Books Business Marketing Product Management Technology

Steve Jobs

Author: Walter Isaacson

My Rating 5/5

Summary: A candid biography of one of the most influential innovators in technology.

My Takeaways

Steve refused to accept automatically perceived truths and wanted to examine everything himself.

“Pretend to be completely in charge and people will assume you are.”

Steve Jobs was incredibly persistent 

Jobs and Wozniak had completely different personalities and skill sets that complimented each other perfectly. 

Apple did not have this glorious start to their business in the mid 70s that people assume.

Jobs cared about craftsmanship and paid attention to the details others didn’t. 

It seems like Jobs looked for people to work with that had a chip on their shoulder. 

Jobs was instilled with the belief that you should never start a company with the goal of getting g rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last. 

They wrote a philosophy that stressed 3 things:

  1. Empathy: an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer
  2. Focus: in order to do a good job of the things we decide to do, we must remove all unimportant opportunities. 
  3. Impute: emphasized the people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys.( people do judge a book by its cover, so we need to present in a creative and professionally manner that will impute the desired qualities. This translated into every aspect of the product experience including packaging. 

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

In the early days, Steve would only hire people who were passionate about the product. 

One of Jobs’ management philosophies was that it was crucial every now and then to roll the dice and “bet the company” on some new idea or technology.

Lasting companies know how to reinvent themselves. 

One of Steve Jobs’ strengths is his ability to focus. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. 

Steve hated powerpoints and said that people who know what they’re talking about don’t need powerpoints. 

Apple had tons of products and Steve simplified it. 

“Skate to where the puck is going”

Apple has deep collaboration across departments 

‘A’ players recruit and like to work with other ‘A’ players. 

The hiring process involved candidates meeting with hire ups on different departments. 

Apple made the iPod for themselves because they love music. If you love something, you’re going to go the extra mile and challenge the status quote. This is why the Microsoft Zune failed. 

The reason Sony and othe companies failed to compete with Apple in making a portable music player is because their were silos in division with they’re own bottom line and didn’t work together

Apple doesn’t have divisions with its own P&L, just one. 

“Jobs stressed that if you don’t cannablize yourself, someone else will.” iPhone vs iPod. Other companies such as Sony were worried about cannibalization. 

Jobs demands end to end control of the user experience hardware software and content.

Steve Jobs was brilliant at turning down the thousands of opportunities that wouldn’t make an impact and only focusing on the two or 3 that are important.

Steve’s genius is that he knows how to make things simple, and that requires controlling everything. 

Apple believes that technology alone isn’t enough. It’s technology married with humanities that yield results. 

Steve Jobs personality was mean. He did not sugarcoat things. This hindered him in many relationships but did serve a purpose. Polite leaders are generally not as effective at forcing change. It forced people to do things they didn’t think were possible. 

Jobs was a master at seeing the big picture and focusing on the details. 

Jobs created Apple to build great products, not pursue profit. John Scully flipped this around which had huge implications in what was discussed at meetings and who was hired.

Apple’s approach is to figure what people want before they do. 

Steve’s theory on why successful companies decline is because sales people run them and not product people. (Steve Ballmer at Microsoft)

Steve wanted to build a lasting company that would stand generations from now. 

Steve does not sugarcoat things and created a culture of honesty at Apple.

Companies need to keep evolving like musicians (Dylan and the Beatles)

Books Business Product Management Technology

The Innovators Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business

Author: Clayton M. Christensen

My Rating: 5/5

Summary: A great book that analyzes how a company’s lack of innovate can lead to distrust-turn by smaller organizations.

My Takeaways

One common theme is that the decisions that lead to failure were made when the leaders in question were regarded as some of the best leaders at the time. 

Good management was the most powerful reason they failed to stay atop their industries.

Principle 1: Companies depend on customers and investors for resources.

Blindly following the maxim that satisfies customers has helped companies grow, but also led successful companies to fail because they are not focused on disruptive technologies. 

Principle 2: Small markets don’t solve the growth needs of larger companies.

Principle 3: Markets that don’t exist can’t be analyzed.

