From the moment they opened the doors of WhatsApp, Jan and Brian wanted a different kind of company. While others sought attention, Jan and Brian shunned the spotlight, refusing even to hang a sign outside the WhatsApp offices in Mountain View. As competitors promoted games and rushed to build platforms, Jan and Brian remained devoted to a clean, lightning fast communications service that works flawlessly.
Dolly Singh (the former Head of Talent Acquisition at SpaceX) on Elon Musk rallying the troops after a problematic launch:
I think most of us would have followed him into the gates of hell carrying suntan oil after that. It was the most impressive display of leadership that I have ever witnessed. Within moments the energy of the building went from despair and defeat to a massive buzz of determination as people began to focus on moving forward instead of looking back. This shift happened collectively, across all 300+ people in a matter of not more than 5 seconds. I wish I had video footage as I would love to analyze the shifts in body language that occurred over those 5 seconds. It was an unbelievably powerful experience.
Musk gets a lot of credit for being a visionary (and rightfully so, of course), but his leadership in getting incredible people to do incredible things may end up being just as important a trait.
“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”—
“That’s why I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete. I think that’s one of Apple’s challenges, really. When two young people walk in with the next thing, are we going to embrace it and say this is fantastic? Are you going to be willing to drop our models, or are we going to explain it away? I think we’ll do better, because we’re completely aware of it and we make it a priority.”—
The more senior the designer, the more abstract the problem they should be solving.To break it down more tangibly, let’s look at some examples of levels and appropriate responsibilities:
Designer Lvl 1: Design a form that lets people edit their profile. Pretty scoped—assumes there is a profile, and that the solution takes the shape of a form.
Designer Lvl 2: Design the best interface for users to edit their profile. The solution could be a form, could be a WYSIWYG inline editor, could be a modal window.
Designer Lvl 3 (broad): Design a system for editing across everything—profiles, posts, settings, etc. Now we’re not just profiles, but the editing system should be flexible enough to work across the entire app.
Designer Lvl 3 (deep): Design a way to get users to want to update their profiles. Here, the questions the designer is asking is why should users update their profile? And when? And how to best convey the value proposition?
Designer Lvl 4: Design a solution to increase the authenticity of users among your app. Maybe editing profiles isn’t even the right thing to focus on for our ultimate goal, maybe a peer-review system would be better.
Designer Lvl 5: Identify the biggest product problem with your app/company/site and design a solution.At the highest level, the best designers drive the vision for a product.