How you make things matters

I’m giving a talk on Monday to a group of people that are re-thinking how they’re working together and I wanted to get some thoughts down here. It’s a topic I’m very very passionate about – it’s what drives me in my work at Yammer and upon reflection over the last couple of days it’s what’s driven me in past roles. I’m lucky that at Yammer I get to work with some amazing thinkers in this realm. Specifically, I’d like to share a video that our co-founder, Adam Pisoni, gave at a Silicon Valley Bank event some months ago.

How we make things matters. In fact, what I love most about the video above is that Adam suggests that we should be focused on building an amazing company just as much as an amazing product. Your product is something that will change over time. Your organisation should be able to evolve easily with that.

History is littered with companies large and small which prove this out. Current history too – RIM is in serious trouble because the market moved rapidly toward favoring something else. MySpace is another obvious example. The challenge is to build a company that is not organised around producing that one product.

At Yammer, the future product we offer will be different to todays version, just as todays version is different than the product when it first launched. Twitter as an organisation, I feel, is beginning to experience these problems. But I feel our organisation will survive because we’ve built it to be adaptable. You need to iterate on your organisation as often as you iterate your product.

Technology as Infrastructure

I was catching the train the other night and noticed the advertising billboard below. It was informing everyone that Google Maps now has the ability to include public transport routes as a part of it’s service. The poster intrigued me, because it’s one of those artifacts that has come primarily from the digital world but is represented in a physical sense.

In this case, especially more broadly though, it served to as a great example of how some technology is becoming infrastructure in our lives.

Google and PT

I continuously hear various discussions each day that talk about how we must measure the impact of technology on the output of our companies. In many instances, I don’t disagree. But like any other mindset we use to solve problems, the idea of ROI has it’s limits. Some technology will never produce an ROI. Some technology will lend itself well to that existing paradigm and other technologies will not. Some technologies, like Google Maps, will serve the role of infrastructure. And like infrastructure, we’ll understand very well the investment required to maintain it but often times have trouble understanding the return we may get.