With emerging markets, the one thing we know for sure, is that expert forecasts about how large the market will become are always wrong. The planning tools we use to understand sustaining technologies don’t work when used on disruptive technologies, Christensen says this is an exercise in ‘flapping wings’.

Principle 4: An organization’s capabilities define its disabilities.

People are surprisingly flexible. You can take an individual out of a large company and put them in a small startup, and they can adapt and survive. But a company has processes and values – the way it produces output, and the way it makes decisions on resources and pursuing ideas. These processes and values are not flexible, they cannot easily change to support a different low-margin product, when they are organized effectively around producing a high-margin product. The new scenario causes a company’s strengths to now become its weakness.

Principle 5: Technology supply may not equal market demand.

The incumbent companies compete aggressively to obtain higher-margin profits, by creating better product performance for the existing customers. Without realizing it, they overshoot the needs of the general market, and create a vacuum for lower-end, lower-cost technologies to enter at the foot of the market, servicing the basic needs of customers.

Incumbents often don’t realize the speed at which they are moving up-market, seeking higher profits, because they are engaged in a competitive battle with other incumbents. Because new entrants can enter with lower price points, it creates a compelling reason for some customers to begin changing.

The fear of cannibalizing your own products is cited as a reason why established firms delay the introduction of new technologies. 

Incumbent firms successfully entered 1 market, but missed new emerging markets. 

Value networks are unique to each firm and factor into how a company innovates because each part of the value networks has different success metrics. 

Poor management was not the cause of how large successful firms’ downfall when dealing with disruptive technologies, but was the root cause. 

These good management processes that nurture customer feedback, allocate resources effectively and don’t offer inferior products at lower profits in insignificant markets are the practices that reject confronting disruptive technological change.

5 fundamental principles of organizational nature that managers in successful firms recognize and harnessed when dealing with disruptive technologies. Firms that failed ignored or fought them.

  1. Resource dependence. Customer control resource allocation
  2. Small markets don’t solve the growth needs of large firms. 
  3. The uses or applications of technologies are un knowable in advance. Failure is an intrinsic step towards success
  4. Organizations have capabilities that exist independently of the capabilities of the people who work within them. Organizations’ capabilities reside in their processes and values. The process and values that constitute their core capabilities within the current business model also define their disabilities when confronted with disruption.
  5. Technology supply might not equal market demand. The attributes that make disruptive technologies unattractive in established markets often are the very ones that constitute their greatest value in emerging markets.

Successful managers harnessed these principals to their advantage by doing the following in their organization:

  1. Embedded projects to develop and commercialize disruptive technology within an organization whose customers needed them.
    1. Managers aligned the disruptive innovation with the right customers, customer demand increased the probability the innovation would get the resources it needed.
  2. Placed projects to develop disruptive technologies in organizations small enough to get excited about small opportunities and small wins. 
  3. Planned to fail early and inexpensively in the search for the market for a disruptive technology. They found that their markets coalesced through an iterative process of trial, learning and trial again
  4. They utilized some of the resources of the mainstream organization to address the disruption, but were careful not to leverage its processes and values. They created different ways of working within an organization whose values and cost structure were turned to the disruptive task at hand.
  5. When commercializing disruptive technology, they found or developed new markets that valued the attributes of the disruptive products, rather then search for a technological breakthrough – so that the disruptive product could compete as a sustaining technology in mainstream markets.

Successful Managers embraced the fact that markets change. 

Often times, companies set up separate business units or other companies to develop a disruptive technologies that had different cost structures, customers and value networks. These independent orgs were created to match the size of the opportunity. 

There are significant first mover advantages for companies that pioneer and commercialize disruptive technologies.

Most managers know how to develops plans for forecasting markets in sustaining technologies. This approach to managing disruptive technologies in emerging markets can paralyze companies. {Honda dirt bike example.}

It is impossible to predict how large markets will be for disruptive technologies and therefore, impossible for companies to understand how the products will be used. 

Research suggests that firms that were able to successfully develops distributive technologies conservatived enough resources to develope technologies 2 to 3 times to get it right. 

Failed ideas vs failed managers vs failed companies. 

