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#27 Inspiration is perishable. Act on it immediately.
Jeff Bezoism, Mount Everest and everything in between
In his 2017 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos shared his thoughts on high standards. In his signature style, he covered 'what', 'why' and 'hows' in this update. His reference to how amazon has built a culture of high standards makes it easy to relate to those inputs. I am reproducing some portions from the newsletter as-is for your reference.
First, there’s a foundational question: are high standards intrinsic or teachable? ... I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure. High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread. And though exposure works well to teach high standards, I believe you can accelerate that rate of learning by articulating a few core principles of high standards...
He goes further to define…
What do you need to achieve high standards in a particular domain area? First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result – the scope.
And finally, he shares the Benefits of High Standards ….
you’re going to build better products and services for customers – this would be reason enough! Perhaps a little less obvious: people are drawn to high standards – they help with recruiting and retention. More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the “invisible” but crucial work that goes on in every company. I’m talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward – it’s part of what it means to be a professional.
And finally, high standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back.
The part about “invisible” but crucial work is such a powerful articulation. It's so true if you’re a custodian of anything - quality, customer experience, culture, cost. A lot of your energy goes into working on countless ‘never to be seen’ tasks. Tasks that no one notices, but are the real ingredients for the ultimate magic. Your passion is the only thing that can keep you going in such a role. Set high standards high and keep doing - those are the rules of the game for you.
And on that note, let's get to today's finds.
'5 whys' like most other operation and process tools is a very simple one. Anyone with even the slightest idea about a thing called ‘5 why’ will confidently do a quick demo for you, today. But like most tools, its simplicity is a misleading aspect. It needs a lot of practice and still, you might not exploit the full potential this tool promises. Not that, it's a perfect tool. It has its own limitations. This article takes a good take on the tool and some of its shortcomings. If you’re a practitioner of 5 whys, do give this one a read. You are bound to discover a new nuance or two, for sure.
Untools is a collection of thinking tools and frameworks to help you solve problems, make decisions and understand systems. It covers some of the most common ones and describes them in simple terms. Bookmark it for a 101 level view.
Photo credit: Nirmal Purja and GQ
Chaos at the Top of the World - the world saw the viral photo of Mount Everest. This story covers some of the deadly realities of what transpired that day at 29,000 feet. Read some of the untold accounts of the people who were there.
I was asked about the photo when I came back,” he tells me. “People said, ‘Oh, you've also been queuing up there,’ like it was the supermarket.” New rules have to be implemented, he says, to weed out the incompetent and the inexperienced, to reduce the crowds, to remove the Disneyland illusion and bring Everest back to something approximating its pristine state. Too many people, he says, have died needlessly because of sliding standards. “Let's not make it a tourist mountain,” he says. “Let's not spoil it even more [and] reduce it to dead people and tourists.
Some random goodness from the internet:
Twitter: In 2010, Fisher-Price re-released the Music box record player. It played music but in really strange ways. This thread is a fun investigation into the mechanism of this toy. It tells a lot about the length people go to satiate their curiosity.
Youtube: Inside the smallest luxury apartment in Tokyo. It’s a new definition of luxury and convenience for me, I must say.
Short read: Evolution of the dad, an anthropologist’s take on fatherhood as it evolved in humans.
Instagram: Justin Bateman creates art using pebbles. In his words, pebbles are my pixels. He is not lying, check his work out at pebblepicassos.
Before we sign off, here's a snapshot of a tweet worth saving.
That's all for this week, folks! In case you missed reading last week’s newsletter, you can find it here.
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