A Smart Bear

A Smart Bear: Articles

Long-form articles, meant to be savored and referenced, easy to read on any device, including print.

The Elephant in the room: The myth of exponential hypergrowth
Fast-growing startups are frequently described as “exponential,” especially when the product is “viral.” Turns out, this is incorrect, even for Facebook and Slack. If you have an incorrect model, you don’t understand growth, which means you can’t control it, nor predict it. Here is a different model to understand how companies actually grow.
The practical application of "Rocks, Pebbles, Sand"
You’ve probably seen this analogy before, but many real-world complications get in the way of actually doing it. It’s not just about how big tasks are, but about using different frameworks to prioritize each, and following certain guidelines about how to construct sprints.
Fermi ROI: Fixing the ROI rubric
“Maximum value in minimum time.” Sounds good in theory, but traditional rubrics surreptitiously fail to produce the best answers, and fail to create explanations that help others understand why they’re the best answers. This system works.
Binstack: Making a maximal multi-dimensional decision
Rubrics are often used to select the best option in a multi-dimensional decision space. However, they often do not clearly identify a winner, nor do they result in an explanation of the decision that is easily communicated to others, especially those whose favorite option was scored close to the winner, but was not selected. Binstack is a solution.
The "Talk vs Walk" framework
This exercise we invented at WP Engine is surprisingly useful in engaging both Marketing and Product, generating actions for both sides that make products more desirable and competitive.
The Iterative-Hypothesis customer development method
A simple but effective system for generating insights about how your potential customers think, what they need, and what they’ll buy. This method has been used both to reject startup ideas and to validate WP Engine before it had any customers (it is now a Unicorn).
Finding Fulfillment
What creates a fulfilling existence? Exploring the question from different directions leads to a framework I’ve used for years for myself and the people around me. I hope it helps you too.

A Smart Bear: Shorts #

Shorter articles with a simple message, easy to read on any device, including print.

JIT selection from independent streams: An alternative to the “big backlog” of work
We’re often told that a “single-threaded, ordered list” is the correct way to prioritize the work of the future, however this confuses “prioritization” with “work-planning,” and forces the comparison of un-comparable things. Here’s how to solve those problems.
Productive meeting activities: Leverage the team, empower the individual
Meetings are most productive when we create something that none of us could have created alone. How can we leverage the wisdom of the crowd, while ensuring that decisions and responsibilities continue to reside with an individual?
Moats: Durable competitive advantage
Industries commoditize over time, delivering similar products at similar prices resulting in low profit. Like entropy, this is the inevitable fate of a company, unless it exerts intentional force to the contrary. Moats are this force, and your strategy must identify how to create one.
The Impossible Product Manager, a.k.a. the "Great" Product Manager
According to the Internet, being a Product Manager is impossible. Can you ever measure up? No, but don’t worry, there’s a better answer.
Failure to face the truth
This concept recurs in different forms throughout myriad books, frameworks, and topics, across decades of time. When something is so consistent, it must be wisdom.
Extreme questions to trigger new, better ideas
It is difficult to brainstorm fresh, transformative ideas. Telling everyone that “no idea is a bad idea” isn’t enough of a prompt. These questions will stretch you beyond your daily experience; if you’re lucky, they could even lead to a unique business model and a long-term competitive moat.
Who's lying?
Pilots use multiple dials, employing different sources of energy, to report identical data, because they understand that in a dashboard full of information, something is always lying to you. The lesson is useful for data and metrics at our companies.
Distributed Logical Time
Properly ordering events in time is notoriously difficult in distributed systems. This algorithm is a simple, decentralized, scalable, constant-memory mechanism for independent replicas to record events in time, such that “happened-before” is preserved in almost all cases.
Building in public forces true competitive advantage
“Building in public” is increasingly popular. It’s fun to have strangers cheering you on, and it creates a self-imposed accountability. But doesn’t it ruin competitive advantage when your competitors can steal your source code and know the salaries of your employees and whether your company is growing or shrinking?