In all companies, hard choices have to be made about what new product or feature ideas should be fed the company’s most precious resources — time and money. A product roadmap is one way to show where resources are being spent, and a transparent, competitive process for developing this roadmap will help everyone understand why resources are being spent this way. This video outlines the qualities of the best product roadmaps we’ve seen.
Communicating effectively is critical. These videos introduce the work of Barbara Minto and Robert McKee, two experts on connecting and communicating with an audience. We think McKee’s and Minto’s ideas are extremely helpful for thinking through the how and why of getting your point across. Use these frameworks as you prototype your pitch, your board meeting presentation, or any other instance where it’s important that you communicate with impact.
Storytelling & Presenting 1: Thank You, Barbara Minto
Storytelling & Presenting 2: Thank You, Robert McKee
Too often, meetings are painful experiences. We’ve observed a tendency to stick to one of a handful of traditional meeting formats and scripts, often characterized by a powerpoint and a few people dominating the conversation. Meetings are like anything else in your organization — they’re prototypes, and you should embrace the opportunity to design and test a variety of meeting prototypes aligned to the outcomes you want. Make your meetings as diverse as what you’re hoping happens after each one.
by Michael Dearing
I believe the people who work at the NSA are patriots. They devote their considerable intellects to preserve, protect, and defend the people of the United States. I wish their patriotism + brainpower would do the same for the US Constitution. But those issues are getting plenty of ink elsewhere.
My concern is more personal and local: the NSA’s version of patriotism is corroding Silicon Valley. Integrity of our products, creative freedom of talented people, and trust with our users are the casualties. The dolphin in the tuna net is us — our industry, our work, and the social fabric of our community.
Product integrity is doomed when the NSA involves itself in the product development process. The scope of NSAs activity here is unknowable. But what I hear from founders and other investors — nevermind Reuters’ reporting about RSA Security, and SPIEGEL’s about backdoors in networking products — is beyond my worst expectations. President Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence learned enough about the matter to give it a prominent place in their December 12 report. A key recommendation: “the US Government should … not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software.” It’s incredible to me that this needs to be said at all. That it was phrased as a recommendation by a panel of professors and retired government officials rather than as an imperative truth shouted by Silicon Valley itself is sad. Truthful products come from the union of founders’ values and users’ needs. Letting NSA add “features” strips integrity away; it creates deceitful, incoherent products. Our ambition must be the opposite.
Inside our companies and research centers, talented minds are being conscripted into surveillance. Think about the software developers who wrote the code behind your email service. Or the team who built the guts of a blogging service’s geo-location features. Not one of them chose to work for the NSA. But their work has been co-opted, effectively turned into surveillance tools. The freedom of talented people to work for whom they choose, building what they choose, for the purpose they choose is being deleted. This is another deep violation of our community’s social fabric.
All this leads back to trust. Billions of people let Silicon Valley into their daily lives and they hug it close. They trust our products to find information, to get work done, to talk to each other, to buy and sell stuff, and to have fun. That trust is a decades-old endowment built up by inventor-founders from Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore through to the present day. The magic of compound growth works in our favor when trust is accumulating. But now we are making trust withdrawals every day as people around the world learn how the NSA has woven surveillance, search, and seizure into and around our products. This is the painful flip side of compound growth: the trust withdrawals compound too.
Silicon Valley’s promise to people is simple and compelling: “We’ll build a bunch of things. Try our work; keep what you love, dump what you don’t love. We’ll learn from it and build on the stuff that you like best.” Sadly, the NSA undermines the promise at its foundation.
We do have options. Modify our user agreements to reinforce users’ property rights and expectations of privacy in their data to address the so-called “third-party doctrine.” Make architecture and encryption decisions that defend against upstream surveillance at the backbone. Appeal objectionable collection orders under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to the full Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the FISC Court of Review, and the Supreme Court if necessary. Appeal National Security Letters (NSLs) in Federal Court if you believe warrantless requests for information are toxic to your values and your work. All of us — founders, CEOs, Boards, citizens — are allowed to hold opinions about what is right and we can exercise our rights and freedoms to act accordingly. God knows we take full advantage of the rights and freedoms in the tax code; we should be at least as creative and engaged when it comes to existential threats to our work.
Smart patriots of the NSA are struggling with a basic question: of all the ways to get a critical job done, which ways line up with our founding values? Unfortunately, their answer is deadly to Silicon Valley’s life’s work. That is 100% unacceptable.
Cognitive behavior theory helps us understand how founders’ brains work. Over the last decade, I’ve observed thousands of founders — some successful, others not so successful — and noticed some repeating patterns in the way they observe, judge and act. This video explores how Aaron Beck’s model of cognition — originally developed to help patients living with major depression and anxiety — can be helpful in understanding the creative and business behavior of founders.
The Cognitive Distortions of Founders
Design thinking is a methodology for tackling complex problems and developing awesome solutions. By applying design thinking in your work, you give yourself a better chance of developing a creative, human-centered solution. One of the most powerful ideas in design thinking is the importance of prototyping — physically building your ideas so that you can learn from how others interact with them. We’ve been lucky enough to observe many talented founders and designers as they’ve built prototypes. These video series shows some of what we’ve learned.
Design 1: Empathy-Based Prototyping
Design 2: Rapid Prototypes
Design 3: Composting Prototypes
Finance, especially financing a startup, is something every founder should understand. Fortunately, there is a short list of basic ideas that will give anyone a big leg up on understanding finance. After teaching this topic for years — mostly to engineering students with little business experience — I distilled down the entire course into five relatively simple ideas. These videos give you the overview of those key ideas around cash, growth, risk and value.
Finance 1: Cash and Growth
Finance 2: Cash and Risk
Finance 3: Cash and Value
Pricing is a sacred act of capitalism. Pricing is sometimes thought of as a math problem. But it’s really a judgment problem. The standard economic model of supply and demand many of us learn in school is powerful. It has some very nice features for understanding pricing. But the standard model is less useful when managing pricing. Behavioral economics offers helpful modifications to the standard model. You can use three simple ideas to improve your pricing judgment: Understanding the intuitive and the rational p.o.v. of your customer; Value-based pricing; Assortments.