Values 2010

Values are things that help define you as a company or person.  I think it’s important to list them out and periodically review them.  I just updated mine.  Here they are:

Transparency
Take a look at this blog post by Balsamiq. I can’t believe how transparent he is about his company. I actually am not suggesting to be that transparent in general, but I deeply respect it. Nothing bad is going to happen to his company because of full disclosure. Alot of people I know read that and will be more loyal to Balsamiq because of it. At Marketo, I pushed for showing the product through videos and screenshots. Even though the competition didn’t show a single thing on their sites. They may have stole some ideas or designs, but in the end, we were leading and they were following. I am a big proponent of transparency for the purpose of building trust and loyalty. Plus it helps to establish thought leadership.

Craftsmanship
Too often, I have seen engineers shrug their shoulders while they build something they know is a bad idea. Having a value of craftsmanship and ownership of your work is important to get people to think on their own and make good decisions. It also helps for people to focus on improving their knowledge. You can’t be a craftsman if you aren’t involved in your craft community and learning the latest techniques. Seth Godin calls it Otaku, somewhere between hobby and obsession. A value of craftsmanship has many good benefits. However, this often means going a little slower. Building with more thoughtfulness. Time to market is important, but craftsmanship is more important. I have found that you can actually go MUCH faster this way, but it takes commitment and patience by all involved.

Give Back
I hate when a company uses some open source software and builds on it and doesn’t give back to the community. Giving back means contributing code or spending a percentage of time answering questions online like Stack Overflow or UXExchange.com. The economic benefits are huge in PR, recruiting and marketing. Plus it helps employees feel they are “sponsored” to do good things. It builds reputation for each employee and builds loyalty for the group. I think Engineers should spend at least 2 hours a week answering questions or submitting code built for the company into the public domain. There can be rules about what is generic and what is company assets, but I find most companies draw the line too sternly and nothing is ever submitted back. The downside of this is lost time. I think it’s worth it though.

Fun
Every single UI I have ever built had some aspects of fun baked in it. Fun is what inspires people to think out of the box. It’s creativity. I dress up for Halloween. I love Puns. Easter Eggs are good in applications. People buy functionality, but they love the details. If the details have some playfulness in them, they will be more successful. When a company is too serious, then they just build the basics for task completion. Fun means you have to build extra things. However, I have found that these sorts of projects/features are energizing and yield a better overall metabolism.

Clarity
So often, there is misalignment because people have different assumptions of the reason they are doing something. Who is the target market? What are they like? What does success look like? It is critical for each person to try and bring clarity to the organization. When someone is hired, we shouldn’t bury them in technical detail first. Rather, we should make sure they understand the point of the enterprise. This means spending more time to educate and to boil down our messages. But again, this will speed up the system overall.

I think one theme here is “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  By investing in the right way of doing things, it might seem slower at first, but its actually much faster in the long run.  Building something great energizes everyone involved.  Whether it’s a great company or a great product, if you invest in success, you will be much happier.

One Reply to “Values 2010”

  1. I like the idea of having people at the company give back via things like StackOverflow.com. That is a really nice gesture and has all the benefits that you mention. Plus, I think it overlaps heavily with the idea of craftsmanship – I think contribution will enable innovation and learning.

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