Failure is intrinsic to finding success with disruptive technologies 

Action must be taken before plans can be developed for managers to learn about what’s important for new markets with disruptive technologies 

Agnostic marketing

Three factors affect what an org can and can’t do:

  1. Resources. 
  2. Processes
  3. Values. Define cost structure and incapableities. 

One of the main reasons new startups that IPO flame out is because the lack of processes developed because the resources never transitioned into process that sustain growth (Avid) vs Mickinsey who is more reliant on process and values. 

The very processes that made it successful in innovating in one market, made it incapable of competing in another. (DEC example)

Values set by the company (I.e 50% profit margins for new business) made it also incapable of addressing the less profitable OC market because it didn’t meet the companies criteria of innovation. Rendered it incapable of a winning strategy. 

Companies must consider the RPV model when acquiring companies and integrating them. 

Managers confronting change must first determine the resources they need to succeed. Then ask does the organization have the processes and values to succeed. 

The very capabilities that define their org define their incapableities. 

A product becomes commoditized when the features and functionality exceed the market demand.

The weaknesses of disruptive technologies are their strengths

Crossing the cashism 

Important to find new markets for disruptive technologies and move further up market.

Disruptive technologies are simpler, cheaper, more reliable and convenient.

Develop a business plan for learning a market, not executing a strategy when it comes to developing disruptive technologies. You must plan to be wrong and try to be as right as soon as possible.

Performance over supply opens the door for more convenient disruptive technologies.

Products over time shift from functionality to other attributes like reliability and convenience and price. 

The early characteristics of a winning design for a product will be simplicity and convenience And will be incubated in an emerging value network in which these attributes will be an important measures of value. 

Upwardly mobile downwardly immobile

Disruptive technologies re-define the main stream value networks because of dealer economics and how it shapes the main stream value networks

The pace of progress that markets demand is different than the pace of the development technology. 

Managing innovation mirrors the resource allocation process. 

Find a new market that values the current characteristics of a disruptive technology

The information to make large investments in disruptive technology simply does not exist. It needs to be created. 

Disruptive technology rarely make sense to invest in the early years when making money is not important

The very practices that managers do to make their companies industry leaders are the reasons why a successful companies fail.

Understand the laws that apply to disruptive technologies and use them to create new products for new markets.

Plan for failure and set up a separate organization that relies on new customers

Don’t count on breakthroughs. Move ahead early and find the market for the current attributes of the technology. You will find it outside the current mainstream market. 

Books Business Marketing Product Management Technology

BUILD: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making

Author: Tony Fadell

My Rating: 5/5

Summary: A fantastic book about how to build extraordinary products – told by one of the leaders who brought the iPod, iPhone and Nest products to market.

My Takeaways

Start with a problem. Take Uber. The founders started with a customer problem—a problem they experienced in their daily lives—then applied technology.

As a manager, you should be focused on making sure the team is producing the best possible product.

It’s important to remember that even if you have to criticize someone’s work or their behavior, you’re not doing it to hurt them. You’re there to help. Every word should come from a place of caring. So tell them what’s holding them back. Then make a plan to work on it together.

If you’re a good manager and build a good team, that team will blast off. So lean into it. Cheer them on when they get promoted. Glow with pride when they kick ass at a board meeting or present their work to the entire company. That’s how you become a good manager. That’s how you start to love the job.

But data can’t solve an opinion-based problem. So no matter how much data you get, it will always be inconclusive. This leads to analysis paralysis—death by overthinking.

If you don’t have enough data to make a decision, you’ll need insights to inform your opinion. Insights can be key learnings about your customers or your market or your product space—something substantial that gives you an intuitive feeling for what you should do.

People just can’t articulate what they want clearly enough to definitely point in one direction or another, especially if they’re considering something completely new that they’ve never used before. Customers will always be more comfortable with what exists already, even if it’s terrible.

A/B and user testing is not product design. It’s a tool. A test. At best, a diagnosis. It can tell you something’s not working, but it won’t tell you how to fix it. Or it can show you an option that solves one hyperlocal issue but breaks something else downstream.

You need a hypothesis, and that hypothesis should be part of a bigger product vision. So you can A/B test where the “Buy” button should go on a Web page, whether it should be blue or orange, but you shouldn’t be testing whether or not a customer should buy online.

