Wir leben an einem der privilegiertesten Orte dieser Welt. Wir haben eine große Verantwortung für zukünftige Generationen. Deshalb nimm‘s in die Hand: Trau dich! Es wird niemand anderer für dich machen.
Please take a couple of minutes and read the fabulous essay Sabrina Orah Mark wrote in her Happily Column. Her Blog focuses on fairy tales and motherhood. Within the many things that resonate in her post, one thing struck me most:
It’s about learning. Why are fairytales so important for learning, and why you need to curse “fuck the bread” sooner or later!
Enter Japanese Martian Art – Aikido. Shu-Ha-Ri is a concept describing the steps to mastery. I came across it a couple of years ago, when Alistair Cockburn took away my Scrum blinders.
This is the very first stage of learning, you apply traditional wisdom, you learn fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs. Think of children baking their first simple cake. Mine was a marble cake (“Marmorkuchen”). You strictly follow the recipe (If you’re not into baking, watch Karate Kid):
Mix 125g of butter until it is creamy.
Add 3 eggs and 120g of sugar. Mix until creamy.
Add 170ml of milk and half a pack of baking soda
Split in two bowls and add cocoa powder into one half
Fill in buttered cake tin and fill with alternating dough
Bake 50mins at 180°C
It fits like a shu (“shoe”). You do exactly as said, you’ll get a consistent result. It’s like a fairy tale. You walk through a dangerous forest, you don’t leave the path, you are ok.
Scrum is another great example for a Shu recipe. You create a backlog, you estimate and prioritize stories, you do sprintplannings, daily standups, reviews, retros. Timeboxed, with the right roles present. If you follow exactly the rules it’s guaranteed that you’ll have a consistent result.
Ok, we’re done with learning! You’ve learnt a technique. Many people stop here. And like in a fairytale they live happy until the end. But, Oh wait!
In fairy tales, form is your function and function is your form. If you don’t spin the straw into gold or inherit the kingdom or devour all the oxen or find the flour or get the professorship, you drop out of the fairy tale, and fall over its edge into an endless, blank forest where there is no other function for you, no alternative career.
No worries. There is more! Sometimes it’s necessary to yell “Fuck the Bread“. And break with the habits. Maybe Hänsel and Gretel walked the forest 100 times. And at some point they dare to take a different path, and guess what – it’s safe as well and more beautiful, and even faster! In this stage, curiosity, or the limitations of the given technique (think of cooking) cause you to experiment. Break with the norms. You’re collecting techniques. It’s the learning stage.
Back to cooking: After dozens of marble cakes (ask my mom!) I gradually left common recipes and I consider myself being a chef at the ha level in most cases – I can comfortably leave the exact recipe, I’m experimenting (and failing) – and in some rare moments I’m creating exciting new things! For complex szechuan recipes or a Ottolenghi masterpiece with dozens of ingredients I might fall back to shu level.
Throughout this stage you gradually separate from the strict form of the shoe “Shu”. Make sure you work on your habits, because:
In the first 30 years, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your live, the habits make you.
At some point you are able to fully detach from the form. You can’t say why you chose a specific technique. You just do it naturally, no recipe, no preparation needed. Martin Broadwell describes it as unconscious competence. The easier you can leave the form, the more often you detach from it, the closer you are to the ri level.
Translated to learning, you now invent and blend techniques. The magic happens at your very own “You at your best” moments, where there are in the flow and time and space disappear. Earlier I spoke about “Fuck the bread”. You’re past the point where you care about that. But you’re anything else but careless and you’re neither ruthless as well.
Dalai Lama state? Can anything come after? The Shu-Ha-Ri ends here,
but Alistair Cockburn (mentioned earlier) is on the journey to dive deeper and find out what could come after:
Kokoro is used in the writings of the 17th century samurai master Miyamoto Musashi to refer to the essence or heart of the samurai. It’s the radically simplified essence of a skill area. The figure below shows how practice starts off simple (Shu, learn one technique), grows more complicated as one learns more techniques (Ha, collect), becomes indescribably complicated at the Ri level (invent and blend), and finally takes on a simple form (Kokoro) when given by the advanced teacher.
