I recently gave a speech on innovation. Prepping for these events is interesting in itself in that it forces me to take a plethora of insights and beliefs and try to quantify them into a cogent set of lessons, rules, beliefs and the like.
In looking at the “process” of innovation I consolidated the critical elements of a startup CEO down to four: Fight, Focus, Talent and Culture.
Fight requires the CEO to have a total sense of urgency, the courage to make very tough decisions and the overall desire to win. The fight in the CEO is contagious to the team. The most inspiring commentary on this point can be found in Ben Horowitz’s book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers.
Focus is the ability to drive incredible efficiency from your team by being intensely focused on just a few things. I think too many startups believe “focus” requires a niche product strategy. I do not agree. Most of the largest tech companies today would not exist if they had a niche strategy. Focus is about having a clear, ordered and concise plan for success.
Talent is important in any organization and critical in a startup. A CEO must drive an agenda that allocates the right amount effort to attracting the best talent. Thankfully, the most talented people are usually driven by the chance to work on hard problems and work with great people. Only organizations with great talent can scale.
Culture is, I believe, the most important element of all. The most important thing a CEO can do is to build a team that has a shared passion for the mission. Passion is infectious and unifying. In my view, passion trumps everything.