My cofounder and I are smack dab in the middle of one of the most exciting parts of starting a company. We are pre-launch and completely overwhelmed with tasks that need to be done but couldn’t be more happy and excited. Many of our chats have ended with us talking about and trying out new ideas regarding what type of company we want to create. By this I don’t mean Internet company vs manufacturing company, instead I mean what impact and culture are we trying to create. In essence we are trying to figure out what bigger problem are we working to solve.
It is a hard question and we are far from answering it but the conversation has been healthy and useful. So far, the general theme has revolved around building a team. There is a popular idea in the tech industry that the best way to develop a team is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than yourself.
I disagree with this. I have worked at two companies (SEOmoz and AT&T) where most of my teammates were smarter than me. It was nice in that it helped us think through problems but it didn’t make me any happier. Happiness is my measurement of success, not lines of code written or problems solved. Time and time again, the smartest people I know are also the least happy. I imagine it is hard to live in a world where you can see the inefficiencies of every situation.
These working experiences have taught me to be a big believer in the idea that ignorance really is bliss. This best illustrated in the extreme. Have you ever seen a puppy run toward a big bowl of food or a little kid blow bubbles? That is happiness.
Of course, you need to translate this idea into something that is applicable to the real world. You can’t have babies or first graders running your accounting department :-) A smile doesn’t translate into a dollar and laughter certainly doesn’t write code. Theory is great but only provides a glimpse into a better reality.
With this perspective, my plan for developing a team is to surround myself with people who are more inspirational than me. Having a smart team is a necessary start but intelligence doesn’t always develop into action. Inspiration on the other hand, does create action. It is the ignition that a lot of smart teams are missing.
This is an intriguing idea for me. Building a community of people who are inspirational is something that I may end up working on for the rest of my life.
As I have traveled around the world, it has become clear that ‘my kind of people’ are the ones who are super passionate about something. Anything. Even if it is something I know nothing about. The fire that you can see in their eyes is what excites me. It is these people who shape the world for the rest of us.
The problem these people run into is that passion projects tend to be expensive (it costs a lot to change the world!) Be it the art project for Burning Man or the tinkerer who requires elaborate circuits. Passion costs money.
I want to use this to my advantage by hiring these people. One side effect of passion is it tends to bleed into other areas of life. If you are super passionate about gopher tagging (I may have just made that concept up), it is likely that you will also show type of passion in other more monetizable aspects of your life. In exchange for helping me with problems I am working on (in the form of traditional employment), I want to help them work on their own projects. I want my co-workers to physically leave the office, turn off their communication devices and get into their own flow in their own way. In essence, I want to fund their passion in a mutually beneficial way.
I don’t know exactly how this will make its way into the company I am building now but I do know that the foundation is set. I’ll keep you updated.
P.S. I originally wrote this while sitting in the airport terminal in Barcelona. At the time I was heading off to celebrate my birthday with my brother in Brussels and Budapest. The trip ended up including more cities than that which is the reason I am off my normal posting schedule. Stay Tuned!
P.P.S The photo is of the famous peeing statue in Brussels, Belgium. It is these kind of fun passion projects that I want to fund.