By teaching others you improve your mastery. Kokoro represents the teaching stage of the advanced practitioner. It is characterized by the advice “Just master the basics.”
The marble cake.
Hänsel and Gretel following the path
Following the essential rules of Scrum
“You know what, Mama?” he says. “You’d make a really good teacher.” “Thank you,” I say. And then I show him how to draw a bet.
I received some feedback and questions about my post on leadership decisions at a workplace, and why I believe that many societal and political topics don’t belong to my workplace. (A clarifying side note: I wasn’t saying Basecamp is right or wrong. And banning and forbidding speech is a bad idea in general).
I’ve been chewing parts of this post for a while. But as about one third of the Basecamp workforce left after their leaders Jason/David announced some cultural changes and today Melinda and Bill Gates announced their separation, it was time to push it out.
All of these separations really moved me and over the weekend I spent several hours in reading and researching. It moved me because I can personally relate to that very well. In November I left my previous company (~60 employees like Basecamp) and over the last few month ~25 people – of which most of them I hired personally – left the company too.
(Just to be clear and explicit: I’m not making hints, propose conclusions or draw any parallels to my former company or people involved there. This is rather based being a curious, learning entrepreneur for 30years).
Companies and their leaders have the right and duty to make decisions. To set their leadership style and their culture. To change it gradually, radically or not at all. And to take the consequences. This isn’t good or bad per se. This is just how it is and how it has to be.
At the point a decision is taken (“Culture Changes”/”Quitting the Job”) – it was the right decision for the corresponding party. At the very moment to decide, everybody will take the best decision this person can take, based on the (limited) facts available.
Software engineers in the tech space are well paid (in Basecamp’s case ~220k/year, paying at the top 10% of San Francisco market rate and will receive up to 6 month of salary if they decide to leave). So they can also decide freely if they want to stay and adopt to the new situation/culture or if they want to move on. It’s also very unlikely they have to pee in bottles while driving delivery trucks or being in physical danger. So it’s pretty safe to assume:
Strong companies are built around strong cultures. And they will be highly individual, but they will share a couple of patterns. Often they are built around the leaders that craft them. I bet you’ve seen this comic:
Organisations need structure and leadership. This is a good thing and isn’t contradictory to self-organisation, empowerment of the individuals,… Modern leadership styles/principles fully embrace that. I’m stressing that because I strongly believe that so much of a happy/fulfilled workplace is dependent on that connection.
It’s as simple as that. Different cultures attract different people. Sometimes leadership changes, and therefore a change of talent follows. Or culture starts drifting away and gets recalibrated, which results in churn.
Nothing to worry about. just to be aware of.
As leader you need to know what employees enjoy. Where a person can work at their best. People aren’t resources that are slotted into a position. Remember, we spend a good portion of our time awake at work. We need to support everybody to craft their optimal experience at work.
You need to design around them. If people are engaged and come to that energized state that is named flow, magic happens. And magic results are just magic! This is only possible if people are in a safe space, where they don’t have to worry about many things. Without trust a safe space can’t exist. But how to create trust (Yes, mistrust leads to people quitting their jobs)?
Strong cultures are memorable and based on a set of rules. The simpler and more explicit they are, the better. Because if you’re operating on these set of principles reliably it creates trust. An additional benefit of trust is that it makes communication way more effective. Because, if you don’t trust me, all my talking would be useless.
A few of my personal rules that randomly come to my mind: “I do what I say, I say what I do”, “I communicate decisions, as soon as they are taken and don’t hide them.”, “In case of mistakes I’m focussing on avoiding it in future, not on finding who’s guilt it was.”, or to close that heading “Assume every decision is right, as you assume best intentions.”…
Never forget: It’s hard to earn trust and takes time. It’s easy to destroy trust and takes no time.
Lack of Appreciation
A healthy company has a good, diverse mix of individuals. The doers, introverts, fighters, dreamers, caretakers, listeners, thinkers, tinkerers, silent ones, critics,… As leader I often felt like a Zoo director.
Assume everybody is doing her/his best. All the time. Therefore everybody deserves their share of appreciation and attention. A “small beaver” can be equally important to a “big roaring tiger” but will leave if he’s not seen and appreciated. No matter how long an employee is with the company, or how important their role is.
