R. Brennan Knotts

Don’t encourage competition among employees

it’s always a bad idea to set one’s employees too much against one another. You want to find ways to differentiate people’s roles. Frame it this way: If you were a sociopathic boss who wanted to create trouble for your employees, the formula you would follow would be to tell two people to do the exact same thing. That’s a guaranteed formula for creating conflict. If you’re not a sociopath, you want to be very careful to avoid this.

Don’t follow formulas in business books

A lot of business books are these pseudo-scientific books that say, “These are the five steps to follow and you will make a lot of money.” But if you have no formulas, you will be open to some new possibilities, some new ideas.

On employee retention

An executive once told me she thought that if you had three good friends at your office then you’d never leave. If you had no good friends, you were a very at-risk employee.

On planning

When I was in high school, one of the intermediate learnings in chess is that you should always have a plan. Even having a bad plan is better than no plan at all.

Excerpts From a Jony Ive Interview

Full interview on Business Insider

First excerpt on focus:

What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in your body think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you end up saying no to it because you’re focusing on something else.

Second excerpt on vanity and putting the work above everything else:

I remember asking him why it could have been perceived in his critique of a piece of work he was a little bit too harsh. We’d been putting out heart and soul into this. I said, couldn’t we be a bit more, couldn’t we moderate the things we said?

And he said, ‘Well, why?’

And I said, ‘Because I care about the team.’

And he said this brutally brilliantly insightful thing, what he said was, ‘No Jony, you’re just really vain.’


'No, you just want people to like you. And I'm surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed you were perceived by other people.'

…they pitch that they’re likely to succeed as opposed to pitching that there’s a small chance they’ll be mega successful.
Make a Decision Before you Debate It

I have always preferred a method of decision making and planning that goes something like this:

  1. Gather information - this may involve a meeting or multiple meetings with stakeholders or it might just involve googling. The important thing to remember if it involves meetings and other people is that the goal is not to make decisions at this point - it is to ask questions and accumulate information.
  2. Make a solo decision - with this information in hand, I then attempt to put together the best decision or the best plan. I seek very little collaboration during this part of the process. I may need to go back for more information or do a “fact check” but I never share the responsibility of making a decision with anyone else.
  3. Present the decision to key stakeholders - I then present my decision to the necessary stakeholders for feedback, debate, and suggestions.
  4. Tweak and finalize - I use this feedback to tweak the decision or plan, and if I’m somehow really off the mark, I will start over, but that is rare given the work done in step 1.

I think this is noteworthy because a lot of people prefer to  combine steps 1-3 and perform steps 1-3 in a group setting. That has never worked well for me. I’m never happy with the decision because I feel it’s uninformed or a Frankenstein created from the compromises and agendas of a lot of people. I prefer focused, cohesive outcomes even if it polarizes people.

This approach was validated for me today by this article. Here’s an excerpt:

Get Your Team to Stop Second-Guessing Decisions

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid the negative effects of extensive planning. Nenkov and Gollwitzer found that if you take part in the same debates after creating the initial plan, you can actually increase your commitment. After you’ve decided on a course of action, discussing pros and cons forces our minds to defend the decision. Believe it or not, our defensiveness helps us achieve our goals by fostering grit and perseverance.

Dieter Rams - Ten Principles of Good Design

Good design is innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good design makes a product useful

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good design makes a product understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Good design is unobtrusive

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Good design is honest

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Good design is long-lasting

It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.

Good design is environmentally-friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Good design is as little design as possible

Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.

Back to purity, back to simplicity.

If you seek to plot out all your moves before you make them — if you put your faith in slow, deliberative planning in the hopes it will spare you failure down the line — well, you’re deluding yourself. For one thing, it’s easier to plan derivative work — things that copy or repeat something already out there. So if your primary goal is to have a fully worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal. Moreover, you cannot plan your way out of problems. While planning is very important, and we do a lot of it, there is only so much you can control in a creative environment. In general, I have found that people who pour their energy into thinking about an approach and insisting that it is too early to act are wrong just as often as people who dive in and work quickly. The overplanners just take longer to be wrong (and, when things inevitably go awry, are more crushed by the feeling that they have failed). There’s a corollary to this, as well: The more time you spend mapping out an approach, the more likely you are to get attached to it. The nonworking idea gets worn into your brain, like a rut in the mud. It can be difficult to get free of it and head in a different direction. Which, more often than not, is exactly what you must do.
Ed Catmull
When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. Then you get into the problem, and you see that it’s really complicated, and you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle, and that’s where most people stop… But the really great person will keep on going and find the key, the underlying principle of the problem — and come up with an elegant, really beautiful solution that works.
Steve Jobs (via Chris Dixon’s blog)
The director, he said, would never take “no” as an acceptable answer. One had to rephrase it to “Yes, if…” and describe what kind of support they needed to get the job done.
Teaching All Employees to Keep Score

