Weeknote 374 - 375
January 21st to February 3rd
I was kind of surprised, touched even, that some people actually wrote encouraging emails because of the previous weeknote. Thank you!
Actually, there's no reason to be worried. What we experienced this month and what made me so unhappy was nothing dramatic. I guess most people in similar situations would consider it business as usual (which doesn't make it any better though).
Were the last two weeks more enjoyable? Not really… but I'm in a better mood, since I have a more precise idea now about how to deal with the things that bugged me.
Being uncomfortable led to some thinking, not just about the specific cause of my recent dissatisfaction, but also about the bigger picture. Actually, the more I thought about it, the bigger the picture became. It started with 'how can we deal with this situation?' to 'how do I really want to live my life?' and back to 'how can precious help me to achieve that?'.
I read quite a few business books over the last years. Not the standard MBA fare, but books on how to be more innovative, about leading teams, or promoting and selling your product. Most of these books claimed to have a different approach on how to run a business – and some really had. But while the methods sometimes were unorthodox and unusual, they all had the same objective: grow your business and make more profit.
The pursuit of economic growth is so engrained in our society that it's rarely questioned. It has been facing more and more opponents recently, but most of them are motivated by ecological concerns. Questioning growth because we run out of fossil fuels is certainly legitimate and important. But the main problem I have with our striving for growth is that it is the wrong objective. Growth is a means to and end, but as a society – and especially in the world of business – we rarely ask what the end is.
I have been repeatedly asking myself this question during the last days. I was introduced to the economic theories of Keynes and the thoughts of Aristotle and other philosophers. Have I found the answer? No, not yet. But in my mind a clearer picture of what I want precious to be like is slowly emerging.
One issue we have been focussing this week is finding new talent. We prepared some job postings and an associated gimmick, that we will release next week.
But while we had a lot of discussions in the last months about what kind of people we are looking for, we never really asked why. Growing your business seems so obvious, almost like natural law, that you don't have to ask why you want to do it – you only have to have an argument for not doing it.
So, why do we want to add new team members? If someone had asked me this strange question, I would have replied: Because we have more interesting project enquiries than we can fulfill.
Makes sense, doesn't it? Few would challenge this answer, because that's how businesses are suppose to work: If your services are in higher demand, you scale to accommodate.
But a five-year old and Sakichi Toyoda would probably not leave it at that – and neither should we. "But why do you want to take on more or bigger projects?" – "Because that way we can make more profit." – "Why do you want to make more profit?" – "Because…"
Here's the point where the chain of argument breaks. Do we want to add new people to make more money? We constantly make enough to keep the business afloat, save some cash for rainy days and invest a little in good office chairs, faster computers and a sandwich maker. And with the salaries we pay ourselves, we all can maintain a comfortable lifestyle. So do we really need to be more profitable?
There have to be other, better reasons for growing the team. I think they were always there, but I hadn't been aware of them enough, let alone communicate them. But now that we are actively searching for new employees, we should be crystal-clear about our motives.
Rewind… "Why do you want to add new team members?" – "Because I want to surround myself with more inspiring people. Women and men I can learn from, who challenge my ideas, who are fun to be around with." That's a deeply personal need I have. I want to spend my precious time with people I like, respect, admire.
Another answer: "I want to be able to focus on tasks other than client work." Writing, teaching, developing our own products… these are some of the things that Michael, Christophe and I really would love to explore more. Can we achieve that with a bigger team? Or is it even counterproductive?
And finally, a consequence of the former: "I want to work less." Saying this is almost a taboo in our society, even more so among entrepreneurs. But while I really like working as a designer, I would love to have more time for leisure activities. So by increasing the staff I hope to reduce the amount of work we have to do in the long run. Obviously there is also the risk of the opposite happening. That's why we need to be very careful when we hire.
OK, so much for that. Here's what happened in the last two weeks, outside of my head:
There was a important demo presentation for the investors of Puichon on Monday, so Christophe, David and I worked hard to get some last minute designs ready to implement. We even worked a weekend shift, which we usually try to avoid like the plague. But it was worth it, the product benefits greatly from these additions. The prototype was always a collection of bits and pieces. Some of the apps had a properly designed interface, other didn't, and the connection between those different applications wasn't there. Now, because people outside of the team had to understand it, we had to think in a bigger context. It's still far from being finished, but now it feels much more like a real product.
Christophe and Michael worked on Conuma. I must admit that I don't know too much about the current status of the project, as we missed our weekly review on Friday.
Michael also build the above mentioned "gimmick" for our quest for fresh blood. I think it turned out really cool. There is much more going on under the hood than you might imagine, but it's not obvious. In my book, that's a good thing.
On Monday the whole crew, including our lost brother Sean, went to the Tocotronic concert at the Thalia Theatre to celebrate the release of their latest album. There's one quote from this new record that makes a perfect ending for this weeknote (sorry if you don't speak German, but the beauty of these lines would be lost in translation):
Das ist keine Erzählung, das ist nur ein Protokoll, doch wir können davon lernen, wie wir leben wollen.