In 2016, Jeff Bezos shared the idea of Day 1 thinking at Amazon.
“Day 1 is about being constantly curious, nimble, and experimental. It means being brave enough to fail if it means that by applying lessons learnt, we can better surprise and delight customers in the future.
Contrast this to a Day 2 mentality: as a company grows over time, it needs to adjust its approach to effectively manage the organization as it scales. The danger is that as this happens, decision making can slow down, and the company can become less agile, moving further and further away from the customer as it rotates focus towards internal challenges rather than external customer-centric innovation.”
Day 1 thinking has been central to our success so far at Kinde (although we haven’t actually internalized the phrase – just the approach to thinking). I believe that this probably stems from our deep roots in design and design thinking. You’ll see this applied across the board here. From our obsession with learning from our customers, to our ruthless experimentation around every new practice or bit of process we introduce. We never assume or take anything at face value.
We start by giving a high amount of alignment and autonomy to our team. Most businesses think they do this. They probably don’t. We take it to the extreme. Almost everything is shared. We use Notion and have everything open apart from a handful of pages that contain team private information. Anyone can read anything.
Every Friday we have an all hands where we openly take the team through everything that has happened in the week, followed by a QA session. This includes all financials and everything else that seems important for the team to know – completely candid and open. Monthly we send a shareholder update. Our team are all shareholders so this goes to them too. And quarterly, after our board meeting, we take them through the entire board deck and every bit of discussion that happened.
To a lot of businesses this would sound heretical. To us this is critical. It means that our team knows how we are doing. They know what is going well. And they know what is not going well. Alignment.
If you want to have a team that can think on its toes and make smart decisions without always having to consult, then they need to be highly aligned, and then they need to be given the space to make decisions: Autonomy. This means typically the team decides what is most valuable from our biggest needs to work on next. They figure out how it should be built and how it should work. They make the decisions. There’s a whole post I could write (and have) on decision making – I won’t go into too much detail here.
At Kinde, autonomy feeds off ownership. Every member of our team is an owner. They have equity in the company. This means they act like owners and think like owners. And make decisions like owners. This is the same as treating them like adults. And it’s incredible what happens when you give people the benefit of being treated like adults.
On top of this, they can never fear failure. Mistakes are a part of a high performance culture. The team’s willingness to take risks and try new things when they think there might a better way is critical to our success. A team too afraid to take risks will never achieve anything great. This means we can move at maximum speed without having to be slowed down.
The really interesting thing is: the vast majority of this thinking is not something we ever had to explain to the team. We hire well. Every one of our team members is incredibly smart and capable. But after that we get out of the way and let them get on with it.
This takes a remarkable amount of trust. I think that’s probably the real magic.