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  • Toby Sinclair

Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman Summary

Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman Book Summary

⭐ Toby's Rating: 7/10 - Recommended For: Entrepreneurs

3 Big Ideas from Masters of Scale 💡

Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman helps entrepreneurs succeed:

  1. Find ideas that generate a polarizing response. These are usually the ideas with the most groundbreaking potential.

  2. Do things that don't scale. For example, in the early days, Airbnb visited every host. It helped the company learn directly from their users.

  3. Create an employee-first culture. Without a great company culture, you will never achieve great things.

2 Best Quotes from Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman 💬

The earlier you can predict a “Yes” in a field of “Nos,” the bigger your opportunity.
When you’re building your company, it’s more important to have one hundred people love your product than a million people kind of like it.

Tobys Top Takeaway

Find the polarizing No. Easier said than done. As a people pleaser, I love it when people like my ideas. In fact, I often seek out positive praise to confirm my biases. It takes courage to actively seek out the Nos in a field of Yes. Reid Hoffman shares that the most groundbreaking ideas are polarizing.

When I present an idea to my partners at Greylock, and they all say, “That’s great! We should do that!” my response is: “Uh-oh.” When you have a group of hyperintelligent, sophisticated investors and no one’s saying, “Watch out for this!”—that’s when I know it’s too easy. The idea is so obviously good, I can already hear the stampede of competitors trampling over my hopeful little startup. So unanimous consent is always a concerning sign. On the other hand, I don’t exactly want every person in the room to say, “Reid, you’re out of your mind.” If everyone I talk to thinks it’s a terrible idea, I’ll start wondering: Am I drinking the Kool-Aid in a very bad way? What I want is for some people to say, “You’re out of your mind,” and some people to say, “I see it.” I want a polarized reaction.

My takeaway: Judge ideas based upon how polarizing they are.


Big Ideas Expanded 💡

Find The No

  • The lazy no - Potential investors may completely miss the point of your idea or simply be ignorant. Either way, once it becomes clear that they aren’t trying to gain a better understanding, you need to move on from these naysayers—quickly. Their “No” gives you no additional information.

  • The squirmy no - The best, highest-potential ideas make investors want to say “Yes” and “No” in the same breath. This signals that the idea might be great, although of course, it might be a very attractive disaster.

  • The affirmative no - Sometimes an expert’s “No” is proof you’re on the path to something big and different. The key: You should have an active theory about why you are right and the experts are wrong—more than a gut feeling or simply grit, but another signal for a potentially great idea.

  • The honest no - Frequently, the experts are right. You have to be ruthless about killing your own bad ideas along the way—and an honest “No” could be a lifeline to turn a bad idea into something good, or to help you move on to a better idea.

  • The unhelpful no - If you’re the kind of person who might get easily discouraged or talked out of your idea, you need to keep your idea away from people whose opinions you have an emotional investment in.

Do Things That Don’t Scale

  • Focus on the few - When you’re building your company, it’s more important to have one hundred people love your product than a million people kind of like it.

  • Shoot for the moon (while you still can) - Use the early days to come up with amazing ideas to improve your customer experience.

  • Get in the trenches - Before you scale is the time for direct contact with your customers and doing whatever’s necessary to build that relationship.

  • Handcraft your way into their hearts - By customizing and adding personal touches to everything you do, you can use the early days to forge a strong connection with your users or customers.

  • Sleep with the frenemy - Take the time to embrace and build trust with gatekeepers and other unlikely bedfellows.

  • Set the standards - Now is the time to establish guardrails and model behaviors that will shape the new world you are creating.

What’s the Big Idea?

  • Chase the bad idea - When everyone is telling you, “That’s a good idea,” it can mean lots of other people are likely already pursuing it. Instead, look for the beautiful idea disguised as a bad one—the idea whose potential value is unseen or misunderstood.

  • If not you, who? - When you take a penetrating look at your history and passions, your destiny idea may be staring right back at you.

  • Pay attention to the flashing neon sign - If you believe that something should exist—and you can imagine many other people nodding in agreement—it may just be an idea worth pursuing.

  • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel - When searching for a big idea, don’t discount the “slight twist” that can have a major impact.

  • The Hail Mary - Never let a crisis go to waste. Desperate times can sharpen focus, strengthen resolve … and yield killer ideas, while also creating the urgency to act on them.

The Never-Ending Project: Culture

  • Build a culture that’s smart enough to evolve - In technology businesses—and all large businesses are increasingly becoming technology businesses—people your culture with “first-principle” thinkers. Instead of blindly following directions, or sticking to a tried-and-true process, a first-principle thinker will constantly wonder, “What’s best for the company?” Or, “Couldn’t we do this another way instead?”

  • Put your customer second - If you can create the right kind of employees-first culture, one where employees model for each other what it’s like to be great at what you do, that will, in turn, lead to customers getting increasingly better products and services.

  • Find ways to manifest your culture - Your vision, your values, and even your unique company heritage matter more than you think in defining your culture. Don’t assume everyone knows what’s in your head and heart—say it loudly and proudly from day one.

  • Think of early hires as your co-founders - Your early hires will set the tone for your company. Early on, define the human qualities that are central to your culture (as well as the qualities you don’t want) and then use those as guides when interviewing people for cultural fit.

  • Solve the Rubik’s Cube of cognitive diversity - Without cognitive diversity, you will miss opportunities. You will perpetuate fallacies. And you will be lost in a monotonous haze.

Learn to Unlearn

  • Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all - When you’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, you often find yourself in a state of supreme ignorance. What enables entrepreneurs to thrive in those conditions is the speed at which they zip up a learning curve.

  • Keep moving away from what you know - Success imprints even more strongly than failure. So when you’ve figured out something that works or you’ve found success in a particular area, there’s a natural tendency to stay put. But infinite learners know that if you stand still or keep doing the same things that worked in the past, the world will leave you behind.

  • Collect wisdom along the way - Business leaders and entrepreneurs often take a zigzag route to get to their destination. At each stop they should absorb useful bits of learning and add them to their greater understanding of the world.

  • Teach yourself to lead - Entrepreneurs who know how to launch a new company often have no idea how to actually run a new company. But there are many ways to learn—by reading, consulting with mentors, and partnering with investors who have worked with other CEOs who’ve gone through the startup process.

  • Experiment to learn, and learn to experiment - Your assumptions about what your users or customers want will never be exactly right. Testing a real product with real people as soon as possible is the fastest way to build something that can scale.


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