If you’re testing the core of your product, if the basic functionality can flex and change depending on the whims of an A/B test, then there is no core. There’s a hole where your product vision should be and you’re just shoveling data into the void.

Storytelling is how you get people to take a leap of faith to do something new. It’s what all our big choices ultimately come down to—believing a story we tell ourselves or that someone else tells us. Creating a believable narrative that everyone can latch on to is critical to moving forward and making hard choices. It’s all that marketing comes down to. It’s the heart of sales.

Helping people see things from the customer’s perspective is a critical tool, but it’s just part of what you need to do. Your job in this moment is to craft a narrative that convinces leadership that your gut is trustworthy, that you’ve found all the data that could be gleaned, that you have a track record of good decisions, that you grasp the decision makers’ fears and are mitigating those risks, that you truly understand your customers and their needs and—most importantly—that what you’re proposing will have a positive impact on the business.

So you can’t wait for perfect data. It doesn’t exist. You just have to take that first step into the unknown. Combine everything you’ve learned and take your best guess at what’s going to happen next.

it’s data and intuition.”

But pushing for greatness doesn’t make you an asshole. Not tolerating mediocrity doesn’t make you an asshole. Challenging assumptions doesn’t make you an asshole. Before dismissing someone as “just an asshole,” you need to understand their motivations.

You should talk to people and make connections because you’re naturally curious.

don’t just make a prototype of your product and think you’re done. Prototype as much of the full customer experience as possible. Make the intangible tangible so you can’t overlook the less showy but incredibly important parts of the journey. You should be able to map out and visualize exactly how a customer discovers, considers, installs, uses, fixes, and even returns your product. It all matters.

The only time hardware is worth the headache of manufacturing and packaging and shipping is if it’s critically necessary and transformative. If hardware doesn’t absolutely need to exist to enable the overall experience, then it should not exist.

“Don’t tell me what’s so special about this object. Tell me what’s different about the customer journey.” Your product isn’t only your product. It’s the whole user experience—a chain that begins when someone learns about your brand for the first time and ends when your product disappears from their life, returned or thrown away, sold to a friend or deleted in a burst of electrons.

Makers often focus on the shiny object—the product they’re building—and forget about the rest of the journey until they’re almost ready to deliver it to the customer. But customers see it all, experience it all. They’re the ones taking the journey, step-by-step. And they can easily stumble and fall when a step is missing or misaligned.

In each of these moments, the customer asks “why?” Why should I care? Why should I buy it? Why should I use it? Why should I stick with it? Why should I buy the next version? Your product, marketing, and support have to grease the skids—continually communicate and connect with customers, give them the answers they need, so they feel like they’re on a smooth ride, a single continuous, inevitable journey.

don’t wait until your product is done to get started—map out the whole journey as you map out what your product will do.

Start from that very first moment of the customer journey. You should be prototyping your marketing long before you have anything to market. At Nest, that meant focusing on the box. The packaging led everything. The product name, the tagline, the top features, their priority order, the main value props—they were literally printed on a cardboard box that we constantly held, looked at, tweaked, revised.

Instead we included four heads—more than anyone needed to install the thermostat—so that people could use it for practically anything. So that Nest stayed in their brains as long as the screwdriver stayed in their drawer.

Our product was good, but ultimately it was the whole journey that defined our brand. That’s what made Nest special. It’s what makes Apple special. It’s what allows businesses to reach beyond their product and create a connection—not with users and consumers, but with human beings. It’s how you create something that people will love.

Every product should have a story, a narrative that explains why it needs to exist and how it will solve your customer’s problems. A good product story has three elements: »  It appeals to people’s rational and emotional sides. »  It takes complicated concepts and makes them simple. » It reminds people of the problem that’s being solved—it focuses on the “why.”

He used a technique I later came to call the virus of doubt. It’s a way to get into people’s heads, remind them about a daily frustration, get them annoyed about it all over again. If you can infect them with the virus of doubt—“Maybe my experience isn’t as good as I thought, maybe it could be better”—then you prime them for your solution. You get them angry about how it works now so they can get excited about a new way of doing things.

