#76 Negotiating never makes (worthwhile) offers worse
Lessons in product thinking, delegation and building culture
In the top idea in your mind, Paul Graham says…
I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That's the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they're allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it. Which means it's a disaster to let the wrong idea become the top one in your mind.
He goes on to share some suggestions on how to find the right “top idea” in your mind.
You can't directly control where your thoughts drift. If you're controlling them, they're not drifting. But you can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into. That has been the lesson for me: be careful what you let become critical to you. Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want to think about.
Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want to think about. That’s the magic formulae. Your focus can become a superpower then. Do you agree?
And with that, let’s get to today’s discoveries.
1. 20VC Product podcast
20VC podcast episode with David Lieb is a wonderful listen. In this hour long conversation, David covers topics from new product launches, using customer feedback, role of product manager and a good product process.
That he is the product leader behind one of my most favorite products - Google Photos - made this episode more enjoyable for me.
While you’re at it, this episode has compiled the ultimate guide to product reviews. Like meeting, product review as a tool or ritual is ingrained in most teams. But it’s hardly impactful and becomes a chore. I’m picking up some inputs from this in my product review sessions. Hoping to make them more useful activities for all involved.
20Product releases a monthly episode and talks to some of the most prolific product leaders. I’ve listened to the last few episodes and found something interesting in each episode.
2. Turn the ship around
In a recent post, Ankesh had briefly covered David Marquet’s 7 leadership communication levels. Here’s a snapshot from the post:
It looked interesting so I did a bit of research about USS Santa Fe and Captain David Marquet. Captain Marquet wrote the book “Turn the ship around!” to tell the story of Santa Fe’s turn around.
I have not yet read the book, but found a very useful summary in Charles Feng’s blog here. Give it a quick read and see if you want to explore this book.
Here I quote some useful snippets from Feng’s post.
Focusing on errors is helpful to understand the mechanics of procedures and detecting major problems before they occur, but is debilitating when it's adopted as the objective of an organization – it takes your focus away from being truly exceptional. You will never have zero errors, and so you will always feel bad about yourselves. On the Santa Fe, instead of openly tracking, reporting, and discussing errors to identify causes, the culture was one where mistakes were avoided at all costs – and the easiest way to not make errors was to just not make any decisions.
Don't move information to authority; move authority to the information.
Delegate control, or decision-making authority, to as much as is comfortable, and then add a pinch more.
(via Genius Biographies)
3. Don’t scar on the first cut
In “Don’t scar on the first cut”, David (more commonly known as DHH) makes a very strong observation around policies. Here’s the complete post for your reference:.
Policies are often the result of something that once went wrong. It’s organizational scar tissue developed from a This Can Never Happen Again mandate. And its almost always ill-considered.
The problem with policies are that they compound and eventually add up to the rigidity of bureaucracy that everyone says they despise. Policies are not free. They demean the intellect of the executer (“I know this is stupid, but…”) and obsolve the ability to deal with a situation in context (“I sympathize, but…”).
Here’s a curve ball: When something goes wrong, have a chat about it, embed the learning in the organizational memory as a story instead of a policy. Stories have context and engage the listeners, so next time a similar situation arise, you’ll be informed by the story and act wiser.
Policies are codified overreactions to unlikely-to-happen-again situations. A collective punishment for the wrong-doings of a one-off. And unless you want to treat the people in your environment as five year-olds, “Because The Policy Said So” is not a valid answer.
The comments on the post are fairly vocal and pointed. They help understand and absorb this idea better.
(via Patrick McKenzie)
4. Salary Negotiation
This long post by Patrick McKenzie is a great read on the topic of salary negotiations. I wish I had discovered it earlier.
Here’re a couple of useful snippets from the post:
People say that your house is the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, but it won’t be the most consequential negotiation. If you’re sane only about 25% or so of your gross income is subject to the results of real estate negotiations. Close to 100% is subject to the results of salary negotiations.
5. Most people won’t
“I use Uber all the time and I absolutely hate the app. I think you should bring me in to fix it.” He replied, “Oh, yeah? What are the three things you’d fix about it?” I said, “I’d redo the logo, redo the entire app, and change the rating system.”
I recall reading this anecdote from Uber history somewhere. Bryce Roberts’s post has made it memorable for me now. Here's just a snippet , you have got to read the rest on his post.
Everyone wants to quit something, build something, be something, do something. Most people won’t.
How many things have we wanted? How many opportunities have we craved? How many broken things have we wanted to fix?
And how many of those have we shrunk from. Hid from. Or, excused away.
We’re not alone.
Most people won’t.
LessWrong has some really insightful short posts on softer aspects of human interactions. They pick up a very fundamental idea, expand it in a very succinct way and use a bunch of examples to make the discussion easy for everyone. The academic research follows, but you’re good without worrying too much about it.
Here’re two good reference post in this category:
You (or your organization or your mission or your family or etc.) pass the “onion test” for honesty if each layer hides but does not mislead about the information hidden within.
We always know what we mean by our words, and so we expect others to know it too. Reading our own writing, the intended interpretation falls easily into place, guided by our knowledge of what we really meant. It’s hard to empathize with someone who must interpret blindly, guided only by the words.
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
The Story of Hans Monderman and the Safety of Insecurity (via Dense Discovery)
The next big thing will start out looking like a toy. (via Twitter)
Ceramic artist Monsieur Cailloux creates the rocky world of the “Cailloux” tribe, They are straight from the stone planet MRCX. (via Dense Discovery)
Stay in the game (via Twitter)
Sidu Ponnappa is on a roll!! (via Twitter)
Analysing the architecture of Disney films. Another amazing thread by The Cultural Tutor. (via Twitter)
Story of origin of the Birkin bag (via Twitter)
Before we sign off, here's practical advice for all product builders.
That's all for this week, folks!
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