Recently, I went with friends to attend an intimate event hosted by Tom Chi, the co-founder of Google X (the not so secret Google lab that brought you Google Glass, the self-driving car, and Project Loon) and now FactoryX.
What is FactoryX you ask?
“For all the innovation in the valley, one thing we’ve never taken a deep look at is the nature of companies themselves. For half a millennium, we’ve strengthened corporations at the expense of individual empowerment and benefit to society. But ultimately, corporations are nothing more than ways of organizing work, and the only point in organizing work is to empower individuals and benefit society. FactoryX is a bold experiment to revise the nature of companies themselves and re-invent entrepreneurship from the ground up.” – from the FactoryX website
His talk was fascinating, exploring alternative frameworks for talent/recruitment, legal, product development, and marketing/distribution. But here are 3 simple take aways from Tom Chi’s talk that you can more readily apply to your own work.
Skip the guess-a-thon and just do it
We all have been there. Stuck in long meetings, discussing and guessing theories before putting anything into practice. But Tom strongly believes that it is more efficient to think by doing.
After all, when we first learned how to ride a bike, we didn’t do it by reading books on the physics of biking. We learned by actually getting on a bike, and through trial and error, we succeeded.
On this principle, Factory X takes rapid prototyping very seriously. Here is a typical schedule below. Take note that there are only 2 mandatory meetings in purple- one on Monday to decide what they are making and one on Friday for reflection and gratitude. The rest of the time is focused on the actual doing.
What’s even crazier is that every week, FactoryX design/develop/test a completely new product. At the end of 10 weeks, they start a new company, selecting the most viable product from the 10 products they have developed within that time frame. It could take large companies 10 months to realize a product is a complete dud. But at FactoryX’s crazy fast rate, it would only take them 10 minutes.
When have you started with theories before putting into practice? When have you started with practice then moved on to theory?
Manage your attachment
During quick brainstorms, Tom found that 2-3 minutes is ideal. Because after the first wave of ideas are spurted out and people start to run out of steam, instead of coming up with new ideas, people start attaching themselves to their favorite ideas, which they then start championing during group discussions. This will stifle creativity, as people’s bias will prevent them from being open and objective to other ideas and opinions.
Tom warns us that attachment can be hindrance to innovation.
Companies also fail when they are too attached to a way of thinking or doing. They fail when they don’t have the foresight to acknowledge market changes and pivot to stay relevant.
Blockbuster became one of the biggest failures in movie rental business, as they shrugged off online videos as a fad, remained attached to their brand, and didn’t do anything to change their offering until it was too late.
Attachment management is crucial to the success of products, companies, and the progression of an industry.
When have you held on too strongly to an idea or way of doing things?
Know your Life Mission
It’s important to spend some time thinking about and identifying your life mission. What consumes your mind? What do you want from this life?
To stay active and engaged at work, it is helpful to seek out companies that promote and push forward your own life mission. Of course it is not realistic for a company to support 100% of all your life missions (like those relating to personal relationships, etc), but if it accounts for 30-40% of it, Tom says you’re doing good.
One of the audience members asked Tom, “What’s your life mission?”
He explained that the challenge that preoccupies his mind is making human existence a net positive to nature. Since most of our interaction with nature is facilitated through companies, he thought it was critical to explore new company structures and new ways to organize work so that the individual, society, and nature ultimately benefit- thus the existence of FactoryX.
I look forward to the successes of FactoryX in building the foundation for the modern company of the 21st century.