Brian Chesky has reshaped Airbnb's organization in the image of Apple, with expertise, interconnected functions, and himself at the core. He describes these changes in this excellent conversation with Lenny.
Some bits I liked:
Leaders should be experts, managing the work first, the people second:
"So we made sure that every executive was an expert in their functional domain. So you know how there's a lot of engineering managers that aren't that technical or maybe not a lot, but they exist. Or there's designers, but there's design leaders who lead the people. A design leader's job should be managing the design first, the people second. That's what Jony did.
They're interchangeable. I could never imagine Jony out at Apple just being a manager of people. He was looking and designing the work with the team. How do you manage the people without managing their work? How do you give them development if you're not in the details with them on the work? So the same thing is true. So people had to be experts.
Everyone had to be an expert."
The organization should be interconnected, functional, and without people managers:
"Here are the things I believe. I'll give you a checklist. Number one, I think that the CEO, unless they're not a product person, should think of themselves as this chief product officer and they should be involved in the product. Number two, if you're not functional, I would at least think about everyone being really close together. So here's another way of saying it, Lenny. Every product manager should be interconnected and know what everyone else is doing. They shouldn't be independently siloed unless they really are running separate companies or separate orgs and they have no dependencies. I think that every leader should be an expert in what they're leading. There should be no people managers in the entire company. And when I say people managers, meaning your only responsibility is people, not the work or not the domain. Because you can't manage people devoid of their work."
Leaders should know the details:
"I basically got involved in every single detail. And I basically told leaders that leaders are in the details. And there's this negative term called micromanagement, and I think there's a difference between micromanagement, which is telling people exactly what to do and being in the details. Being the details is what every responsible company's board does to the CEO. That doesn't mean the board is telling them what to do.
But if you don't know the details, how do you know people are doing a good job? People think that great leader's job is to hire people and just empower them to do a good job. Well, how do you know they're doing a good job if you're not in the details? And so I made sure I was in the details and we really drove the product."
Leaders should set the pace, with a bias for action:
"I think one of the most important things for a founder or leader to do is set the pace of the team. I think the pace of the team is one of the most important things you can do. And that pace is sometimes governed not by how hard people work, but how decisive they are. If you want to improve the speed of a company, then make faster decisions. And fast decisions come from a bias of action. If we're in a meeting, we don't just say, "Okay, let's circle back on this next week." No, we'll have it done by next week. Let's stav in this meeting until it's done. What are you doing? Have a bias for action. Who's responsible? Okay, what are you doing? Okay, let's check in an hour. I'll call you in the morning. Okay, how do we do this? And so you end up getting three months of work done over that period of time."
Performance marketing is a laser; brand marketing is a chandelier:
"And also the other thing we were doing is, as you know Lenny, we were spending a lot of money in performance marketing. I don't think performance marketing is a bad thing. I think of performance marketing as a laser. Actually my co-founder who obviously you know well, Joe, used to have this metaphor of lasers, flash bulbs and chandeliers. If you want to light up a room, performance marking is a laser. It can light up a corner of a room. You don't want to use a bunch of lasers to light up an entire room. You should use a chandelier and that's what brand marketing is. But if you do need to laser in and balance supply and demand, then performance marketing is really good. It literally lasers in. Performance marketing though doesn't create very good accumulating advantages because it's not an investment. Now if you want to build it permanently, like booking.com, if you have a really high ROI, now you can have a performance marketing arbitrage business. But assuming you don't want an arbitrage business, you actually need to be investing. And so we think of marketing as education. That we're educating people on the unique benefits."
And the most exciting one - the web continues to go 3D:
"I'd like to make the announcement that I think flat design is over or ending. I think if you remember the 2000s was dominated by skeuomorphism. The 2010s have been dominated with the launch of iOS seven by flat design. And I think we're going to move back into a world with color, texture, dimensionality, more haptic feedback, but I don't think it's going to be skeuomorphism where it pretends to be a wood grain to reference a dashboard or leather, but I think it's going to have a sense of dimension."