A quick one today. There’s a great video that, if you’re involved in any part of the operations of a company (and aren’t we all), you should certainly watch. It’s a lecture Keith Rabois gave at Stanford a couple of months ago. I’ll probably end up writing a bigger post about this later on. For now, enjoy. It was posted originally here.
There’s a great post that my colleague, Cindy Alvarez, shared with me earlier today which I wanted to share here. It’s written by the team at Spotify and walks through how they approached running a hackathon that was truly diverse, focusing on gender mostly in their first event. Reading the post, I’d say it’s been a terrific success.
The post reminded me a lot of the themes we would discuss and debate when running Trampoline in Melbourne in the early days. I thought I’d share a few things we picked up on when running these Unconferences, to keep the conversation going. A big hat-tip to Melina Chan and Pat Allan, who constantly had their eye on the diversity of the group we’d be forming through these actions.
The invite process matters. The Spotify article highlights this, but we used to focus on this so much it’s worth highlighting here again.
The channels where you spread the event decide the crowd that will apply. We wanted to expand outside our Facebook hacker groups. So we talked to university teachers, local communities, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends from other cities to push the event outside the usual “tech bubble”.
For us, when we ran the first and second Trampoline events back in 2009, Twitter was the main channel we used to market the event. But we also put a lot of effort into curating a list of all the people we could think of that we would LOVE to be at the event. This list ended up being a mix of friends and acquaintances that we knew had an interesting and unusual story to share and so ended up being quite diverse. We then emailed and personally reached out to many on the list to encourage them to come along.
After the first Trampoline, which we felt was a success, we had to think even more about this the second time around. We increased the number of tickets we made available to 150 and also planned staged releases to help ensure different groups got several chances to book – rather than just the folks that saw the invites go out on Twitter in the first instance. When we released the tickets, we had the first release (around 100 tickets, I think, but I’m most likely wrong here) go in about 10 minutes. After that, we kept the releases going over the next week or so to fill it all up.
I’ll be the first to say that this did add extra friction to the mix. And confusion. I’m not sure we’d approach it in the same way again if we had our chance, but generally it helped make sure that a diverse group ended up coming along, because tickets weren’t being snapped up by people who were generally able to be online, ready to register, at 9am on a weekday morning.
At the next event, Trampoline 3, we implemented a ‘gift ticket’ with registration to help combat this even more. Once you registered, you had an extra ticket that you could forward to someone else, which we encouraged people to use for someone that had never been to a Trampoline. Whilst this was a good idea and worked in some cases, we didn’t see most of the gift tickets get used – so they were eventually returned to the pool closer to the event.
For Trampoline, diversity meant more than the categories we use to define that now. Whilst gender, race, religion etc were all important form of diversity we were hoping to attract was in people’s careers and interests. By that, I mean we wanted to attract people who chose to use the productive hours of their weeks in a variety of ways. That led to some amazing sessions, from how to swim the English Channel, to juggling lessons, to 3D printer displays and barefoot running lectures. We also had a mix of technology talks, career development talks and family/parenting talks. At one event, we had an 8 year old run a session and an 80 year old! It was this diverse group of topics that led to the most interesting event. I think, in hindsight, it led to the attendees also being diverse, too.
I’d finally add that, even with all of this, the group became more homogeneous over time. As people connected at the events and got to know each other they would come back time and time again, which meant the ‘interestingness’ slowed down a little bit. Even so, the events today remain some of the more fascinating and interesting ways to learn about a whole host of topics. It’s been far too long since I managed to attend one!
Last week, I posted about a great example of cultural effecting strategy by linking to the latest Stratechery post by Ben Thompson. Late last week, Ben and James sat down and recorded the latest Exponent podcast where they discussed the ideas in the post in much more detail, including many cultural observations that Ben shares.
It’s a great listen and worth your hour. You can find it here: http://exponent.fm/episode-030-xiaomi/
There’s a new post out on Stratechery today which I enjoyed reading this morning. I’ve not really read up or investigated Xiaomi, nor have I been a customer, so many of Ben’s posts discussing the topic are interesting to me. Mostly, this is because my bias’s about the company are fairly low. I’m uninformed and ignorant about their strategy and their products for the most part. In that light, todays post certainly did resonate with me in an area I’d like to think I am less ignorant – organisational culture.
This strategy also explains Xiaomi’s international expansion strategy: India – the world’s 2nd largest population – is already well underway, and Indonesia – the 4th largest – just kicked off. Brazil (5th) is coming soon. True, the United States (3rd) isn’t coming any time soon, but why bother? Apple has the fans, everyone has appliances, and yes, there is a bit of an IP problem.
This may be a long bow to draw, between Ben’s post which is obviously very strategy focused, and my own desire to talk more about operating and organisational cultures here on my blog. But it’s for that very reason that I like what this example displays so much. It’s an overt example of how a companies culture impacts upon it’s strategy. Xiaomi is a Chinese company and so with that comes everything that goes with that culture – including the apparent choices to not expand into the US as a growth strategy. Here in San Francisco, and indeed even in Australia, the general cultural world-view I’ve been exposed to with regards to growing a companies size and profits is to expand to the US or the UK. Yes, there’s been a much bigger focus on doing business with China (and Asia more broadly) in the last decade, but I find most of this bias still extends mostly to the mining and resources sector. Personally, in my experience, our cultural norms keep us focused on expanding into places that we’re very familiar with.
This is true at lower perspectives, too, but they’re less easy to see when you’re in an organisation. The choice to follow one strategic path or another is absolutely a product of the operational culture that your company has incubated over it’s entire life.
It’s 2015! This year, I’m going to look to post again regularly here on the blog. If you’re keen to do the same, or perhaps have made a resolution to ‘blog more’ in 2015, then this great Blogging 101 class being run by The Daily Post may be right up your alley. I’m going to do it and am already looking forward to it. It starts on Monday the 5th.
However, this time I’m going to do something a little different. I’d like to share today that I’m going to focus more of my writing on particular areas. I’ve even Skitch’ed up a little Venn Diagram to outline my thoughts so far.
Last year, I thought a lot about the idea of the craftsman – a person so deeply engaged in what they’re passionate about that their work product just flows. It caused me to reflect on my ‘craft.’ Needless to say, I’m still exploring what that is. Perhaps I always will. But for now, I’m focusing a lot of my energy on these three topics. So it makes sense to start writing and sharing more about them here.
I’ve been writing about this for a while, and my take on this topic will often bounce around a variety of different topics. Yesterday’s post, whilst not explicitly about it, touched on a lot of aspects of how I think about Mindfulness and my continued attempts to be more mindful. Expect topics like meditation, GTD and habit building.
I’m fascinated by this topic and have mostly pursued it in different guises through my career so far. I love talking and thinking about how people, teams and whole organisations can become more responsive to their staff, partners and customers by being more connected. More engaged and aware. The old saying ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ resonates a lot with me and I want to keep learning about it here. Expect topics like Holacracy, Integral Theory, holding better meetings, remote work, coworking and the ideas of The Responsive Org.
I’ve now been playing with social technologies, mostly, for about 7-9 years and a lot has changed in that time. I love being in the ‘tech’ industry and the pace in which it changes. I’ve especially loved being first at Yammer and now at Microsoft in that time, which has given me the chance to directly work with our customers to help them understand how technology is fast becoming the best way to affect an organisations culture and its people’s mindfulness. Expect things here about the industry in general, startups and how cloud, mobile and social networking continue to change how we live our lives.