Starting with the obvious…

The first question people ask you when you make a change is “why”. In starting my new role as CEO of Spreadshirt, the two questions folks had for me:

  • But, I thought you were happy at Intuit?
  • Ummmm… t-shirts?

First, my commentary on the questions. As a culture, we question – rather than support – change. We need to work on this. Provide counsel and guidance, while being happy for those with the courage to try something different. More than nine times out of ten, they will grow from it. What do you think?

And, what are the answers to those questions?

  1. I was extremely happy at Intuit. Intuit is an amazing company… a combination of entrepreneurial vibe and operational expertise. QuickBase is growing like crazy; and the team is outstanding. The Innovation Lab was leading not only at the company, but in the industry; and the team inspired me every day. I wasn’t considering leaving, and I told Spreadshirt that for several months… until one day, I realized that I had done my job at Intuit. The kind of early-stage audacious problems I get energy from working on… they were solved. I realized that I might be turning down a great opportunity, not because the teams weren’t ready to carry the torches we had lit together, but because I wasn’t ready to leave. Not a good reason, IMHO.
  2. What about those t-shirts? I can’t tell you. Really, I can’t tell you more about the secret sauce here at Spreadshirt. We aren’t ready just yet. What I can tell you is that:
    • I had already decided I wanted my next gig to be with a company that produced a physical product. After 15+ years in the bits-and-bytes business, it was time for a change.
    • After spending time with Lukasz, Matthias, and Michael, I wanted Spreadshirt to succeed even more. And, my skills seemed complementary to theirs.
    • Closely related to the above, quality wasn’t just an adjective to this team, but a key value.
    • I missed being in an international setting. Since ’97, I worked in some capacity on global aspects of a product or company.
    • I can wear t-shirts to every event and it is appropriate!
    • …But, seriously, this is about more than the shirt itself, but the self-expression capabilities provided. I like the simplicity of a t-shirt being the vehicle for that.

What’s “on a shirt” on this topic? To support big change, how about:

You can’t jump a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot leaps.

9 thoughts on “Starting with the obvious…

  1. I think you are right about not being good at supporting change, as a culture. Too often, change scares people, and it is hard to be supportive when you’re afraid. One of the most valuable things I’ve been taught is “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” It’s an ongoing lesson, and one that makes it easier (but not always easy) to embrace change.

    As for t-shirts — why not? They are possibly the best analog meme-spreading devices in the world. And they are nearly always comfy.

  2. Change is good. For me, it has always turned out to be a very good thing. For some changes that were beyond my control, I may have fought them at first and was probably sad too, but it almost always has turned out to be for the best.

    Life is too short, and we need to make the most if it and challenge ourselves to be be better and GROW better. Change is the best way to do that.

    And by the way, I LOVE tee shirts, what a great product to jump into for your first product endeaor J!

  3. Okay, I’ll take the flipside… not that I agree with everything I’m saying here…

    Questioning change is a good thing, and preventing change can also be good. People throughout history have embraced terrible “changes” in society, often brought on by a lack of understanding. Reactionary change – taking some action as a result of some situation – should be avoided. Reactionary reflection, however, is something that should be done. If that reflection institutes change, well and good.

    Killing the dogs and cats because of the plague was really stupid – since they helped keep down the rat population that was the real, but “out of sight”, problem.

    Grabbing on to some philosophy and letting go of your past traditions is foolish unless you know why those traditions exist and why that philosophy is attractive.

    Of course, I disagree with your premise that “Life is too short”, and, of course, I know that you know why. 🙂

    Theorize, experiment, measure… the scientific method can and should be applied to change.

    Change is one of those words that needs some adverbs attached to it that will better define what kind of change we’re talking about, and how it will affect what and who we care about the most.

  4. Jana Eggers says:

    Ahhhhh… back to the fun of the good ole days… Matt, I agree with you on “life is too short”, but I also know what Anna was expressing when she said it.

    My point was different, and I should have made it more clear. My point is that you don’t know somone else’s situation. You can’t. So judging their change on based on your experience rather than the basis for their decision, i.e., their experience, isn’t fair. As a society, IMHO, we (including me) don’t step back enough to remember that often times there is more to the story. We just assume our own story fits and go from there. This discourages change and innovation, and most often, not always, that isn’t a good thing.

  5. Too easy, convenient, “in” to jump to a conclusion. You know, it makes me think of teens and being a teen – oh so ready to jump to a conclusion about someone, what they said… It IS actually hard to discard your own conclusions and listen to someone else – you of all people know how hard it is/was for me to avoid jumping to the end of the story during a customer visit.

    The web, information in general, actions people take… it is getting so that there is very little time between action and evaluation by the “community” (whatever that means). Sometimes that is good: bloggers responding to a concrete “thing”… but too often it isn’t: bloggers responding to a thing and coming to a concrete conclusion.

    What I say is what I mean, but just because you heard what I said doesn’t mean you understood it. We hear from customers all the time… suspension of innate understanding is the trick that you and Tara do so well… not an easy skill to learn.

    Perhaps the issue is “Our society has lost the skill of suspending their beliefs.” Makes it hard to find a jury… 🙂

    Book I’m reading by the guy who broke the exploding Pinto story (investigative journalist) talks about this… how a guy was convicted of shooting a police officer, basically because the jury and prosecuter did a good job of allowing the jury to fill in holes rather than suspend their ingrained “understandings”. The guy was rightly acquitted on appeal. The journalist admitted to falling into the same trap: he “knew” the guy was guilty too.

  6. Tara says:

    This is why I love conversation, personal interaction more than written. There’s so much that gets lost in the written word.

    Whenever I’m in an unusal situation or do something that’s out of character I try to think about what others might be thinking and replay that when I see other people doing stupid or strange things. Maybe they just got bad news, were pre-occupied, were trying to get home to be with their families. The whole idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and removing yours first.

    I think that’s one of the tough things about getting and giving advice. Coaching would really be more valuable. Only I can know all the criteria weighing on me for an important decision, no one else knows exactly how I value different aspects of my life, what changes, what my circumstances are; not even my closest friends. Sometimes I just need guidance reflecting, thinking about things differently, embracing or considering change to my thinking, perspective, options.

  7. Jana Eggers says:

    For those that are reading these comments… the comments above are from that awesome Innovation Lab team I mentioned above… you can see from these thoughtful posts exactly why they inspired me every day. They think, challenge, poke fun, have fun, care, and more. I’ll say again… they are a phenomenal team!

  8. Aseem Kishore says:

    I just stumbled upon this page (ironically, while making a demo Frost filmstrip to save — searching for “Intuit Innovation Lab” and visiting a bunch of resulting pages), and just wanted to say this was a really great read, both the posts and the comments. I don’t have much new to add, but it’s made me reflect a lot on my own changes.

    Hope you’re doing well, Jana!

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