The other day I had a really good idea. Just one, and it wasn’t a big one. But it solved a problem
we had been having at work and it came to me in a quiet moment after hours of meetings and conference calls weren’t solving the problem.
It was easy, and kind of obvious. And after I came up with it I was reminded of George Costanza’s “going out on a high note” bit. I felt like, “oh good – I had this idea! I’m done for today.”
How much time things take versus how much value they provide is an interesting calculus. Sometimes you need to take some time to let ideas marinate and it doesn’t feel productive but you can’t speed it up. Sometimes you come up with a good idea what seems like quickly, forgetting all the marination that occurred in the background.
When I started in marketing at Dell I remember my first task was to put together a set of materials around our pre-validated stacks of servers, storage, and networking. I took a first swing at it and it was terrible. I was used to a technical 1:1 sale and here I was instead trying to build a 1:many high-level storyline.
There was one slide in particular – the linchpin of the story – that I just couldn’t get right. One day I locked myself in a room and didn’t come out until it was done. It took nearly four hours, and all I had to show for it was one slide. And yet my manager was complimentary – “You got it,” he said, “that’s the story we’re trying to tell.” And he shared that he thought that sometimes all you could do in a day was produce one really strategic piece of work, in this case, just one slide.
He is a good manager, and one who values this concept of things taking time. He taught me about how much time needs to be in people’s work plans to allow for on-boarding and education, and how important those things are as investments in later productivity. Of course, applying those concepts at a startup is not easy, but it’s a good guide I think back to a lot.
As for George Costanza – would that I could have just one good idea or quip a day, then leave on a high note. For good or bad, my responsibilities are more complex that that.