Want to learn how to build a robust business?
Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about the difference between fragile, anti-fragile, and robustness in all sorts of areas of our lives. He offers academic advice on how to think about these three types of systems and after reading all his books it is clear how a robust system is more valuable than a non-robust system, yet Nassim doesn’t offer much in the way of practical advice on building hugely robust systems. For example there is no blueprint on how to build a robust business that can sustain the black swans that will eventually attempt to poison the operation of any business.
Enter Ed Catmull and his book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Ed’s book is fascinating for a number of reasons, as a techie, I love the parts of the story that involve the true technical innovation that the team behind Pixar journeyed through their entire lives. Ed recounts the stories of the innovators in animation and how the vision and leadership of Disney was so intertwined with those innovations as a point of inspiration. There are many lessons that can be learned from just this part of the story when looking at how huge companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft can establish themselves as visionary leaders inspiring the best of the best and that inspiration alone can lead to the opportunity to benefit from the newly inspired innovations.
My favorite part though is how Ed tries to convey the fact that he truly wanted to build a robust business. Through his partnerships, intentional culture building, and relentless focus, Ed outlines how he built a robust business that could innovate when needed, meet strict deadlines, overcome problems with mediocre products, and sustain through multiple business cycles, ownership structures, and customer environments. The goal of building a robust business like this is somewhat unique. As an outsider looking in and reading the book, I completely understand why the transparent feedback loops that Ed focused on so much are so critical. I’m a creative contributor as well to the businesses I work with and being open to honest feedback and intense discussion is not an environment that is common in business. Too often the structures that are used for reprimand or reward get in the way of truly open robust discussion and this hindrance begins to degrade a business culture. Add to this common misbehavior in business an overzealous focus on being the lowest cost provider and many businesses remove all ability to be robust or withstand difficult times.
If you’re an investor, entrepreneur, or are thinking of getting a job somewhere…. I encourage you to read Ed’s book and learn a little about how he see’s building businesses that are robust enough to withstand the headwinds that all businesses will face.
Btw, if you want pre-release content from my book sign-up here.