My whole career I’ve been around startups. When I started my first company, the entrepreneurial path was not common – the corporate route was far more common among college and B-school grads, and most all of my friends went into traditional corporate roles.
The problem for the entrepreneur (and I fell into this trap) is this: even though my mindset was all about creating new things, I still thought of career in a very linear sense — put in my time, work really hard, hit a home run. Eventually. The key thing there was working hard. But what has become obvious is that the concept of nose-to-the-grindstone, which comes out of generations and generations of humans toiling in the fields or more recently toiling in factories, no longer applies. The old model was repetitive action to produce a predictable result. Then new reality is that most of us do not get paid for our physical labor – we get paid to think, and the more insightful the thinking, the better.
At a Seth Godin seminar I attended, Seth told us the story of an engineer at Google who tried something new one day – he inserted a line of code that boldfaced the search word within an adwords ad (the same word as a searcher typed in). He didn’t tell anyone, and if it hadn’t worked it would’ve been just a little failed experiment. The result of that one little test? A 400% increase in clickthrough. That translated into, what, $50 billion more in valuation for Google? Sure, hard work led up to that experiment, but still. It was a flash of insight, not just a repetitive rote motion.
This is now playing out in real time in our own lives. Microsoft suffered an agonizing 20 year span of execution, iteration and reiteration, to get Windows right. But Facebook? Using agile development, improvements are rapid, even daily. And founder Mark Zuckerberg isn’t exactly thinking about 401K retirement funds.
Where’s the home run in your career? The end-run strategy that does not have to take 20 years to accomplish?