Where to think big like a CEO

Photo credit: Ben White

It’s rare to get the chance to understand how and where some of the world’s best CEOs do their thinking.

Unless of course, you’re Reid Hoffman.

As part of his podcast, Masters of Scale, he interviews CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Brian Chesky and Reed Hastings. And one question he asks them all is:

“What’s your favourite place to think big?”

Unfortunately, he’s never shared the answers to this question before.

Until now.

Where CEOs like to go to think big

Here are some examples taken from the last episode of the second series.

“Oh my god. The Walt Disney family museum.” Brian Chesky (CEO, Airbnb)​
“Running by the Golden Gate Bridge.” Mariam Naficy (CEO, Minted)​
“My lawn, pacing around in circles.” Mark Zuckerberg (CEO, Facebook)​
Anywhere with you, I mean, when I’m rubbing elbows with other people who are not in my space listening to them talk about what they do, makes me better.” Nancy Lublin (CEO, Crisis Text Line)​
“My living room at home in Santa Cruz.” Reed Hastings (CEO, Netflix)​
“Somewhere beautiful in nature.” (Peter Thiel,​ entrepreneur)
“I keep very strange hours, I have this span of time between 2:00 AM and 5:00 AM, usually, in which I do a lot of thinking and a lot of work. It’s a when, not a where.” Caterina Fake (Co-founder, Flickr and Hunch)​
“Walking anywhere.” Evan Williams (Former CEO, Twitter)​
“The treadmill.” Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook)
“I think getting a feeling of a good office down is really important for good thought. I saw what I thought was the perfect office which was a Japanese teahouse basically with beautiful custom wood by itself in a forest.” Sam Altman (President, Y Combinator​)
“A dance studio.” Payal Kadakia (Founder, ClassPass)
“Taking walks and driving, are for me, a good time to think about things.” Bill Gates (Co-Chairman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
“My surfboard and then my bike.” Mark Pincus (Executive Chairman, Zynga)​
“In nature, because on one side, it really grounds you to see how incredibly extraordinary nature is. On the other, it really stimulates you to think big, to dream and be ambitious.” John Elkann (CEO, Exor​)
“​I do my best thinking essentially in Cafe’s or new spaces. Places that I haven’t been in a lot, usually requires a little bit of bustle, it doesn’t have to have people or not, but it has to have a thing where I can really focus on just a blank page — a new part of thinking.” (Reid Hoffman, entrepreneur)

It’s clear to me that none of them do their best thinking in a traditional office. They do it in places where they feel more relaxed or inspired.

I’m the same, I find I do my best thinking when I’m in the shower, walking in the park or going for a run.

Where do you do your best thinking?


I was interviewed last month by the Happy Startup School. Check it out here.

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