply to work for them. Job hunting is complex emotional human process; Many companies and human resources teams somehow forget this.

Companies get swamped with applicants when they post popular jobs. When I was hiring executive assistants it was common to get more than 400 applicants per week. 400 applicants per week for just 1 position! I was afraid of my inbox and applicant tracking systems exploding.

Not wanting applicants to our company to experience a “black hole,” we set out to design a process with a few key principles:

  • Treat every applicant like a person.
  • That person is anxious and nervous about their interview process. Calm them.
  • Treat that person like a customer – deliver amazing service (relative and absolute).

Treat every...

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Tech is Dead.

This industry is usually called “tech,” but the term no longer signifies what it used to. Tech today means anything about computers, the Internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design. At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture. That broadening has had other effects. Like many observers, I’ve been dimly aware of a shift in the country’s aspirational character over the past few years. - The New Yorker

Every one of my friends works in tech, or maybe it just seems that way. You might think that my friends are all designers and coders, pushing pixels to perfection for the next wave of websites and apps, but this would be far from the truth. Like the quote above, many work for mainstream companies that make evolutionary (rarely...

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Mastering Drudgery

Thinking about new ideas is easy. Building a first iteration is of moderate difficulty. Scaling and reducing that idea to practice is the hard part.

What separates the winners and losers in innovation is who masters the drudgery. The creative process usually starts with a brilliant idea. Next you determine whether, if the brilliant idea worked, it would be worth doing from a business standpoint. That’s the exhilarating part. It may be the most stimulating intellectually, but it’s also the easiest.

Then comes the real work—reducing the idea to practice. That’s the drudgery part of innovation, and that’s where people need the most pressure and encouragement. You can draw a chart of how the original excitement of a new idea creates all kinds of energy, but then people go into the pits for a long time as they try to turn that idea into products that are reproducibly manufacturable. That’...

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Easy to maintain, impossible to restore

Culture can preserved, but restoration is nearly impossible. I stole part of the previous sentence from my favorite business person, Warren Buffet. It was derived from a section on inflation in his 1981 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder letter. Later to be used again, just a few days ago when talking about creditworthiness:

Creditworthiness is like virginity, It can be preserved but not restored very easily.

Like both creditworthiness and price levels, culture is something that can be maintained but rarely something that can be restored.

Culture is more than the perks that you give employees. It is the philosophy behind the way you work and treat those you work with. It comes down to decision making, responsibility, transparency (or lack of), relationships, and ethos / identity.

No one starts a company with the intention of having a poor culture, just like how no one tries to...

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Paths are for your Parents

Path

I’ve always been slightly envious of my friends who seem to have their life laid out: Graduate at 21; Get married at 25; Kids at 27; Manager by 30; House at 35; Partner by 40; Pay for kid’s school; Retire at 65; Golf. There’s a nice sense of knowing when you have a plan. It makes everything seem so easy: put in your time, follow the path, and be successful. It’s too bad that deep down I hate this idea.

I love the mystery in life. I love not knowing what I’m going to be doing a few months from now. I’ve self-selected into a lifestyle that is less secure and significantly more variable than that of many of my peers. They know what path they want to take, while I only know what direction I want to go.

Instead of being envious of their path, or worried about my lack of planning I’ve decided that I should always be directionally correct in my...

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Catching a Wave

Wave

If you’re looking to make massive moves, you better ride a big wave. Another way to say this is: It’s better to be directionally correct in the long term, than tactically correct in the short term.

Over the past 40 years large waves have helped to make many major companies. These waves include:

  • Semiconductors and their applications
  • Enterprise computing
  • Personal computing
  • Telecom
  • Cloud
  • Web
  • Consumer web
  • Smart phone and tablets
  • Enterprise 2.0 / Smart enterprise

More than anything, it’s nearly impossible to stop a wave. A lone company might be able to slightly postpone a trend but you’ll eventually get crushed as the wave crests.

When you see a wave you should try to ride it as potential benefits are huge:

Capture a long cash flow from installed users. Being early to the wave allows your firm or product to capture a longer stream of cash flows associated...

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Slow Down to Speed Up

Building a company in an attractive market means that you’ll never have a day that is more valuable than today. Your effort now, be that an hour or two, will have non-linear compounding effects of the over the course of your company.

Attractive markets typically have a few great characteristics:

  • Winner take all
  • Network effects
  • Lock-in effects
  • Large macro trends supporting your thesis
  • Plus anything Peter Thiel says here

The same characteristics that make the market attractive to you also make it attractive to other people. That leaves two major considerations: execution and technology.

While different, both of these considerations are highly related. With technology the question is: “is it feasible, within an adequate time horizon, to theoretically build or create what they’ve hypothesized.” If it is theoretically possible, then the risk becomes...

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Two Circles

Don’t Be Anything Less than Everything You Can Be

One of the girls I dated asked for everything I was capable of and nothing more. She knew what I could offer and give at that moment and she expected nothing less. She asked me to be a person I barely knew I could be. It was exhilarating.

There are two important factors to understand about yourself:

  1. What you are
  2. What you are capable of

Good coaches, mentors, and managers should be experts at identifying and exploiting the overlap between these two factors.

Just like the girl in the above example, a great manager will push you to your limits but never ask you to do something you’re not capable of. They’ll ruthlessly exploit your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.

Getting there isn’t easy. Actually, it’s probably painful but, once there the outcomes will be better for all involved.

...

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Old is New Again

Recycling isn’t just for trash, it’s for failed businesses as well. The world is full of people and ideas that were ahead of their time – those visionaries who failed not because of their ideas but because of the limitation imposed by technology, the economy, timing, or the market.

One of my favorite examples of this is in the automotive industry. Companies like Singer Vehicle Design, Icon 4x4, and Magnus Walker are taking classics from yesteryear and applying modern engineering and design principles to deliver superior results. Their ideas aren’t new, but the execution has been enhanced by modern technology. While these examples might be far away from the tech bubble we live in, they’re certainly apt examples of this principle.

Singer 911

There are plenty of businesses that people have tried in the past that are ripe for a reexamination with a fresh lense while...

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