Two weeks ago I ran my first half marathon with Dmitry in 2:14:01. My friends' advice was to ignore the other runners out of the gate, pace myself in the first half of the marathon, reevaluate midway through and then adjust my pace to how I felt. This worked. As Dmitry and I crossed the halfway point something happened that amazed me: we started passing runners who had previously passed us. We gained ground and passed dozens of people throughout the last six miles to the finish.
The tortoise beats the hare every time.
I have never been a long distance runner--or any kind of runner--but I set a big goal, trained for three months and finished the race. During my training I experienced something that in hindsight is obvious: the faster your sprint, the more rapidly you burn up your energy and burn out. To achieve the kind of distance I needed, I had to adjust my pace. Remarkably I discovered a pace where everything evens out: breathing, stride, vision and mind all get into the same flow.
Product design and development is a long distance run, not a short sprint.
If you're looking for a rapid payoff, you're likely to burn out halfway through like the hare. You may have big goals like I did, but your passion
will not be enough. You need other people. Without their passion aligned with your own, you'll never sustain your vision long enough to make it to the finish. If you're not willing to open up your vision to accommodate theirs, you're in trouble from the start.
I have taught some variation of this many times (including recently at Google
), but it is another thing to put your ass on the line and do it as part of a team. In the past two weeks my team has reminded me that to win--to make something great happen for other people--you have to adjust your own pace to account for others' on your team, take the time to listen
, to show that you trust them and to get in a flow together. This is the key insight of the tortoise applied to a team.
When teams click like this, you get something that is greater than the mere sum of its parts. Everyone collectively takes responsibility for all those little interaction details that can add up to a great experience for somebody else. This is more important to a company's success than any technology choice, market position or brand attribute you'll ever decide on.