Brian Chesky’s new playbook

Brian Chesky’s new playbook

Brian’s background (00:00:00)

  • Founders should not apologize for how they want to run a company
  • Clarity and alignment are crucial for success
  • Being involved in the details is important for effective leadership
  • Micromanagement is different from being in the details

The current structure of product management at Airbnb (00:05:18)

  • Product management at Airbnb has changed, but the people have not been eliminated
  • Traditional product management responsibilities have been combined with product marketing responsibilities
  • Program management functions have been off boarded to program managers
  • The product management team is smaller and more senior
  • Expertise in both product development and marketing is necessary to build and promote a successful product
  • The product management team manages by influence, not control
  • Designers at Airbnb were frustrated with the product development process, which is why they cheered when it was thought that the product management function was eliminated

How fast-moving companies become slow-moving bureaucracies (00:09:21)

  • Treating design as a service organization can lead to problems such as different technical stacks, accumulating technical debt, and dependencies between teams.
  • Dependence on certain teams leads to a lack of resources and the creation of separate divisions within the company.
  • Division leads to advocacy and politics, which result in bureaucracy, lack of accountability, and complacency.
  • Lack of communication and collaboration between marketing and engineering creates a divide within the company.

Brian's thoughts on performance marketing (00:12:20)

  • Performance marketing is compared to a laser that can target specific goals and balance supply and demand.
  • However, performance marketing does not create long-term advantages or investments.
  • Education through marketing and product marketing is essential to inform customers about new products and their benefits.

Airbnb's rolling two-year roadmap (00:13:50)

  • Airbnb uses a rolling two-year roadmap with product strategy and updates every six months.
  • The entire company works together, with product management also handling product marketing.
  • The story behind a product helps develop a cohesive and successful product.
  • Marketing teams work ahead of time on various assets for launches and customer touchpoints.

Brian's journey as CEO in a growing company (00:15:30)

  • Many founders go through a cycle of delegating and empowering before realizing the need to take control again.
  • Brian believes that the CEO should also be the chief product officer in a product or tech company.
  • As Airbnb grew, Brian became less involved in product development, but this led to slower progress and less clarity.
  • Delegating down and giving teams more control did not result in the desired speed and outcomes.

Best practices for A/B testing

  • A/B testing is important, but there must be a hypothesis behind it.
  • A cohesive system should be considered, rather than focusing on individual elements.
  • Designing software should be approached similarly to designing a house.
  • Lack of cohesive design led to slow product development.

Who inspired Airbnb’s new direction

  • Hiroki Asai and Jony Ive influenced how Brian Chesky thought about running the company.
  • Hiroki Asai, a former Apple creative director, emphasized the importance of marketing as a governing factor in organizing the company.
  • Jony Ive, former Chief Design Officer at Apple, introduced a different way of running a company, similar to how Steve Jobs led Apple.
  • Airbnb had 10 different divisions going in different directions, making it difficult to turn.

The first changes Brian implemented at the onset of the pandemic

  • Upon the onset of the pandemic, Chesky had a vision to run the company more like a startup.
  • The pandemic resulted in an 80% loss of business, which prompted Chesky to take immediate action.
  • Chesky decided to become more involved in the details and shift focus from metrics to long-term investment.
  • The crisis provided clarity and prompted Chesky to make necessary changes to the company.

Why founders should be “in the details” (00:24:51)

  • Brian Chesky became more involved in the details of Airbnb during the crisis period.
  • He implemented changes such as documenting everything in a Google sheet and reducing the number of projects.
  • The management structure was simplified to have fewer layers and a functional model.
  • Every executive had to be an expert in their domain.
  • Decision-making was pulled in, creating one shared consciousness among the top leaders.
  • A two-year rolling roadmap was created, updated monthly.
  • The CEO reviewed all the work, with a score system to track progress.
  • Bureaucracy was reduced through regular reviews, allowing for quick adaptation to unexpected events.

Airbnb’s marketing, communication, and creative functions (00:30:15)

  • Airbnb built its own in-house creative agency.
  • The creative group handles ads and product creatives.
  • UX writing and marketing writing were combined into one function called writing.
  • The goal was to have a unified voice across emails, the app, and ads.

Advice for founders on how to lead (00:31:38)

  • Founders should not compromise on how they want to run the company.
  • Trying to find a midpoint between the founder's vision and employee preferences can lead to dissatisfaction.
  • Clarity and alignment are crucial for success.
  • Being in the details is important for leaders to understand and evaluate the work being done.