Your product’s story is its design, its features, images and videos, quotes from customers, tips from reviewers, conversations with support agents. It’s the sum of what people see and feel about this thing that you’ve created.

And it all starts with “why.” Why does this thing need to exist? Why does it matter? Why will people need it? Why will they love it?

You have to appeal to their emotions—connect with something they care about. Their worries, their fears. Or show them a compelling vision of the future: give a human example. Walk through how a real person will experience this product—their day, their family, their work, the change they’ll experience. Just don’t lean so far into the emotional connection that what you’re arguing for feels novel, but not necessary.

Another thing I learned from Steve Jobs. He’d always say that analogies give customers superpowers. A great analogy allows a customer to instantly grasp a difficult feature and then describe that feature to others. That’s why “1,000 songs in your pocket” was so powerful. Everyone had CDs and tapes in bulky players that only let you listen to 10–15 songs, one album at a time. So “1,000 songs in your pocket” was an incredible contrast—it let people visualize this intangible thing—all the music they loved all together in one place, easy to find, easy to hold—and gave them a way to tell their friends and family why this new iPod thing was so cool.

You should always be striving to tell a story so good that it stops being yours—so your customer learns it, loves it, internalizes it, owns it. And tells it to everyone they know.

You can continue evolving that product for a while, but always seek out new ways to disrupt yourself. You can’t only start thinking about it when the competition threatens to catch up or your business begins to stagnate.

When you’re evolving you need to understand the quintessential things that define your product. What’s key to your feature set and your branding? What have you trained the customer to look for? With the iPod it was the click wheel. With the Nest Learning Thermostat it was the round, clean screen with a big temperature in the middle.

To maintain the core of your product there are usually one or two things that have to stay still while everything else spins and changes around them. And that’s a useful constraint. You need some constraints to force you to dig deep and get creative, to push envelopes you hadn’t thought to open before.

So we learned to underpromise and overdeliver. We’d be conservative about key features like battery life—all through development we’d make sure we’d reached a number that Steve was satisfied with.

You cannot be afraid to disrupt the thing that made you successful in the first place. Even if it made you hugely successful. Look at Kodak. Look at Nokia.

Once every carmaker has an electric vehicle, then the customer will focus on all these other aspects that Tesla has already disrupted and brought to market. Competition is a given, both direct and indirect. Someone is always watching, trying to exploit any crack in a more successful competitor.

You should also keep in mind that you’re not just making V1 or V2 of your product—you’re building out the first or second version of your team and processes.

Here’s the trick: write a press release. But don’t write it when you’re done. Write it when you start. I began doing this at Apple and eventually realized other leaders had figured it out, too (looking at you, Bezos). It’s an incredibly useful tool to narrow down what really matters.

When you write a press release you say, “Here. This. This is what’s newsworthy. This is what really matters.”

The way you keep everyone moving is by creating strong internal deadlines—heartbeats that your team sets their calendar to:

But we would have never reached that third design if we hadn’t given ourselves hard deadlines with the first two—if we hadn’t cut ourselves off after a few months, reset, and moved on. We forced as many constraints on ourselves as possible: not too much time, not too much money, and not too many people on the team. That last point is important.

So keep your project small as long as you can. And don’t allocate too much money at the start. People do stupid things when they have a giant budget—they overdesign, they overthink. That inevitably leads to longer runways, longer schedules, and slower heartbeats. Much, much slower.

So have at least one really big launch and another one to three smaller launches every year.

Your team will have to figure out how to find product/market fit for V1, then get the product fixed up and properly marketed to a wider audience with V2, and only then can you focus on optimizing the business so it can be sustainable and profitable with V3.

Both the unexpected issues that inevitably crop up after you launch and the stuff you cut corners on the first time. V2 usually comes swiftly after V1 because you’ve learned so much so fast and you’re dying to get it all into the next generation.

They created a V1 product, scaled it for V2, then optimized the business in V3. The Nest Learning Thermostat followed the same pattern.

You make the product. You fix the product. You build the business.

There are three elements to every great idea:

1. It solves for “why.” Long before you figure out what a product will do, you need to understand why people will want it. The “why” drives the “what.”

