Who do smart people work for ?

What is the prerequisite for becoming a leader or a CEO ?

Many a times people answer from their imagination that the person needs to be selfish, ruthless, callous, conniving and manipulative. 

Nothing can be farther from truth if you really look around at the great leaders / CEOs around you. Leaders who have built amazing businesses and delivered successfully are also the ones who have been able to build great teams. They were able to build great teams because smart people wanted to work with them. 

Truly great leaders create an environment where the employee feels that the CEO cares more about the employees. Amazing things happen only in this kind of environment. 

I am quoting another gem from Ben Horowitz‘s book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” where he talks about who do smart people work for. 

“Smart people do not work for people who do not have their interests in mind and in heart.” 

Ben calls this “The Bill Campbell Attribute” after the legendary Bill who he considers the best at doing this. 

And this is what differentiates leaders from wannabes. 

#leader #ceos #culture #linkedin #amazing #employees #people #book #inspirationoftheday #leadership

Not all work is created equal

Many people often confuse “activity” with being productive.Looking busy often gets accepted as being productive or working hard. Edmond Lau in his book “The Effective Engineer” has noted this by saying

“Not all work is created equal”.

Activities like writing status reports, organizing things, creating organizational systems, recording things multiple times, going to meetings, replying to low-priority communications only have a weak and indirect connection to creating value.

I have seen many a times that the productive time of – engineers atleast – gets lost due to meetings where they barely are even asked to utter one sentence or which are one way monologues, the essence of which they could as well have gotten over an email. Or when they have to share the same updates multiple times in different formats or on different systems. Or worse, running around, chasing different layers of management for approvals on mundane things.

All of these eat up their time and in the end they have a false sense of having a “productive day” while they barely generated any real value.

#people #leadership #inspirationoftheday #startups #effectiveteams #effectiveengineer #productivityimprovement 

Story is the output of strategic work

Most often entrepreneurs talk about story and strategy as being separate – story is focussed outwards (for investors) and strategy is focussed inwards (for team).

Ben Horowitz says that is not how one should look at it.In his book “The hard thing about hard things” his point about strategy is very clear and goes like this

“In good companies the story and the strategy are the same thing. As a result, the proper output of all the strategic work is the story.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

If you try to build a “story” without having really worked towards it in a strategic manner, it will result in disconnect and eventually failure.

#leadership #successmantra #startups #inspirationoftheday #thehardthing

People, products and profits – order matters

"Take care of the people, the products and the profits - in that order"

Starting up is hard, building a business out of your startup is harder and being able to scale it is the hardest. 

This is what the legend Ben Horowitz talks about in his book “The hard thing about hard things: Building a business when there are no easy answers”. He has openly written about his traumatising days of scaling Loudcloud / Opsware, how the company almost went bankrupt multiple times and how he dealt with three major lay offs in its journey. 

The core of it is simple

“Take care of the people, the products and the profits – in that order” 

Ben Horowitz

Things will always be harder than you expect but never let that impact the way you treat people who joined you in the journey.  He shared an advice given to him by another legend Bill Campbell when he had to fire an executive –  

“You can not let him keep his job but you absolutely can let him keep his respect.” 

Bill Campbell

#leadership  #startups #inspirationoftheday#failures #respect #people #startupgrowth 

Focus, focus and focus !

“We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.”
From “Measure what matters” by John Doerr

If you have not read “Measure what matters” by the legendary John Doerr then read it today. For me the single biggest learning from it is simple – focus.

He says it out loud and very clear – “We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.” Most often entrepreneurs try to chase too many shining opportunities, all at the same time, only to realise they fell short of resources or simply their own bandwidth.

I admire InVision in this regard which has been razor focussed on their product and users. It has proven SaaS is the way to go for all imaginable type of softwares.

Satya Nadella on CEO and Culture

"The CEO is the curator of an organization’s culture."

I recently finished reading “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella and I must say the book gives an excellent insight into how Satya has been able to transform Microsoft and it’s culture. The fact that its valuation tripled in five years since his taking charge is the least that can convince people to understand the importance of culture for an organization.

I recently finished reading “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella and I must say the book gives an excellent insight into how Satya has been able to transform Microsoft and it’s culture. The fact that its valuation tripled in five years since his taking charge is the least that can convince people to understand the importance of culture for an organization.

