Want to build something great? You have to want it. Bad.
Here are some somewhat random thoughts about passion, quality, genius and boredom and mediocrity.
Greatness is rarely achieved by accident. It is the result of a pure vision, refined over time and developed with care and purpose. I do not believe that it is possible to develop a truly great product without at least one very influential visionary on the team. Why?
Well – on the way to any goal, there are about a million little decisions and tradeoffs that need to be made. Without a vision, a North Star, as they liked to say at Adobe, those tradeoffs end up in a bland compromise.
But we have to compromise! Of course we do – we need to make decisions. But with a clarity of vision and purpose, those decisions make a product stronger, not weaker.
Without vision, its hard to care, to offer the attention to detail necessary to make it perfect. Pure discipline is a hard way to attend to the details. We need discipline in everything we do – of course, but discipline fueled by passion is incredibly powerful. Discipline supported by sheer force of will – well its just hard to maintain and sustain.
An interesting micro-cosmical example of this happened at Startup Weekend a couple of months ago. Various ideas were pitched and discarded, and the one startup idea that was voted in was a site that enabled micro-social networking for neighborhood communities. The problem? The guy with the idea split shortly after the vote. Leaving the rest of the people – even those who thought it had been a good idea – looking around for what was special about it, and what would make it more than yet another social networking site. We eventually came up with a couple of reasonable value propositions that we bickered about a bit, and ended up spending the weekend working on features that were neither here nor there.
Now – this was a situation where it really didn’t matter much. The point of the weekend was to see if we could launch something, learn, have some fun. All of which we did – and it was a FANTASTIC and wholy worthwhile experience that I hope I can repeat someday. But. It made a great little expose on why a little passion goes a long way.
On the flip side. When I worked at AOL, oh so many years ago, we launched an online calendar. In those days, an online calendar was still a new-ish thing, and AOL was still the leading provider of consumer internet access. But our little calendar was sweet. Every detail was lovingly designed, debated and improved. We had a crystal clear notion of what we were building and why, and what we wanted it to become someday. The team had a huge spark of creative endeavor. For a calendar. Its not the product – its the passion behind it.
What’s your passion? What’s fueling your creativity? What will make your next product great, not just there?