Talking with friends and subscribers, I often find myself referencing books that I read and how that's influenced my thinking. In an attempt to consolidate and drive more value specifically for startup investors, I'll be test driving a new format called "The Bookish Investor" (working title.) This type of content is very popular, as you'll see at the bottom, and I will outsource much of my work to those sites. The specific value add here is to deliver a recommendation as well as specific takeaways for the startup investor. I will only write these posts for books I've actually read/listened to completion. As always, feedback welcome, feel free to comment on this post or write me at email@example.com—thanks!
Recommended for Startup Investors?
Catsmull is a polymath—he both was a PhD in computer science (making the z-buffer, for any other technical/technical-adjacent readers out there!!) but also a highly effective executive of a firm that made an entirely new industry: Pixar Films made the first fully computer-animated film, and continues to define the category. I remember having my mind blown while reading the book, but primarily because I was in a managerial position in a firm that needed creativity. Valuable for startup investors to understand the ideal mindset of founders, and the creative struggle it is to achieve product-market fit, but not an urgent read.
- Even if there are hierarchal structures, creative organizations allow anyone to talk to anyone.
- Brain trusts are where anyone qualified with storytelling experience can come and give feedback on a story. Artisans give the best feedback.
- There are cultures that strive for excellence, and bear all the cost and uncertainty of truly creative work, and there are cultures that minimize mistakes, which kill creativity.
- Catsmull was PhD at University of Utah, one of the four universities that got ARPA grant that ultimately made ARPA net
- Catsmull made the z-buffer
- Catsmull worked in Long Island for an eccentric, then Lucasfilms, then finally was bought by Steve Jobs
- Tons of fun anecdotes about bad stories that got polished into great stories
- Catsmull got a really unique work experience with Jobs towards the end of his career
- Brain trust, post mortems, and notes day.
- Consolidate what’s been learned (before you forget it)
Postmortems are a rare opportunity to do analysis that wasn't possible in the heat of the project.
- Teach others who weren’t there
- Don’t let resentments fester
Providing a forum to express frustrations in a respectful manner helps people let go of misunderstandings and screw ups, and move on.
- Use the schedule to force reflection
The scheduling of a postmortem alone forces self-reflection. The time spent preparing for the meeting is as valuable as the meeting itself.
- Pay it forward
A good postmortem arms people with the right questions to ask going forward.
For example, Japanese companies in the 1940s were able to improve their productivity with a simple idea: rather than giving only senior managers the power to stop the factory assembly line, all workers could halt production by simply pulling a cord if they saw there was a problem. Workers thus felt pride when they fixed problems on their own rather than waiting on management’s solution. This also boosted efficiency as it led to fast problem solving.
Finally, workers should feel that their opinions and suggestions are actually valued. Unfortunately, they’re often afraid to voice their opinions because they believe management will simply ignore them, or worse, treat them with disdain.
That’s why Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, visits all his employees individually in order to hear and gain insight about their opinions and problems, thus ensuring that they feel confident to speak to him with their opinions.