I saw an article recently by Jessica Lessin, where she writes about the product-centric mindset that’s captured Silicon Valley, and how it’s such an incomplete view of what makes a great company.
I couldn’t agree more.
Sure, startups are known first for their products. In many cases they are the primary interface to a company. They are no doubt an essential part of what makes a company successful.
But in tech, there’s a false equivalence of what a product is and what a company is. This view is myopic and reduces the role of people, and ignores the responsibility that a company takes in bringing a product to market.
There’s no doubt product is central to technology companies. However, a successful product today doesn’t always mean a successful company in the long run. The counter of this is also true - an unsuccessful product today doesn’t always mean an unsuccessful company in the long run.
A startup is an idea, and then it’s an machine for making the idea and a machine for getting people to use the idea. A huge amount of what people mean by ‘a great entrepreneur’ comes in 2 and 3. Especially 3.
In essence - startups are systems of impact - they provide leverage to an individual’s contribution so they can create the biggest possible impact. Organizations that are successful are excellent levers - they grow individuals, they provide them with the opportunities to exercise that leverage, and part of that is building great products and distribution networks.
There’s a direct parallel between this concept and that of the leadership lattice - a framework created for learning the skills of management and leadership. The lattice encompasses the full range of responsibility of a leader - starting with the individuals and systems of organization. It also speaks to the fact that companies (and their leaders) need to be accountable for both the first order and second order affects of a product in market, another blindspot mentioned in Jessica’s article.
In other words - company building and leadership development are intertwined - a company’s long term success is also proportional to the growth potential of it’s leaders.