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Tips for implementing Airbnb’s business methodology (00:34:15)

  • Shut down traditional growth channels and focus on creating an awesome product
  • Growth channels still matter, but should be balanced with a focus on product
  • CEO should be involved in the product and think of themselves as the chief product officer
  • Product managers should be interconnected and know what everyone else is doing
  • Leaders should be experts in their field and not just people managers
  • Aim to have as few people as possible on each team
  • Consider doing launches and packaging releases as a story
  • Use data, research, and intuition in decision-making
  • Have engineering and design report to the founder or product-led person
  • Expand product management responsibilities to include distribution and storytelling
  • Marketing and engineering should be interconnected
  • Have as few layers as possible between the CEO and other employees
  • Think of each release as a chapter of a story and keep everyone rowing in the same direction

Airbnb’s winter release (00:38:48)

  • Airbnb launched the Guest Favorites feature to address the reliability issue
  • Guest Favorites are the top two million homes rated highly by guests
  • Aims to combine the uniqueness of Airbnb with the reliability of hotels
  • Made upgrades to the ratings and review system
  • Overhauled the host tab to ensure accurate and up-to-date listings
  • Host listings often lack details due to difficulties in managing them

Why Airbnb no longer has separate guest and host teams (00:41:47)

  • There are no longer separate guest and host teams at Airbnb
  • The app is now divided into design, marketing, and engineering teams
  • Reviews affect both guests and hosts, so it's important to connect them
  • Separate teams had separate roadmaps and became incompatible
  • Designers and engineers are interchangeable and can work on different projects

Brian’s thoughts on design trends (00:42:38)

  • Flat design is ending and a new design aesthetic with color, texture, and dimensionality is emerging.
  • Screens should replicate elements of the natural environment to create a more intuitive and playful user experience.
  • AI allows for more sophisticated interfaces with dimension and depth.
  • Airbnb has embraced this new aesthetic and incorporated it into their design, such as with the AI-powered photo tour feature.

The importance of empowering hosts with great tools (00:45:36)

  • The listing tab is a tool designed to enhance the experience for hosts with over seven million listings.
  • Great hosts are crucial for creating a great guest experience, and providing them with great tools is essential.
  • Building great tools for hosts demonstrates care and encourages hosts to invest in the hosting experience.

How setting ambitious goals improves team performance (00:45:57)

  • Setting ambitious goals pushes teams to think bigger and approach problems in new ways.
  • Adding a zero to goals helps teams imagine a larger scale or better solution.
  • Setting the pace of the team and making fast, decisive decisions improves overall speed and productivity.
  • Leaders should see the potential in their team members and push them to do their best, creating a growth mindset organization.
  • Motivating the team by believing in their potential and setting a high tempo encourages innovation and avoids bureaucracy.

Tips for preventing burnout (00:50:05)

  • Being involved in the details and hands-on initially may require more work, but it can lead to everyone in the organization rowing in the same direction.
  • Being in the details creates a culture where people do what needs to be done even without direct supervision.
  • Being involved in projects from the early stages helps prevent dysfunction and reduces the time and effort needed to fix issues later on.
  • Taking breaks from work, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and having meaningful relationships are key to avoiding burnout.

Tips for personal and professional growth (00:56:02)

  • Prioritize relationships and make time for the people who are meaningful to you.
  • Avoid spending all your time reacting and responding to others, and instead focus on executing your own strategy.
  • Consider the finite nature of life and prioritize your time accordingly.
  • Say no to tasks that don't contribute to meaningful progress and say yes to work that aligns with your goals.

Why Brian says he still has a lot to prove (00:58:19)

  • Brian feels like he still has a lot to prove and a beginner's mindset, even though he has achieved success.
  • He believes that the bigger he gets, the more he feels like a beginner.
  • He tries to see the world through the eyes of a child and maintain a sense of curiosity.
  • He studies the history of different organizations and reaches out to others for help and advice.

Paying it forward (01:02:58)

  • Brian believes in paying it forward and helping others, just like people helped him in his journey.
  • He values the culture of generosity in the tech community where everyone helps each other.
  • He learns from teaching others and believes in the continuous cycle of learning and growth.

A fun fact about Brian (01:05:03)

  • Brian spent most of his life as an artist, starting from a young age.
  • He was obsessed with art and later got into architectural and landscape design.
  • He drew and designed theme parks and communities.
  • He initially wanted to become a famous artist but discovered industrial design during his college years.

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