The head of “X” explains how to make Audacity the path of least resistance

Against human nature is difficult. Here’s how we do it at X.

Credit: Bret Hartman / TEDAfter I talk at TED about X’s moon shots, who watched my talk and read my transcript on Medium asked to hear more about our secret sauce: how we get teams to deliberately prove themselves wrong and happily break things they believe in without being the ball is worried. I couldn’t cram all of those thoughts into my 16 minutes on stage, so here are some things that ended up on the cutting room floor. – Astro

Almost every day in the moonshot factory was messy. Even when you are sure that you are learning a lot of valuable things in weeks or months of frustration, everyone worries, “What if I fail? Will everyone laugh at me? Will I be fired? At the end of the day, we all have to pay our bills and want everyone around us to appreciate us. Therefore, it is human nature towards the path of feeling safety psychology.

That’s why, if you want your team to be daring, you have to make being daring the path of least resistance. People must feel safe even when they make a complete mistake or fail completely – meaning we, as managers and leaders, have to take risks with ease and reward. and enthusiastically do really hard things. Here are some of the things we tried at X so that our emotional environment left us brave enough to speak and act in front of things that are highly likely to go wrong – and possibly insane enough to be. excellent.

#### Bad ideas

Our Review Express team, which has generated hundreds of ideas for maybe taking a photo of the X moon, does intellectual exercise in the form of a “bad idea” brainstorm. The goal is to get used to saying stupid things in front of each other. What if someone on your team said, “Obesity is a growing problem and battery life is limited. Can we make an implantable fat-based fuel cell to charge your mobile devices? “Do you look at someone the same way after that idea? But that’s the problem: you can’t come up with great ideas without spending a lot of time warming up your creativity with a bunch of ideas. Most people never develop those muscles because they’re too worried about what others will think of them. It’s a pity, because a terrible idea is often cousin of a good idea. , and a great idea is its neighbors.

#### Continue saying difficult things out loud

It is difficult to lead people into behavior that is contrary to human nature. We all know that in order to accomplish something really difficult, we have to actually face the problems and solve them. But know that affection is a completely different matter. That needs constant encouragement, prompting and reinforcement.

* Do you want to know where failure is likely to happen before something starts? * We’re experimenting right now to encourage teams across X to speak up about things that could one day kill the project or slow it down – and get managers to listen to and respond to them. This is like a normal job. We are calling our test “the former planet”. (You might be familiar with the concept of autopsy … all gloomy meetings and sketchy documents after something goes wrong.)

Our “pre-mortems” appear on a website where anyone can post something they’re worried about going wrong in the future. It could be specific to a project like Loon or self-driving cars (and you don’t need to join the team to speak up) or it could be about how we do things at X. It could be short. long term or long term. People may have said these in smaller groups, but they may not say it loudly, clearly, or often enough – often because these are things that could get you labeled an underdog or disloyalty, such as “Will xyz have the impact we’re hoping for? “or” Are we doing enough to help society understand why we’re doing xyz? “

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