Skills, traits, and values in hiring

We were in conversation with Lea Hickman, a former VP of Product at Adobe and Invision, yesterday and asked her about her reflections on hiring over the past three decades. She said the biggest change was moving from hiring for past experience/hard skill fit to hiring entirely for folks who enjoyed collaborating, exhibited an appetite for continuous learning, and demonstrated grit.

This was fascinating for 2 reasons. I found it interesting that her hiring criteria evolved from a focus on “intercept” to a focus on “slope.”

And, second, it reminded me of Ray Dalio’s insistence that most conventional hiring managers have their priorities backward because they insist on testing skills instead of understanding how the candidate’s abilities and values fit with the role.

Not selling Basecamp by the seat

Basecamp co-founder, David Heinemeir Hansson, had a thoughtful post about why they chose not to sell Basecamp by the seat.

The problem with per-seat pricing is that it makes your biggest customers your best customers. With money comes influence, power and pressure. By maintaining a per-company pricing (regardless of size), no one customer’s demands would automatically rise to the top. So, they didn’t have to displease many to please a couple of large customers.

Second, they didn’t want to deal with the mechanics of chasing big contracts. They wanted to keep their company small and nimble. And, finally, this enabled them to build Basecamp for businesses like themselves – the “Fortune 5,000,000.”

John Shattock, the CEO of Beam, once said – “Values aren’t values until the cost you money.” Wikipedia is a classic example of this idea. They could easily become one of the biggest ad businesses on the planet. But, they choose not to.

Similarly, by clearly trading off large amounts of money for freedom, the Basecamp co-founders continue to demonstrate the simple, counter intuitive, and provocative approach to running a tech company that they’re famous for.

The problem with per-seat pricing is that it by definition makes your biggest customers your best customers. With money comes influence, if not outright power. And from that flows decisions about what and who to spend time on. There’s no way to be immune from such pressure once the money is flowing. The only fix is to cap the spigot. – DHH

Source and thanks to: Basecamp blog

(This story and quote is part of “The 200 words project.” I aim to synthesize a story from a book (and, occasionally a blog or article) I’ve read within 200 words consecutive Sundays for around 45 weeks of the year.)

Values privilege

Values are values only when they costs us money. So, if you care a ton about honesty, you might have to choose to buy all your movies instead of watching them pirated. Watching them pirated might be free. But, we have to trade off whether we care more about honesty or the money.

What happens when we don’t have any extra money then?

Values go out the door.

If you are a family that is struggling to make ends meet, you have no bandwidth to think or care about much else. It is all about survival. And, if it means survival of our group at the cost of another, so be it.

The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains this beautifully.

Image Credit: Simply Psychology

If our basic needs aren’t met, then values are a privilege we can’t afford. And, in a world where inequality continues to be on the rise, this will continue to be the case for a growing segment of the population. We will have to find a way to deal with this.

There is no way around it.

“Just a little”

It is better to be completely honest or completely dishonest. Being “just a little” dishonest is a problem.

Being just a little honest/kind/environmentally conscious means we are only those things when the situation suits us. The moment the going gets hard, we change our behavior.

The problem here isn’t just the unpredictability of our behavior – though that is definitely a problem. The bigger problem here is that we live a life built on lies to ourselves. We just rationalize away any bad behavior and think of ourselves as honest human beings. We do so by blaming all of our “just a little” behavior on extenuating circumstances. And, by gradually believing this lie, we stop feeling the kind of guilt that focuses us to take action.

The “Just a little” way of life is a massive problem because it is built on bad behavior during extenuating circumstances. Life, it turns out, is just a series of extenuating circumstances.

Kite strings – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea thanks to some awesome anonymous storyteller and a hat tip to Vik’s blog for sharing the story.

A son was watching his father fly a kite. After some time, the son said – “Dad, that string isn’t allowing the kite to go any further higher.”

Hearing this, the father smiled and broke the string. The kite went higher for a while and then began to come down and, eventually, fell to the ground. The child was very disappointed as he saw his idea fail.

The father took the opportunity to share a life lesson. He said – “Son, in life, when we reach a certain level of prosperity, we can often feel that there are certain things in our life that are not letting us grow any further. These things can be home, our values, our culture, our existing friendships etc. We feel the need to be free from those strings as we believe they stop us from going higher. But, remember, going higher is easier than staying at that higher level. Often, it is precisely our friends, family and values that help us stay stable as we experience the highs of our achievements.”

Source and thanks to: LinkedIn Pulse

And one to make you smile – ‘If you ever want to call a family meeting these days, turn off the WiFi router and wait in the room where it’s located.’ :-)

Things that will not change

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was recently asked about what Amazon might look ten years from now given all the changes sweeping through the world thanks to technology.

His response was that, instead of looking at what would change in the next decade, Amazon preferred to look at what would not change. So, there may be big shifts in the devices customers use to shop, for example, but customers will always favor low prices. A focus on things that will not change helps anchor Amazon to its objectives.

News websites and blogs called described this line as “Jeff Bezos’ advice to entrepreneurs.”

I think of it as advice for life. As we think about our lives in the coming years and decades, it should be clear that a lot of what we think will happen will not actually take place and that there will be more change in the way we do things than you and I can probably imagine. Instead of focusing on that, we’re better off focusing on what won’t change – our values and principles. It is worth thinking intentionally about these values and principles as we adapt to all that happens around us.

Despite its focus to lower prices and deliver a customer-centric experience, Amazon does make the odd misstep. We will, too. Change demands a relentless focus on what really matters.

It won’t be easy… but, boy, will it be worth it.

“You may not like us..and that’s okay. “

Every great brand takes a stand for what it believes in. When it does that, it says – “You may not like us.. and that’s okay.” Apple and Harley Davidson aren’t mass market products but they sure are authentic. There is a certain consistent beauty present across their products that comes from that authenticity.

It isn’t too different for us as individuals. When we stand for what we believe in, we also say “You may not like me.. and that’s okay.”

Until we do that, it is impossible to be authentic.

And, without authenticity, it is impossible to be happy.