2. It solves a problem that a lot of people have in their daily lives.

3. It follows you around. Even after you research and learn about it and try it out and realize how hard it’ll be to get it right, you can’t stop thinking about it.

That’s why we didn’t just present our vision when we pitched investors. We presented the why—told our story—and then we presented the risks. Too many startups don’t know what they’re getting into or, worse, try to cover up the risks of failure.

Sharing the load is one thing; unloading it altogether is another. If you’re going to lead a team, you need to be ready to lead.

In those very, very early days you want people who are there for the mission above all. You’re looking for passion, enthusiasm, and mindset. And you’re looking for seed crystals. Seed crystals are people who are so good and so well loved that they can almost single-handedly build large parts of your org.

Typically a VC needs between 18 and 22 percent to make their model work—step carefully if they begin asking for more. And don’t assume they’re the only game in town—if your gut is telling you to keep looking, then keep looking.

You need some way to rise to the top and get their attention. The best way to do that is with a compelling story. And knowing your audience. Even in Silicon Valley, most VCs won’t be technical. So don’t focus on the technology, focus on the “why.”

It’s like playing chess. You always have to think two moves—and two investment rounds—ahead.

Steve Jobs was clear about the lesson he’d learned and made sure we all learned it, too: any company that tries to do both B2B and B2C will fail.

That’s the other rule: if you cater to both, your marketing still has to be B2C.

You can only have one customer. Choose wisely.

The act of using a pen, then retyping and editing later, forced me to process information differently.

Everyone needs to find their own system. But you do need to prioritize your tasks, manage and organize your thoughts, and create a predictable schedule for your team to access those thoughts. And then you need to take a break.

As a leader, you’ll have to get into the weeds. Don’t be worried about micromanagement—as the crisis unfolds your job is to tell people what to do and how to do it. However, very quickly after everyone has calmed down and gotten to work, let them do their jobs without you breathing down their necks.

If something is your fault, tell them what you did. Tell them what you’ve learned from it. And tell them how you’ll prevent it from ever happening again. No evading, blaming, or making excuses. Just accept responsibility and be a grown-up.

The best teams are multigenerational—Nest employed twenty-year-olds and seventy-year-olds. Experienced people have a wealth of wisdom that they can pass on to the next generation and young people can push back against long-held assumptions. They can often see the opportunity that lies in accomplishing difficult things, while experienced people see only the difficulty.

Different people think differently and every new perspective, background, and experience you bring into the business improves the business.

The key is to get the candidate talking to the right people.

Crown 1 was the hiring manager. They got the role approved and found the candidates. Crowns 2 and 3 were managers of the candidate’s internal customers. They picked one or two people from their team to interview the candidate. Feedback was collected, shared, and discussed, then the Three Crowns met to decide who to hire.

Another good interview technique is to simulate work—instead of asking them how they work, just work with them. Pick a problem and try to solve it together. Choose a subject that both of you are familiar with but neither is an expert in—if you pick a problem in their domain they’ll always sound smart; pick a problem in yours and you’ll always know better.

You’re not just interviewing to see if a person can do the job required of them today. You’re trying to understand if they have the innate tools to think through the problems and jobs you don’t see coming yet—the jobs they can grow into tomorrow.

the only way to do that was to integrate new people into the culture at a reasonable pace, so they could learn by doing, by watching, by working with the team and absorbing the culture organically.

Don’t worry about getting too in the weeds or not giving them enough freedom. Not at first. A brand-new person needs all the help they can get to become really well integrated. Explain how you do things in detail so they don’t make mistakes and alienate the rest of the team right off the bat. Talk to them about what’s working and what isn’t, what you would do in their position, what’s encouraged and what’s verboten, who to ask for help and who to treat with kid gloves.

Just as people make a commitment to your company when they join it, you make a commitment to them. If you’re leading a company or a large org, it is your responsibility to help people identify their challenge areas and give them space and coaching to get better or help them to find a spot at the company where they can be successful.

What you’re building never matters as much as who you’re building it with.

You have to start forming a strategy for how you’ll grow past a breakpoint long before you reach it—at a minimum two to three months before the break and then months of follow-up after.

