Build! Make!! — Quotidian — 412

(Transcript of video originally posted on 22 Aug 2022)

His name is Dale Dougherty. In 2005, he got this feeling. He was a Scientist. An Engineer. A Maker. A Creator. He had this pretty unnerving feeling..
The West, particularly America, was becoming a consumer nation.
All manufacturing was being done by factories in China. All fabrication came from there. We are deteriorating into consumers. Creation is no longer a popular activity. That was the feeling he had. So, he came up with a Manifesto. Started a magazine, started clubs. It ran, for almost ten years,
it ran. Ran out of funds unfortunately, but, look at the Manifesto, and look at the words there. Make, Share, Give, Learn, Tool Up, Play, Participate, Support, Change! It is not enough if you create and build. You need to share it! Teach others. Learn from others. Support everybody. It was a really beautiful vision statement. What do you say? Dale Dougherty!

Namaste! 412! It is about Building and Making. Particularly, when I saw the cover of this book, I thought it would be about the Builder / Maker Movement started by Dale Dougherty.

It was called “Build”. The author claimed it was an unorthodox guide to making things worth making. Tony Fadell — we have met him before too.
He used to work at Apple during the eras of the iPod Design and the iPhone Design. He is the brain behind the Nest thermostat. Before jumping in and looking at the book, … he calls it “Unorthodox” — but what’s his claim to fame? You can’t just like that trust a stranger nobody just because he has a shaved head, yes?!

So, who is he? When I googled a little about him, I learned that he has 300 patents to his credit. And, in the last seven/eight years, he has been marked as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the world. And, more recently, the list of the Top 50 most creative, most influential, most famous gadgets of all time featured not one but THREE gadgets that this guy helped create! The iPod, the iPhone, and the Nest. They feature in the Top 50. Now tell me, if this guy speaks about Building, shouldn’t we pay heed?

So, I opened the book, and finished the book just a week ago. And, he… rides roughshod and spites so many people! Everybody! The teacher who taught him programming! The first company he worked in! Steve Jobs himself! His boss! Google! The company that acquired Nest paying billions of dollars! Larry Page! And, he shows much anger at his own younger self too! The past! The young unwise version of himself! Much vitriol!

I went through the Table of Contents. It is beautifully structured. It has five chapters. Build your Career. Build your Business. Build your Product. Build your Team. Build Yourself. From each of these, I am going to pick out one or two of the unorthodox pieces of advice he had to give, and I am going to present them to you.

Let’s start with Build Your Career. He says, every single person will face this quandary some time or the other in their career. That decision to Quit. How to do it, how to identify the time has come, etc.. well, that is when you will start looking at the calendar and looking at the clock. Oh.. is it already Friday? Hmm, is it Monday again? Ouch, is it still just 3 PM in the day? When you start doing that, something has gone wrong in the system, and your inner mind is giving you signals, he says.

He also adds, if you are really going to quit, if you have made up your mind, quit cleanly, quit quietly, quit after finishing what you started. Finish your meaningful contribution. If the next employer has respected you and acknowledged your skills, that respect will extend beyond tomorrow. That respect will still be around. If you are going to quit this job and join the next one overnight, what will that next employer think?! He might also think, oh, is this how you will leave ME in the lurch too, when the time comes? Particularly, he says, people will not remember how you STARTED a job. They will surely remember how you FINISHED it. So, do a good job, before leaving.

Also, slightly controversially for me, he says, … remember the Starting with Why philosophy? That personal mission statement? Analyse it, understand it, deeply, and internalise it. And then, as long as the company you are working in is aligned to YOUR internal mission statement, continue in that job. Else, move on! And, he gives a personal anecdote — Personal electronic gadgets was MY mission statement, I changed ten companies! Failed in many. Succeeded finally at Nest! Probably he’s got a point there.

And, finally, do not EVER use quitting as a negotiating weapon. I will quit, if you don’t give me that hike. If you don’t give me onsite opportunities. If you don’t assign me to that project. Never do that, he says. That’s about your career.

Building your Business. He says, how do you spot a good idea? Not the one that you keep chasing all the time. There will probably be hundred such. But, the one that keeps chasing YOU all the time. Remember the lamb that followed her everywhere in “Mary had a little lamb”? Similarly, this idea will keep chasing you. For this author, the idea of a smart thermostat chased him for TEN LONG YEARS! A temperature controller! Ten years!

The other thing about idea spotting, he says… it will keep chasing you like a lover.. But, don’t immediately give in. Keep them at arm’s length. He refers to the brilliant idea of Daniel Kahneman’s. Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. Remember? There is this phrase called “Delayed Intuition”! If you take a hasty decision, it is bound to go wrong. Just when it seems like you have to make an emergency decision, that’s when you should delay it. Tomorrow. Next month perhaps. Check if it burns with the same intensity still. That is how you spot a good idea. And, it should not be just for you. It should be for you, and as you talk about it with others, they should go, “Yes, I also have the same problem, Yes, I also suffer”, and a crowd of early adopters should come in tow! Then, it is a good idea!

