My colleague Orlando has a thankless task. We have our big training event this week and Orlando has the job of pulling together the "summit" for evangelists the weekend before the event. Past summits have made it difficult to believe in the value of these events. No one wants to give up family time for an event which turns out to be all fluff. "It was worth giving up a Sunday with my family for that" is a pretty high bar to set. Orlando achieved that level by bringing in Simon Sinek, who was the best external speaker I’ve heard for ages (I don’t like to say "The best I’ve ever heard", but as I’ve typed and edited this post I’ve failed to think of a better one).
Simon talked about the idea that companies talk too much about WHAT our products do, and talk too little about WHY we created those products – the beliefs that underpin them. He did the thing that great teachers often do – taking two things that were already in your head and link them together in a new way. For example companies which have good leaders set an ethos which everyone in the company follows – if you don’t believe in the power of software to enable people to do more, for example, you shouldn’t be working for Microsoft. Apple has values and beliefs too – which are more about individuality and overturning the established order. If the leadership of the company sets a clear set of values which the whole company follows it buy into, and articulates that it attracts more than just the people who want the product (the what) but people who also share those values and beliefs – who will buy the product if it is more expensive or lacks a feature. It fits quite well with Hugh’s "The market for something to believe in is infinite". Simon used the example of an airline who thinks, because he has flown with them several times that he is a loyal customer: he loathes them, yet they spend money wooing him because he is a serial customer. One of the questions that we threw to Simon was would Bill Gates passing the baton on make a difference to Microsoft’s standing – and the answer, obviously enough, was only if it results an change of values…
In Monday’s key note for the event proper, I saw Ray Ozzie for the first time. His session included some great product stuff which we’re not allowed to talk about – announcements will come over the next few months – but he didn’t just show the what. He took time to explain who he was and his own personal why. He did a long list of loves and hates, but this list of things the thinks that he put up was more direct.
1. Constraints are empowering
2. Accept threats as resignations
3. Never follow; either leapfrog or stop
4. Diversity means survival
5. Don’t tolerate intolerance
6. Strategy and architecture are inseparable
7. Short and direct earns respect
8. Delaying the inevitable inevitably backfires
9. A re-org will never cure what ails you
10. You needn’t be an #%@hole to get things done
And I looked at these, and thought, here’s a guy who thinks pretty much like I do. And I looked around the room and saw thousands of people who were thinking much the same.