Anything is possible for a company when its culture is about listening, learning, and harnessing individual passions and talents to the company’s mission. Creating that kind of culture is my chief job as CEO.

Microsoft’s culture had been rigid. Each employee had to prove to everyone that he or she was the smartest person in the room. Accountability—delivering on time and hitting numbers—trumped everything. Meetings were formal. If a senior leader wanted to tap the energy and creativity of someone lower down in the organization, she or he needed to invite that person’s boss, and so on. Hierarchy and pecking order had taken control, and spontaneity and creativity had suffered.

He took upon himself to change all of that – and he has succeeded. This summarizes his thinking very well:

“The CEO is the curator of an organization’s culture.”

“The C in CEO stands for Culture.”

I have reproduced couple of paragraphs from an article by Fast Company, which can be accessed here – https://www.fastcompany.com/40457741/satya-nadella-the-c-in-ceo-stands-for-culture

Leaders don’t just recruit, they build teams !

Yes, most often you will need to recruit people to build a team but these two are not the same thing. You can’t build a team simply by hiring people – even putting together a bunch of ‘smart’ people does not guarantee you a team. This is what defines leaders – they know how to build teams, which are not simply a sum total of individuals.

They are able to build teams which have a multiplier effect for each team member, teams which are much more effective and efficient working together, teams which loves to work together setting aside all personal differences.

#teamwork #culture #leaders #team #leadership

Vinod Khosla on building a team

The team you build is the company you build

“The team you build is the company you build.”
When a legend like Vinod Khosla says that, it’s easy to understand the importance of building a team. Be it the giants like Google, Apple, Amazon or Uber, Airbnb or countless other successful companies I have read about, almost everywhere the founders or the top leadership is still actively involved in building the team.
The humans in the team are not just any other “resource” but are the “source” of its success.
#teambuilding #startups #humanressources #leadership #inspirationoftheday

Attack of the fakes – part 1

Did you know I can change my voice ? No ? Try listening to these samples:

Do I sound like “Mark” ?
Do I sound like “Linda” ?

Impressed ? I s’ld give a try to dubbing movies I guess 😉

These “modulations” are powered by a service called Modulate.ai, a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They use a combination of machine learning, signal processing, and hard-won intuition to develop real-time “voice skins”. Given now AI has started getting “creative”, I thought of coming up with a series of blog posts around these – I call it “Attach of the Fakes” as this is what I see happening in very near future.

Those who have been following Generative Adversarial Networks or GANs can already guess the use of adversarial training. Modulate team has detailed their approach in this excellent blog post. They have built a new kind of voice conversion architecture: parallel sample generation, adversarially trained for voice conversion, inspired by parallel wavenet architecture. They secured a seed round of $2M just last week but have got a lot of buzz and excitement around their technology already. To read more you can go to this post as well on MIT Technology Review which has featured them last week.

Now with this technology you can already imagine yourself impersonating _ANYBODY_ and hence this is rightfully giving nightmares to activists already. But this is true for a lot of recent development around AI and Modulate team is very well aware of the potential of misuse. Given the fact that humanity has overcome so many challenges I am sure this is a problem which will be solved 🙂

Btw, I have more of my “voice skins”, listen to me as “Evan” and “Katie” below:

Now, I am Evan!
I like Katie somehow
And finally a judicious mix of Evan and Katie!

DO try it out yourself at modulate.ai/convert  – its fun 🙂

Gene therapy shows promise for Alzheimer’s disease

If 20th century was all about the triumph of drugs as interventions, 21st century sure is turning out to be one with focus on using non-drug interventions. 

Doctors are planning to test a gene therapy that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Sometimes called “the forgetting gene,” APOE comes in three common versions, called 2, 3, and 4. Type 2 lowers a person’s risk, 3 is average, and 4 increases the chance dramatically. The risk is so great that doctors avoid testing people for APOE because a bad result can be upsetting, and there’s nothing to do about it. There’s no cure, and you can’t change your genes, either.

I see this as a precursor to preventive health which is slowly emerging and is the only model for a sustainable world wherein the incentives are aligned rightly to preventing diseases rather than making money by prolonged care. 

#healthcaretech #healthcare #alzheimers #genetherapy #lifesciences