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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