Also, he says, too many people make the mistake of thinking that their idea is a world-class amazing idea. But, it is a vitamin. Not a painkiller. Painkiller is NEEDED by everybody. They NEED to buy it. The vitamin? You think they should buy it! There is a big difference between those two! Be very careful!

Then he moves on to building your product. You have an idea, but how are you going to build it? There is just one shining, unorthodox advice he gives. He says, project plans won’t work. Any new idea that comes along, any new invention that happens, you will always want to add that too in the upcoming version. The concept of Minimum Viable Product is all just hogwash. So, do what Jeff Bezos himself does, at Amazon. Write the Press Release of the product before you start the product! Is it January now? Are you hoping to launch the product before it is Christmas? Well, write a Christmas Week Monday Press Release. Imagine you are going to make a press announcement then. Press Releases aren’t advertisements. They aren’t brochures. They will only tell truths. They won’t market. Now, this press release document has to be framed and hung on the wall at your workplace! As you move closer and closer to that document-version, be happy! If some new features gets introduced that’s not even mentioned in that document, prune it! And, when the time comes that you are as close to that press release version as you can be, go ahead, launch it, that’s the only way! That external commitment! Of having given your word to somebody else, some stranger! No need to release the document. But, the very fact that you have committed thus to the outside world, that is enough to keep you on your toes. And, he has done it, it seems. That is the way he launched all his products on time.

Another tidbit about building your product. He recalls the great Steve Jobs, and how he launched the iPhone. And, in fact, how he launched almost every other Apple product. People would just pause and stare and gawk with open-mouthed awe! The audience.. For, that was the power of the storytelling ability of Steve Jobs. Such rapt attention. Eyes open, forgetting to blink… How was he able to work such magic? How much practice did he do? That was our thought always, about him. But, you know what? Tony has worked very closely with Steve Jobs, for a long time, and we need to pay heed when he says this. He says, Steve Jobs didn’t practice coming on stage and delivering it. (Though that is what you read.. So many books keep repeating about that obsession he had for presentation perfection). No. You know where he practiced? Every time he met a friend, he talked with family, he went and met some team members, met some competitors, he kept repeating that story. How did he make us believe it, you wonder? Well, he believed in it completely, for starters! Only because he was completely trustful of the story, he didn’t have to spin a yarn. He just had to speak it as it was. And, you started to believe it. He was telling his version of the truth. He was not spinning a lie. And, thus, similarly, do you have a true story about your product that you completely believe in? Get that story. That’s the one we want as consumers! Beautiful, isn’t it?

Then, he comes to building your team. How are you going to put together? He has some bits of advice. Unorthodox! Firstly, he says, look for creating multigenerational teams. Everybody shouldn’t be post-millennials. Nor grumpy old people either! No. Have young people, old people, men, women, people who have seen the World Trade Center fall down, people who have not even started using Facebook, that is the diversity you should aim for. That is when ideas will truly flourish, he says. I completely agree. Multigenerational is the way to go.

The other thing he says about creating a team, is about interviews. Typically, interviews are conducted by the HR representative, and by the person this new candidate is going to report to. Very rarely, the team that’s going to work with that guy, … for example, if he is coming in as a developer, then the others in the team may do a peer review of sorts. And, it usually stops there. We miss out on one important component. Who are the internal customers for this person who is coming in? There might be a designer. And, that designer lady may be regularly taking inputs from this developer and might be giving stuff back to this developer. Make that designer lady to interview this candidate! There may be a marketing person, who may have to take inputs from this guy. So, who are the internal customers? Find that out, and make them interview the incoming candidates. A bit time-consuming, yes, but I think it will really reap dividends.

Finally, building yourself. In fact, building yourself is the first chapter in the book, but I kind of upset the order because this looked better for me. Building yourself.

He tells us about a Steve Jobs anecdote. Steve used to hate management consultants. From big brand name companies. He used to go livid, when he chanced upon them, it seems. Why? His analogy was a framed picture of a banana. They don’t have any experience having worked WITH bananas. But, they have pictures of bananas. Here is a banana. That’s a grape. This is a pine-apple. They haven’t tasted any of those. So, their knowledge about it is theoretical. Not practical. And hence, unless you stand knee deep in that sludge, unless you shovel that out, you will never know what the nuances are. Until then, you are just having a gallery of banana pictures.

And, finally, he refers to this book. Called the Defining Decade. This is about the teenage decade. Fifteen to twenty-five. Many make the mistake of thinking this is one happy carefree lull of an extended vacation. But, it is supposed to be the defining decade for you. And, he gives us three words to take home. Do. Fail. Learn. That is the cycle. Don’t wait to Learn. Do. Having Done without Learning, you will likely Fail. Having Failed, observe and Learn. Having Learned now, Do better! That is the cycle! The number of times you successfully complete this cycle in this defining decade, that will define how well you succeed in your career!

As a closing thought, I would like to go to the book’s closing thought! He brings it to a beautiful conclusion, actually. He says, “At the end of the day, there are two things that matter. Only two things. Products and People. Basically, the stuff that you build, and the people you build that stuff with. So, the ideas you chase, and the ideas that chase you (Mary’s little lamb!) will define your career. And, the people you chase them with, may define your life!” How beautiful! We will meet again next week, thank you!

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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani

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Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.