Working on Zero-to-One
Building new products from zero-to-one is hard. The odds are stacked unreasonably against you and your team. You need an incredibly strong self-belief, and a set of people who believe in that thing with the same amount of vigour, if you are to have any chance of succeeding at building something new.
The worst thing in this situation is to be carrying non-believers. People who aren’t aligned with what you’re doing. These people shouldn’t be working on this thing at all.
Here’s what I check to see if someone is fit for the zero-to-one journey:
- They are inherently optimistic. You’d hate to have to pump a daily dose of excitement and hope into them if they’re not optimistic themselves.
- They are resourceful and can do more with less. They know that everything has a cost – team members’ time, new headcounts, internal costs, facilities – everything.
- They commit wholeheartedly to the cause. There are no half measures. It is disingenuous and dishonest if they don’t commit fully but give a false impression of doing so.
- They are paranoid and have a sense of urgency. They understand that the default is death, and that the constant struggle is to survive and be relevant. So they always act fast and decisively.
- They are very high ownership, not limited by their role. When they see a problem, they either help solve it or bring it to the attention of someone who can solve it. They don’t ignore it thinking it’s for someone else to worry about.
- They aren’t set in their ways and a rigid status quo. They know that there are no rules. No single approach is the best approach and that everything can be questioned, changed and adapted to fit the need of the hour.
- They are open to change. They understand the importance of listening to the market when it speaks. When something doesn’t work, they acknowledge the need to iterate more.
It is ultimately very risky to carry ‘passengers’ when you’re doing zero-to-one. The constraints are too strict for you to be taking along people who just don’t believe in the mission.
Pick wisely and prune frequently.