My One Departure Advice To You

After 5 years, tomorrow is my last day as VP product at Convertro & AOL.

It has been a great journey: from very-little-revenue-very-few-people through growth and getting acquired, all the way to being part of one of the largest Internet companies and leadership position in attribution.

As I was talking to people on our team, I realized what is potentially the most important trait of all great CEOs/leaders/product/engineers/scientists/ marketers/customer success that I met, worked with, or read about over the years. I wanted to share this with all of you, it is:

The Best Leaders Can See The Future, and Do Something About It.

See the Future

In 2007, If you could see the future, you would have understood that people will use their phone for almost everything and you could have reinvented the Phone.

If you could see it so clearly as Jeff Bezos did in 1997, you would have been the second richest person on earth and create Amazon.

Alternatively, you would have understood in 1981 that computers will change the world and develop MS-DOS to become the richest person on earth.

But this logic doesn’t apply just in those unique cases. As product managers we have to see where the market is headed to create the products, but even tactically we need to foresee roadblocks for execution and remove them early.

Do something about it

I once bought FB stock at $28, and sold it at $40 and was very happy. Today it is worth ~$150 and if I held it I would have made X4 more.

There are countless stories that people tell that start with “I had the same idea!” and end up with “wow I could have made so much money”. No one cares.

If you can see the future very clearly, do something about it:

  • Found that company
  • Invest in that company
  • Communicate that roadblock and remove it

When you see the future two elements become critical:

  • Quality of decision making
  • Speed of decision making

I’ll just quote what Jeff Bezos said in his latest letter to shareholders:

“Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions……”

Actionable advice

How can we train ourselves for the above? Here’s my suggestion:

  • Wake up every day and think about “what is the future like”
  • Choose several representative time horizons(for example a month from now, 3 months, year and 5 years) and ask yourself what should happen by then
  • Ask yourself what you need to do to make it happen
  • Prioritize your time: is it more important that you deal with the 1 month horizon now or the 5 years? How much more important is it? Priority might change regularly but don’t change it every day. You need stable priority in order to get things done otherwise you’ll always deal with fire-drills and very short term

Useful links:

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-great-leaders-see-the-future-2014-5

http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/28/world/ceos-predict-future/

https://www.wired.com/insights/2015/01/see-the-future-first/

https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/04/25/these-3-companies-ceos-can-see-the-future.aspx

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