You want to sharpen the contradictions, heat up both opinions, and resolve it. Good CEOs are really good at doing that. Hiding conflict causes problems to fester and grow. You want the conflicts to surface and you want to resolve them. If you do surface and resolve them you will be a pretty good manager. The strategy is the story you tell.
Why does the world need your company? No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better you make the strategy better. It is their responsibility to keep it up to date and compelling. Because they often have trouble understanding or remembering ideas and instructions, stories help people stay on track and motivated. It is important to emphasize that Ben Horowitz is making a point here about strategy, which as Michael Porter points out, is driven by what a company does differently than its competitors.
The story must convey what the business does that is uniquely valuable and how that will create a sustainable competitive advantage a moat. As an example of the importance of a story, I had a conversation recently with a person who is a venture capitalist and owns a winery. We agreed that when talking about an industry in which the story is key to the product, wine should be font and center. The terrain, the grapes, the winemaker etc. Many people seem to enjoy the story of the wine more than the wine itself, or at least the former drives the latter.
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The food television personality Andrew Zimmern said once: Food with a story tastes better. Ben Horowitz believes that the story should drive the strategy. For example, how will the wine business run their business in a unique ways that creates a moat? How can it create sustainable differentiation in what is a very competitive industry? What can be done to create barriers to entry in the part of the market the winery has decided to serve?
So, the innovator is guaranteed to have more natural initial detractors than followers. Founders who deliver great new value to the world think differently. That value comes from believing or recognizing something as true that other people do not see. The founders are inevitably breaking one important assumption that others have made. AirBnB is a classic example of founders thinking differently. As is the case with investing, it is mathematically impossible to follow the crowd and perform better than the crowd.
No one puts it better than Howard Marks: The best way to be a successful contrarian is, as Ben Horowitz points out, to think for yourself. Being a contrarian by definition means that you must be prepared to sometimes be lonely with respect to some of your views. Thinking differently separates you from the warmth of the crowd.
In order to do that, you need to be talking to everybody. The ability of a person to make timely and wise decisions is the mark of a great CEO. As an analogy, the best defensive baseball players are standing there waiting for the ball when it arrives. They are already in great position before the ball is hit. Great business decision makers similarly are ready to make decisions when the time comes because they have done the necessary preparation.
That preparation allows them to make timely and more accurate decisions. How They Built It: A Conversation with Industry Leaders. How to know what your customers want before building your product. Creating Beautiful and Intuitive User Experiences. Multi-Platform Content Marketing for Startups. How can a single person build a million dollar business. Learn How to Maximize Mentorship Relationships. How to get started without a technical co-founder. How to build a B2B sales team. Are you ready for the spotlight? Finding our Authentic Voice.
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