Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Max McKeown

by Asim Jalis

I heard a talk by Max McKeown at Microsoft last week. Here's what I found interesting. One reason for his success might be that he speaks his mind. He spoke a few years ago about "Why Everyone Hates Microsoft". Now he goes around companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google and acts as a kind of cross-fertilization mechanism for ideas on how to improve the company: how to innovate, how to improve employee morale, etc. Here are my notes from the talk. These excerpts from the talk and from audience comments, and not my reflections on the subject. 1. Hierarchical production system versus a P2P production system. Traditional companies are hierarchical. Innovative companies are a P2P production system. 2. GoreTex culture. No management structure. Leaders who are simply adopted minute to minute, hour to hour, month to month. 3. What motivates Wikipedia contributors? The same thing as behind any open source projects: a dash of altruism, a dose of obsessive compulsiveness, and a good chunk of egotism. 4. You must give credit. People should get credit for what they do. This spurs innovation. It encourages people to share ideas. 5. What happens to a new idea that is not patentable and not needed. It ceases to be. You can't come back to it, like you can to a book. With artifacts there is a place they can exist. 6. When there is nowhere for competing idea to go, it kills innovation. There is no ecology for new ideas and innovation. 7. There is a conflict between innovation and accountability. Innovative companies measure and reward ideas, while traditional companies measure and reward work. 8. Autonomy is necessary for innovation. Open source is not the answer. Autonomous working with more channels to market is the answer. You have to know that the thing you are doing, has some chance of changing something. That's it's going to be so bastardized that by the time it comes out no one knows what it's for. 9. Why are there no internal competitors. Why can't more product groups fail? Create portions of the company that compete with the rest of the company. 10. Do something for the sheer love of doing it, not just to cash in on the bandwagon. 11. As market matures you have to standardize and impose structure to make progress as things get bigger. 12. You need more slack around what you do otherwise you will have no time for invention. Create fewer good innovations instead of many bad innovations. 13. Alex Bell: Leave the beaten track occassionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before. Follow it up, explore all around it, and before you know it, you will have something worth thinking about to occupy your mind. All really big discoveries aer the results of thought. 14. Anonymous quote:I have to remind my brothers how vital it is to have one, possibly two fiascos per year. Should Alessi go for two or three years without a fiasco, we will be in danger of losing our leadership in design. 15. One big answer is to allow more autonomy. 16. Many inventors retain their childhood spirit of improvisation, combining it with expertise in one or multiple fields. These inventors step over the boundaries of one field to adopt the tools or strategies of another. 17. If you are rewarded for ideas and success then that leads to a meritocracy. If you are rewarded for following the process then you have a system which rewards existing seniority. 18. People self-organize based on interest. 19. In stores it should be easy to buy. In companies it should be easy to innovate. 20. Don't live in a box. Innovate wherever you want. Create collaborative communities.