The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Just finished “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz who is probably best known as the Horowitz in “Andreessen Horowitz” – as in Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame. It was a quick read. Mostly targeted at CEOs, especially CEOs of tech startups, but still had some useful ideas and concepts for those of us not in that camp. I’ve pulled out a few of my favorites below.

  • If you’re going to eat $hit, don’t nibble
  • The customer only knows what she thinks she wants based on her experience with the current product. The innovator can take into account everything that’s possible
  • In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust.
  • Build a culture that rewards – not punishes – people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.
  • When you expect your employees to act like adults, they generally do. If you treat them like children, then get ready for your company to turn into one big Barney episode.
  • Being too busy to train is the moral equivalent of being too hungry to eat.
  • Management purely by numbers is sort of like painting by numbers—it’s strictly for amateurs.
  • The Law of Crappy People states: For any title level in a large organization, the talent on that level will eventually converge to the crappiest person with the title.
  • Once an employee takes a public stance, the social pressure for him to be consistent is enormous.
  • Shock is a great mechanism for behavioral change.
  • Move fast and break things.
  • Perks are good, but they are not culture.
  • You want to optimize the organization for the people—for the people doing the work—not for the managers.
  • In life, everybody faces choices between doing what’s popular, easy, and wrong versus doing what’s lonely, difficult, and right.
  • How easy is it for any given individual contributor to get her job done?” In well-run organizations, people can focus on their work (as opposed to politics and bureaucratic procedures) and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen both for the company and for them personally. By contrast, in a poorly run organization, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries and broken processes.
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