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By PASCAL FINETTE

The Heretic is a free dispatch delivering insights into what it takes to lead into & in the unknown. For entrepreneurs, corporate irritants and change makers. Raw, unfiltered and opinionated.

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Feb 26th, 2024 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

The Bozo Explosion Lives On

To the day a dozen years ago, Silicon Valley legend Guy Kawasaki published a blog post lamenting the all-too-common phenomenon of what he called the “bozo explosion.” A company experiences a bozo explosion when a formerly brilliant team, consisting of A-players, makes the strategic mistake of hiring their first B-player (often in the name of growth… need those warm bums in seats!) and lets those B-players hire their own people.

The problem with B-players is not that they are “less than” A-players; the issue is that B-players, usually driven by the deadly combination of fear and ego, start hiring C-players. C-players hire D-players, and so on until you reach the end of the alphabet (and your company has turned into mediocrity at best).

Multiple times in my career, I have had the fortune to be in the presence of insanely high-achieving and functioning teams - in the early 2000s at eBay and in the late 2000s at Mozilla (and, I would argue, every time I worked on my own companies). I have also seen the bozo explosion take hold at places big and small. It is real.

But here is where I tend to see the world a little differently than the original concept (which predates Guy and his blog post): I don’t believe in alphabetizing people. I have seen people of all ilks deliver absolutely outstanding results regardless of whether they are considered an A-player. In other words, anyone has the potential to be an amazing contributor.

It is on us to create the environment to allow people to become the very best version of themselves. Start by giving people an A – and allow them to live up to it. Which is pretty much the opposite of the prevailing strategy of “proof me you are worth it.” Build an environment of trust – nothing creates high-performing teams more than trust (see Google’s seminal work on psychological safety).

The Bozo explosion is real and not inevitable.


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Feb 20th, 2024

On Serendipity

Serendipity – that magical, almost mystical phenomenon that seems to lurk around corners, waiting to spring upon us when we least expect it. But what if I told you that serendipity isn’t just a happy accident but a process that can be dissected into three core characteristics?

First comes the serendipity trigger, that moment of stumbling upon something unusual or unexpected. Picture yourself walking through a forest and finding a rare flower you’ve never seen before – that’s your trigger. It’s the universe’s way of saying, “Hey, look here! There’s something worth your attention.” Kindle your curiosity, and you will...

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Feb 15th, 2024

We Stand for Each Other's Success

In a world that often feels like it’s every person for themselves, a recent conversation threw me a curveball that’s been bouncing around in my head ever since: “We stand for each other’s success.” This isn’t your garden-variety corporate platitude. It’s a philosophy, a mindset shift, a radical way of redefining success not as a solitary sprint but as a collective marathon.

Let’s face it, the default mode in many professional environments is to claw your way up the ladder, sometimes at the expense of others. But what if we flipped the script? What if, instead of viewing our colleague’s...

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Jan 19th, 2024

Edison’s Paradox: It’s Not Just in Your Head

Thomas Edison, the genius inventor, threw a curveball when he somewhat famously said, “I never had an idea in my life.” Wait, what? The man behind the light bulb, phonograph, and a gazillion other things never had an original idea? Yes, that’s what he said…

Here’s what he meant: everything he invented was already floating around in the environment. He just connected the dots. Think about it. Edison, Mr. Innovation himself, basically said the whole concept of ideas popping out of thin air is hogwash. That’s like saying the secret ingredient in your grandma’s famous recipe is actually from a...

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Dec 20th, 2023

The Epidemic of Proving We Work

Let’s end this year with a bit of truth serum, shall we? I’ve seen a disturbing trend in companies lately. It’s like a virus, but no, it’s not the one you’re thinking of. This one’s called “Prove-I-Actually-Work-itis.” And, oh boy, is it contagious!

Here’s the deal: Too many folks are busy creating work to prove they’re working. It’s like watching a dog chase its tail – entertaining but ultimately fruitless. For instance, take our friend, the social media manager. They’re knee-deep in analytics, drowning in PowerPoint slides, just to show that their latest tweetstorm brought in some eyeballs. The irony?...

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Dec 14th, 2023

Daring to Dream: Why Betting on Optimism Wins

In the realm of entrepreneurship and leadership, a battlefield of ideas and ambitions, a quote by Andrew Ng resonates deeply: “I’d rather side with the optimist who wants to give it a shot and might fail than the pessimist who doubts what’s possible.” This statement isn’t just a feel-good aphorism; it’s a strategic choice, a lens through which we can view potential and progress.

The Courage to Fail

Optimism in business isn’t about wearing rose-colored glasses. It’s about having the courage to fail. Yes, the courage to embrace the messiness, the uncertainty, and the sheer thrill of the unknown. Entrepreneurs...

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Dec 8th, 2023

“Why” – The Key to Innovation and Startup Success

Welcome to another day in the life of a startup heretic, where we toss the conventional playbook out the window and thrive on the audacious. Today, let’s dive into a lesson from an unexpected source – a scene from the BBC show “SAS Rogue Heroes.”

Picture this: In the scorching heat of the desert, Paddy Mayne, a character known for his unconventional methods, challenges the Free French to build two 30-foot scaffolds with no plan, just raw materials. As they scramble, confused and unguided, Mayne throws a curveball – why are they doing this seemingly nonsensical task? The revelation is...

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Nov 15th, 2023

Knowledge & Productivity: The Compounding Force

Imagine you’re planting a tree. Initially, the growth seems slow, almost imperceptible. But as time goes on, each new branch gives rise to more branches. This isn’t just growth; it’s exponential growth. This is the essence of how knowledge and productivity work - like compound interest.

Consider two people of similar ability. One works just 10% more than the other. It doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but this slight edge can result in the more diligent individual producing more than twice as much as their peer over time. Why? Because the more you know, the more you learn....

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Nov 2nd, 2023

Why Obsessing Over Details Makes All the Difference

We’ve all got our quirks, right? For me, it’s my video and audio equipment (which I mostly use for Zoom and the occasional video and podcast recording). I’ve fine-tuned the camera angles, obsessed over the perfect microphone and camera, dabbled with mic amplifiers, and don’t get me started on XLR interfaces or the backdrop and lighting in my room…

Now, some might chuckle and say, “Pascal, isn’t that a tad overboard?” Maybe. But here’s the thing: it gets noticed. And not just by tech aficionados or fellow podcasters, but in nearly every call I’m on.

A lot of my waking...

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Oct 24th, 2023

Focus On Your ROL

Ah, the intoxicating alphabet soup of business metrics: ROI, CLV, CPA, CR, NPS, EBITDA. Each an acronym, each a KPI (a YAA: Yet Another Acronym), each ultimately designed to measure the nuances of money flowing in and out of our ventures..

But here’s the kicker: we live in an era shaped by a growing sense of uncertainty. Just peek at the World Uncertainty Index, and you’ll see it climbing year after year for decades. Layer that with the dizzying speed of change as expressed by Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, and it’s clear that relying on just...

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