Learning to be world class.
I’m always amazed by founders who don’t code building technology companies. It was a pleasant surprise to know that that was true of Andy Jassy from Amazon who is almost a founder. He started in Marketing and then went on to lead arguably one of the most technical products of all time, AWS.
While most tech founders have been fairly technical there’s one person who comes purely from Design that has managed to build an organization that many people in the world envy. That’s Brian Chesky of Airbnb.
I have always been curious to know how they learn to bring people who are technical and outside their field of expertise close together. Here’s a great talk that Brian gave while being interviewed by Reid Hoffman on how he goes about it.
If I were to give you a task. You had to learn UI design in a week. You have only one week but you got to learn everything and become an expert at it or atleast a temporary expert at it. A temporary expert is one who knows the basics and at least knows the most important things.
You probably would read a ton of books, talk to a ton of people, interview a ton of people and go through this fairly exhaustive list. And so, what if I told you that, in that week, I also actually want you to learn about the basics of front end development, I want you to learn about the basics of accounting so you can have balanced books and I want you to also understand how to incorporate a company. Now how do you do that?
You don’t have much time to be exhaustive.
What you learn is that you can’t learn everything about a topic. So you have to be very good at short circuiting to learn from the definitive source about the topic.
The skill becomes, you hope you go to the right source. Because if you go to the wrong resource you learn the wrong things. You also learn if you go to the right source you don’t need any other sources to learn.
Keith Rabois gave him one book about management, High Output Management, which was the definitive source so you don’t need 10 other books on management.
So what I have learned to do is seek out the experts. It’s about the reading and writing of intelligent people. For trust and security he went to the former director of the CIA. The more successful you get the more you have access to them, but before you get successful you can read about the best. I also learn from biographies. You have to be shameless. Most people will help you if you ask a question. The reason people don’t help is because they don’t get asked.
(h/t to Taboca for his notes too.)