So focus people’s attention on the opportunity: help them get curious about what their job could become, instead of being fearful of what they might lose.

So to preserve what you love, have your team write down the things they value most and build a plan to continue them. And remember it’s not necessarily the obvious stuff that binds people to your company—it can be small things, silly things. At Nest a few members of the team started doing barbecues in the parking lot when we were really small.

Businesses that try to ignore breakpoints either don’t survive or get stuck at their current size and stagnate.

At its core, designing simply means thinking through a problem and finding an elegant solution.

Deploy design thinking: This is a well-known strategy originated by IDEO’s David Kelley that encourages you to identify your customer and their pain points, deeply understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and systematically uncover ways to solve it.

Avoid habituation: Everyone gets used to things. Life is full of tiny and enormous inconveniences that you no longer notice because your brain has simply accepted them as unchangeable reality and filtered them out.

Literally the only way to make a really good product is to dig in, analyze your customer’s needs, and explore all the possible options (including the unexpected ones:

But you shouldn’t outsource a problem before you try to solve it yourself, especially if solving that problem is core to the future of your business. If it’s a critical function, your team needs to build the muscle to understand the process and do it themselves.

Ask why at every step—why is it like this now? How can it be better? Think like a user who has never tried this product before; dig into their mindset, their pain and challenges, their hopes and desires. Break it down into steps and set all the constraints up front.

Understand and tell the story of the product.

Create prototypes all along the way.

Marketing cannot just be figured out at the very end.

Use marketing to prototype your product narrative. The

The product is the brand.

The entire experience has to be designed together, with different touchpoints explaining different parts of your messaging to create a consistent, cohesive experience.

The best marketing is just telling the truth. The ultimate job of marketing is to find the very best way to tell the true story of your product.

And you tell a story: you connect with people’s emotions so they’re drawn to your narrative, but you also appeal to their rational side so they can convince themselves it’s the smart move to buy what you’re selling. You balance what they want to hear with what they need to know.

First you break down the pain points that your customer is feeling or has habituated away. Each pain is a “why”—it gives your product a reason to exist. The painkiller is the “how”—these are the features that will solve the customer’s problem. The “I want it” column explains the emotions that your customers are feeling. The “I need it” column covers the rational reasons to buy this product. The whole product narrative should be in there—every pain, every painkiller, every rational and emotional impulse, every insight about your customer.

For every version of the Nest story, we wrote down the most common objections and how we’d overcome them—what stats to use, what pages of the website to send people to, what partnerships to mention or testimonials to point to. We figured out which story we could put on a billboard all the way down to the story we’d tell a longtime customer.

Everything is connected to everything, so everything must be understood together.

The spec shows the features, the details of how a product will work, but the messaging predicts people’s concerns and finds ways to mitigate them. It answers the question, “Why will customers care?” And that question has to be answered long before anyone gets to work.

The best salespeople are the ones who maintain relationships even if it means not making money that day.

But if sales is off to the side, doing their own thing, barely part of the company but steadily meeting their monthly goals, that can breed an insulated, transactional culture. And the way customers are treated in that kind of culture can be brutal—even in places where you’d assume customers must be treated well in order for salespeople to make any money.

Once commissions are vested on a schedule that prioritizes customer relationships, a lot of the ugliness that usually defines sales cultures disappears. Salespeople do a better job qualifying customers, the hypercompetition eases up, the backslapping fades, the teams align their expectations and their goals.

Hire a lawyer who doesn’t just think like a lawyer.

You don’t have to be an expert in everything. You just have to care about it.

They hold people (and themselves) accountable and drive for results.

They can keep an eye on the long-term vision while still being eyeball-deep in details.

In this job, respect is always more important than being liked.

And as always when you’re presenting numbers, it becomes much more important to craft a narrative. You have to tell a story.

Just as dessert shouldn’t come before dinner, perks shouldn’t come before the mission you’re there to achieve. The mission should fill and fuel your company. The perks should be a sprinkle of sugar on top.

In the end, there are two things that matter: products and people. What you build and who you build it with.

See the invisible problems not just the obvious problems. For example, Steve Jobs wanted the iPod batteries fully charged for the customer when unboxing so they customer can use it instantly.