The Germans have a saying, “Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf.” It translates into (somewhat nonsensically) “the fish rots from the head” and refers to the idea that (good) leadership starts at the top of an organization. In the US, we like to say “the buck stops here” (going back to former president Truman), making reference to the necessity to take responsibility and not pass it on (and of course, we say things like “Believe.” or “Football is life,” though those are probably more AFC Richmond sayings).
As I sit here, sipping a decent espresso and scrolling through LinkedIn (I know, I know – time well spent, right?), I am inundated with news about the “tech layoffs.” Just yesterday, Meta announced another 10,000 jobs being lost – meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg remarked in the very memo he sent announcing the layoffs:
“Since we reduced our workforce last year, one surprising result is that many things have gone faster. In retrospect, I underestimated the indirect costs of lower priority projects.”
Newsflash! This is called the “mythical man-month”, a concept first introduced by Fred Brooks in 1975 (9 years before Zuckerberg was born) in his classic book by the same title.
It’s funny and sad that we seem to forget a lot of what came before us. There is a reason why the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” exists. We all stand on the enormous shoulders of those who came before us — we ought to make use of their wisdom, avoid their mistakes, and, in the process, make sure we are the leaders our organizations deserve to have.
Now pardon me, I have some Clayton Christensen reading to do.
1,257 Posts and Counting. Don't miss the next post. Sign up now!
Recently I have started (another) deep dive into the broader subject of “leadership.” After writing and publishing Disrupt Disruption – How to Decode the Future, Disrupt Your Industry, and Transform Your Business (which has a chapter on the topic), I became curious about the broader implications of leadership on… well… everything.
Even more so than the term “disruption,” leadership has truly become tofu: It tastes like nothing until you put sauce on it – by which point it tastes like sauce. Meanwhile, it’s everywhere. Just search for the term on Amazon, and you get inundated with books, ranging from “The 21...
The other day, while flipping through a beautifully produced outdoor magazine, I came across a full-page illustration of a terrain map with the words “The Deeper You Get, The Deeper You Get” printed over it in small, red lettering.
It reminded me of the iconic back cover of the final edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, depicting the sun peaking around the moon on a top and an open road on a bottom picture. The now-famous line “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” is printed in white, contrasting the darkness of the moon photo.
Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos once remarked, “doing things at high speed, that’s the best defense against the future.”
By now, I have spent more than 30 years in extremely fast-moving markets (mostly tech). ()* Not once have I found that Bezos’ observation didn’t hold – with the caveat that it doesn’t mean you ought to run around like a headless chicken in your pursuit of speed. Contrary, I have seen many instances of companies, projects, and leaders failing as their velocity was too slow. Too much talk, deliberation, debate, cruft, and polish before a product or service release.
Yesterday I recorded an episode of the Disrupt Disruption podcast with Mary Grove, Managing Director of Bread and Butter Ventures and former founding director at Google for Startups (and a whole bunch more). In our conversation, Mary shares her deeply insightful learnings from thousands of startups, explores how corporates can better partner and work with entrepreneurs and their companies, and discusses common pitfalls to avoid. Do yourself a favor and listen…
While editing the episode, I realized that this is the 45th interview I have published on the Disrupt Disruption podcast. We are also some 110+ episodes...
My friend Rob Evans, co-founder of Imaginal Labs, likes to point out that “like evolution in the natural world, practical innovations almost always proceed by recombining and extending what already exists.”
Let that sit for a moment.
Most of what we label as innovation — even the most daring, era-defining ones, are merely the product of combining, changing, and extending what came before.
The iPhone? A product built on the shoulders of (small but mighty) giants like the Palm Pilot, the Newton, and Magic Cap. Tesla’s original Roadster? A Lotus Elise chassis, lithium-ion batteries, and most other parts off-the-shelf...
’Tis the season… The year ended, and we muddled through and swore everything would be better next year. More organized. Better aligned. Less chaotic. 2023 will be the year we finally get our KPIs in order.
KPIs – the perfect world of Key Performance Indicators. “You can’t change what you can’t measure” and all that good jazz. Apparently, you can even get certified as a KPI Professional. Who knew? Maybe we should add this to our list of KPIs for the year.
But, as with pretty much anything hiding behind an acronym, KPIs do squid for you more often than not....
You heard the saying: Early bird catches the worm.
And you heard the words: First Mover Advantage.
You also saw the reality: First movers nearly never make it. They might get immortalized in a cool feature film documentary, but they rarely survive long enough even to realize that they were right — just too early.
That being said, the graveyard of any startup or corporate innovation community is littered with the corpses of those who were too late. Who launched just past the infliction point, when stuff gets “good enough.”
Sixty years ago, 1962, acclaimed author James Baldwin penned an essay in the New York Times Book Review titled “As Much Truth As One Can Bear.” The essay presents Baldwin’s thoughts about contemporary authors’ paramount task in shaping today’s society. Baldwin concludes:
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
It is a good reminder (and a beautiful piece of writing) that the most important thing to do is to do it.
I am confident most, if not all of us, have found ourselves standing in the face of...