The Genius ISM’s

If you’re running your own startup or maybe plan to at some point in the future, then one of the most important decisions that you’ll make is on the people that you choose to surround yourself with. Each of those decisions incrementally affects everything about the business, from its culture leading to its eventual success (or failure).

I recommend that you take a look at the Genius ISM’s. Another business that passed through the much-heralded Y Combinator in 2011, Genius (formerly RapGenius) is a startup that exists to allow users to annotate lyrics, news stories and pretty much any kind of text.

I stumbled across their ‘Genius ISM’s’ when listening to the most recent Andreessen Horowitz podcast and I think there’s some real gems of knowledge in there. Check out the transcript or listen to it below:

I’ve summarised them before. Hopefully the guys won’t mind. But I do urge you to read their site, if only to get a feel for how the Genius works in practice. Lose yourself down a rabbithole of comments, I dare you. There’s plenty more to these concepts than my summaries.

The Genius ISM’s

It’s not not your job”: whatever your title, your job is to help the business be successful.

The chaos will not be minimised”: building something valuable will be messy and a successful business resembles an army in battle, not an army on parade.

It should be fun”: if work sucks, communicate widely and fix it.

Only hire A players”: don’t hire people unless their refusal to work for you would be devastating to you. And when you give someone a job, realised that you’re also obliging the company to accept whoever that person will hire in the future.

Don’t fill up on bread”: focus on big projects

Worse is better”: release your first drafts of work and iterate when it’s out in the wild (note: you may have observed that I’ve adopted this strategy with my blog………)

Run into the spike”: when you have a choice, do the thing that you least want to do next.

Take the roast out of the oven”: the worst thing to do is to partially complete a project and then give up. Whilst this might be because you realise that it’s not as useful once you near completion,   learn to choose your projects more carefully.

Being busy does not equal making progress”: don’t just sit there sharpening your pencils. Remember a one hour meeting with five people is equivalent to a five hour meeting with one person, i.e. most of the working day wasted.

“’What is right?”, not ‘Who is right?’”: you shouldn’t do something because Mr X wants it. You should do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Feel it to my face”: if you ever wonder “Should I bring this up?”, then bring it up.

What do you propose?”: never give a vague, “Oh, we should do X”. Give specific details. And never complain without completing the sentence with a suggestion of how you can fix it.

Be skeptical of experts”: investors, lawyers, whoever. They are never as invested, or have as much information about the current situation, as you. Make your own calls.

Pitch like you mean it”: everyone in a business must be great at projecting enthusiasm about it in conversations.

Write like a human”: as it sounds. Writing in a way that you don’t normally speak just forces people to be more formal (and inefficient) when they email you back.

Go to a gym-esque place”: take proper rest.

We’ll figure it out”: every business has times when its prospects look terminal. Turn every crisis into an opportunity.

Even if you’re not in a startup, my guess is that at least one of the points about is likely to resonate with you.