Knowledge Sharing | Startup Success: Stories from innovative companies | Nithya Kurian

As part of the Knowledge sharing sessions that we conduct in CloudSEK every Wednesdays, this week we are having a talk on Startup Success: Stories from innovative companies by one of our CloudSTER, Nithya Kurian (@nithya.kurian) - Product Manager.

In this session, @nithya.kurian will give a talk that delves into interesting practices at companies that went from startup to being some of the most successful of our age.

  1. How does Google foster an environment for creativity?
  2. How did Netflix overcome the Innovator’s Dilemma?
  3. How did Uber solve the chicken and egg problem?

Event Date: 25 November 2020 (2020-11-24T18:30:00Z)
Time: 6 PM
Registration: http://csek.me/xhinAAp

(Click the link and add the event to your calendar to get a reminder)

See the session here :

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Hello Nithya, thanks for the awesome session. I had a few queries & I was wondering if you could answer them.

  1. Is it not like as a group better creative ideas might sprout? If not, then it’s quite counter intuitive, doesn’t it?
  2. How did Netflix identify what the demand would be in the future? Was it simply that their leadership was visionary? Or was there some strategy to that wisdom?
  3. Around the peak end rule, does it mean that as a business as long as one great experience is given & the worst is diminished, the customer would be satisfied?:thinking:
  4. Around brainstorming, i missed the point. Is it useful or is it not as per hangouts team? In case it is useful is, sometimes every individual in the team may have a very strong opinion towards a potential solution to a specific problem. In that case how did/does google solve for such cases? Wouldn’t the idea of the most experienced person in the team have to deliberately bias the decision in a certain direction? To get to a common grounds I mean.
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Hi @batman, great to hear that you enjoyed the session!

Excellent questions, happy to answer them!

  1. Is it not like as a group better creative ideas might sprout? If not, then it’s quite counter intuitive, doesn’t it?

Whether a group is better at generating great ideas than an individual is a very subjective question. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong for this, completely depends on that situation.
The points that I raised are warnings to us who work in teams in organisations.

  • Social loafing makes us who work in teams sometimes unmotivated to come up with new, contradicting ideas. It’s much easier and more convenient to go with the flow of the group.
  • Groupthink – A serious bias that we should constantly check in our teams. More often than not, we don’t even realise that everyone else in the team thinks in almost the same way. Diversity in teams can avoid groupthink. We all know the importance of diversity, but in reality, most teams are not as diverse as it could have been.

Groups also generate some amazing ideas. The Google “Connection and Collaboration” attribute is testimony to this. Gmail was born of out of a 20% rule project when engineers from different teams collaborated.
I feel that one of the best ways to work in groups and avoid social loafing and group think is to use design thinking. The google 5-day sprint is a solution to working in teams productively. Here they use divergent thinking in the generation of new ideas, and convergent thinking when it comes to deciding on a solution. The 5-day sprint also makes sure that the solutions of each person remain anonymous, which levels the playing field for the HiPPO(Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) and a fresher (as well as introverts in the team).

  1. How did Netflix identify what the demand would be in the future? Was it simply that their leadership was visionary? Or was there some strategy to that wisdom?

The key to identifying demand in the future is to look at niche markets that are overlooked by the current players in the market. Netflix didn’t go after Blockbuster’s customers but appealed to those who were overlooked by them. This article explains it well - https://producthabits.com/how-netflix-became-a-100-billion-company-in-20-years/
As early as 2007, “In a letter to investors, Hastings outlined Netflix’s growth strategy for 2007, which focused on growing the company’s DVD subscriber base in anticipation of the forthcoming shift from rentals to streaming.” – so definitely visionary leadership also needed to have the ability to think outside of the normal. At the same time, very smart and risky move to focus on on-streaming. Most leaders tend to focus on sustaining innovation, even if they can see a future technological disrupter, which is the crux of the Innovator’s Dilemma.
A smart move by Netflix to recognise early on that the on-streaming video would be a disrupter to their traditional business and decided to separate the two businesses. General strategy that can be used –

Referenced from this HBR article - https://hbr.org/2000/03/meeting-the-challenge-of-disruptive-change

  1. Around the peak end rule, does it mean that as a business as long as one great experience is given & the worst is diminished, the customer would be satisfied?

Peak end rule talks about the science behind a customer experience. It just says that the customer is most likely to remember the experience by the peak (the best or worst part) and the end of the experience. I think its more applicable to a relatively short experience - a cab ride, a dinner at a restaurant, a holiday etc. You probably remember my talk by its peak (whatever you found most interesting or whatever went wrong) and how I concluded the talk.

  1. Around brainstorming, i missed the point. Is it useful or is it not as per hangouts team? In case it is useful is, sometimes every individual in the team may have a very strong opinion towards a potential solution to a specific problem. In that case how did/does google solve for such cases? Wouldn’t the idea of the most experienced person in the team have to deliberately bias the decision in a certain direction? To get to a common grounds I mean.

The point I raised about brainstorming was " Knapp doesn’t like brainstorming. People tend to favor the craziest ideas, he says, without thinking about how they’ll actually be accomplished. Or, even worse, the winner is simply the loudest voice in the room."

The 5-day design sprint is purposely designed in such a way that the most experienced person should not be able to bias the group simply because he is the most experienced.
If you notice in Day 2 - Knapp prefers what he refers to as parallel individual work. Each person in the sprint sits down with a pencil and paper and sketches out their idea.
In Day 3 - The sketches are taped to a wall or whiteboard, and they all remain anonymous. The anonymity makes sure that the most experienced person and the least experienced person are treated equally. Also levels the playing ground for introverts who might have great ideas, but might not feel comfortable speaking up in a brainstorming session. Then, participant gets a handful of stickers they can quietly place next to the individual aspects of each idea they especially like.
The solutions are then discussed one at a time and they choose which idea–or combination of ideas–with which the team will move forward.

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