From an interview with Adam Nash, Wealthfront CEO


"In the software industry, you’re used to dealing with very smart people. What they really need out of leadership is very simple. They need to know the game we’re playing and how to keep score."

"So if you have a company where everyone has their own ways of keeping score, you’ll get incessant fighting and arguments, and they’re not even arguing about what to do. They’re arguing about how to keep score. They’re arguing about what game we’re really playing. That’s all counterproductive."

Work Satisfaction Measured Differently than Dissatisfaction

What we can learn from his research is that mitigating factors that lead to job dissatisfaction won’t necessarily lead us to job satisfaction. -3 Psychological Theories To Help You Communicate Better With Anyone

This is called Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Motivation Factors

  • achievement
  • recognition
  • the work itself
  • responsibility
  • advancement
  • growth

Hygiene Factors

  • company’s policies and administration
  • supervision
  • working conditions
  • salary interpersonal
  • relations
  • status
  • job security
Hanlon’s Razor

I quote this all the time. It’s one of the most effective techniques I know in diffusing a situation where one person is complaining about another person wronging them. I call those people “social conspiracy theorists.”

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

I like to substitute “ignorance” for stupidity when you don’t want to insult the other person too much.

I also like this quote:

If I can’t think of at least three different interpretations of what I received, I haven’t thought enough about what it might mean.— Jerry Weinberg

What Motivation Feels Like

I don’t know this guy or like the rest of his post, but I like this story.

There once was a young man who wanted to make a lot of money. So he goes to a GURU to seek out his advice.

He goes to him and says” I wanna be on the same level as you’re on.”

The GURU says”If you wanna be on the same level as I’m on,I’ll meet you tomorrow at the beach at 4 am”.

The young man says,”The Beach? I said I wanna make money,I don’t wanna swim.”

The GURU says,”If you wanna make money,I’ll meet you tomorrow. 4am.”

The young man got there at 4am.He was all ready to rock’n roll.He had put on a suit(should’ve worn shorts).

The GURU grabs his hands and asks,”How bad do you wanna be successful?”

The young man says” Real bad.”

The GURU says,”Walk out into the water.”

So the young man walks out into the water. As he walks further he is waist deep into the water.He thinks,”What’s he got me doing?I didn’t come here to swim.I don’t wanna be a lifeguard.I wanna make money.”

The GURU says,”Don’t stop,walk a little further.”

The young man walks a little further and now he is neck deep into the water.He thinks,”Is this man crazy? He may be rich and successful be he sure is crazy.”

The GURU says,”Walk out a little further”.

The young man walks out a little further and now his nose is barely above the water level.He thinks,”Think guy is out of his mind”.

He is about to go back when the GURU says,”I thought you wanted to be successful”.

The young man says,”I do.”

The GURU walks upto him and says,”Then walk out a little further.”

As the young man begins to walk further into the water the GURU grabs his head and puts him under water.The young man can’t breathe now.He starts throwing his hands here and there in desperate attempt to get out of the water.Just before the young man was about to pass out,the GURU pulls him out and says,”I’ve got a question for you.”

Try to answer this question yourself,

He asks,”When you were underwater,what did you wanted to do?”

The young man replies,”Breathe”.(What did you answer?)

He told the guy,”When you will want to succeed as bad as you wanted to breathe,then you’ll be successful.

My age +/- 2 years:

  • Age 27 Ben Silberman co-founded Pinterest
  • Age 28 Andrew Mason co-founded Groupon
  • Age 29 Bryan Johnston co-founded Braintree
  • Age 30 Jeff Bezos founded Amazon
  • Age 31 Perry Chen co-founded Kickstarter