Monthly Archives

June 2018

Favorite Color Theory

By | Theories | 6 Comments

My favorite color is blue.

I really enjoy eating at Chipotle.

Inception is one of my favorite movies.

Those are all facts. They can’t be argued. The reason is because they are all relative to myself and my own opinions. Let me reword those three statements and see how we can make it a bit more controversial:

Blue is the best color.

Chipotle is the best food chain.

Inception is the best movie of all time.

See? Those cannot be proven as facts and any argument is futile because they are based on opinions.

I try to remember this principle as often as possible in the business world. And more importantly, as I tried my best to run my last company, I really hope that my team understood this principle.

In business, and especially in the corporate world, I’ve learned that it’s less about who’s right and who’s wrong and more about the opinions of those entrusted to make decisions. (Barry Bonds-like asterisk: **That statement only works if you consistently work with competent, forward-thinking people who you also trust.**)

At Ancestry, I am quite literally surrounded by incredibly intelligent co-workers that I know and trust. This makes it easy for me because I can absorb information going into a decision, hear arguments from different parties and different data pools, and then ultimately come to a decision. But the honest truth is that from beginning to end, every single step is primarily based on opinions, even if they’re opinions derived from data. Here is a basic, but important, example that explains my thought process:

Logo / Branding

In mid-2014 there were just 4 of us at my last startup, which was called Plus11. In fact, we weren’t even Plus11, we were [Needs to be Branded]. We wanted to pick a company name that didn’t lock us into technology, apps, or really anything at all. Once we had decided on Plus11 as a name, we needed a brand and a logo. Our Creative Director, who I knew well and trusted as a proven designer, presented a bunch of logo options for us to mull over. We picked a certain style and narrowed it down to a board of fine-tuned options. Here’s what we had as far as options:

Plus11-TopMarksWe picked our favorite style (2nd one down on the left) and moved forward to nail down a final version of our logo.

When talking over colors, we talked about what different colors meant and why one would be good vs the other, but ultimately the color choice came down to my obsession with light blue. I love light blue. Dillon had no strategic or design-driven argument against light blue. Thus, decision made. (This doesn’t mean an opinion is ALWAYS right. I doubt a maroon/brown/pea green combo color would have been a solid brand choice, but that’s where the caveat of having a team you trust comes into play.)

We finally ended up with this logo for Plus11:

Bigger Logo

Right now, a handful of you are totally validating my entire blog post. You’re looking at our final logo, reviewing the previous image of all our options, and you’re opinionating to yourself about which one you liked better and why. And great, good for you. You’re right! Your opinion is right. The problem is that it just wasn’t your decision to make, and if that principle is understood, feelings can’t get hurt, arguments can’t even start, and everyone walks away with their chin up, ready for the next collaborative decision-making process.

In order for me to make Minesweeper-like decisions on a day-to-day basis, I rely on the opinions of those around me to get us to a win-win starting point. I know I often make decisions that people don’t agree with, and that I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I have complete confidence in my opinions and complete confidence in the opinions of those around me, and that is the ultimate recipe for (hopeful) success.

The blog post you just read is 100% factual and is not based on any opinions whatsoever. Please consider this as startup doctrine, any argument is futile.

Minesweeper

By | Metaphors | One Comment

This might seem like a boast post, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s a somewhat embarrassing story of what I once did, and what I once was. Then I’ll be converting that into a stretch of a business metaphor, and bam, first blog post out the door.

Glory Days

My dad raised our family on video games, and not only that, he actually helped create the graphics on some of them so it was just part of growing up. Atari, Dreamcast, Philips CD-i, and the 3DO were all common place in our home. Yeah, exactly.

With all those platforms, and hundreds of games to choose from, I somehow ended up picking Minesweeper on the PC as my go-to “video game” of choice… or maybe… it picked me. Jokes, all jokes.

But this wasn’t one of those diehard situations where I thought about it every day and strategized about it, it was more like, “Hey I’m on the phone talking to my buddy so I’ll just play Minesweeper while I’m at it.”

All of a sudden I was one of the best in the country, then the world. These ended up being my best times:

Beginner – 1 second
Intermediate – 12 seconds
Expert – 49 seconds

Just to completely contradict my previous statement about not being a diehard fan, I posted my times to a Minesweeper Community Blog-like thing and all of a sudden I was getting contacted by random Russians and foreigners who were asking for strategy tips and advice. That’s when I knew to take it down a notch. Luckily I was only about 13 at the time so it wasn’t too hard to start pulling some of those stakes out of the ground.

The “Stretch Of A Business Metaphor”

Minesweeper is all about that first click, taking a step into the unknown and seeing where you land. From there it’s about knowing your current environment, understanding the risks (bombs), identifying the risks (flagging the bombs), and then avoiding them, thus leading you to a safe path to the finish line.

I legitimately find that product management life, and more specifically within the App World, has some similarities to that strategy. You can use words or phrases like “launch & learn”, pivot, etc. but all it means is that you are aware enough of the end goal and focused enough on your current initiative to make it safely past that current grid of bombs. After writing this out, I feel like I could take it a step further, but then you would continue judging me even more.

The bottom line is that I believe Minesweeper taught me to take quick, confident decisions after assessing my surroundings (to the best of my ability) and that mindset is vital in the tech world, as the surroundings are ever-changing and those “bombs” can come out of nowhere.

———-

I have since left my gaming days far behind, but that’s mainly because my wife and kids are far more interesting to me than trying to avoid pixelated bombs.