Lack of growth perspective
Bill and Melinda Gates separated after 27 years of marriage because they “no longer believe they can grow together as a couple”. So, if an employee is asking: “What is my perspective at the company?”, you already missed the point of proactively managing that. If these answers are missing, one will sooner or later quit. On the other hand – providing a clear growth path can do wonders!
As Leader, don’t delegate diversity and inclusion. It’s your job. As soon you reach a point, where DEI is done for it’s own purpose you lost the connection to the company culture and this leads to dissatisfaction.
There are assholes out there. They might be inside your company. Manage them well. Recognise that you won’t be able to change them. Make sure they do as little damage as possible. As long you have the power. Don’t look away, act.
Oh, btw. I’m about to put together a new team as we speak.
Mail me or call me if you’re ready to make a choice.
Something totally different, but hopefully this will save another Entrepreneur using some PowerPoint Templates (I’m using the Voodoo Presentation from TemplateZuu right now) some precious hours.
While it’s handy to have a lot of templates done, I found the animations pretty annoying. But as lazy I am I didn’t want to click all 100+ Master Slides to get the animations removed. So I just added this VBA Code (Visual Basic for Applications) to one PPT and opened all other presentations – and executed the removeAnimationsFromOpenPresentations macro.
Dim myPpt As Presentation
Debug.Print "Open ppt's : "; Application.Presentations.Count & vbCrLf
For Each myPpt In Application.Presentations
Private Sub removeSequences(ByRef tl As TimeLine)
For i = tl.MainSequence.Count To 1 Step -1
Private Sub removeAnimations(ppt As Presentation)
Dim d As design
Dim m As Master
Dim cl As CustomLayout
Dim s As Slide
For Each d In ppt.Designs
Set m = d.SlideMaster
For Each cl In m.CustomLayouts
For Each s In ppt.Slides
' Turn on animations again
ppt.SlideShowSettings.ShowWithAnimation = msoTrue
Over the past 6 months I’ve been in the luxury position to take time to further center myself and better live my equilibrium.
Among other things I’ve continued to dive into stoicism (a journey that will never end). Meanwhile the Daily Stoic iBooks meditation is the first and last thing I read in bed every night and morning.
Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a log about this meditation:
As Ryan Singer in the book mentioned above put’s it:
“First, we must look inward.
Next we must examine ourselves critically.
Finally we must make our own decisions – uninhibited or by bias”
I had the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with trusted people and collect precious feedback. That resulted in positive affirmation for some things I had a gut feeling about.
And that helped me to be clearer in my thoughts and trust my gut feeling even more. So today, when I read the changes at Basecamp David and Jason at Basecamp announced, my heart was jumping to see how they have the guts to make decisions!
And my inner self was smiling because I’m generally strong in making decisions and much of what they decided on resonated with me (and I already had decided on). Partially out of rationale, partly out of gut feeling:
1. No more societal and political discussions …
The work place I’m responsible for is a work place. It’s no family, and it’s no club. It’s as open and welcoming as possible. Regardless of sex, gender identity, nationality, color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability.
Societal and political discussions are essential! And we should have more of them. But outside and disconnected from the workplace. Still we are one holistic individual, we’re not schizophrenic and turn off one character when we enter the work world. We should be authentic, but be very aware in which context / role we are acting every moment.
2. No more paternalistic benefits.
I’ve tried to motivate / incentive employees to e.g. do more sports by paying fitness benefits. This felt good and at the time I was proud about it. But these things are highly individual choices and it isn’t the responsibility of the company to influence them.
However, in my personal feedback talks with employees I often referred to the “Wheel of Life” or “Wheel of happiness”. And that I like that concept and encourage people to assess their happiness state. However I made very clear that me and my business can only help in the areas “Business/Career” and partially “Personal Growth” and to some extend in “Finances”. The rest is happening outside work.
There is a german saying: “Wenn du nicht mehr weiter weisst, gründe einen Arbeitskreis.”
A lot of committees take speed out of an organisation and discourage decision making. Decision making is vital. It’s up to a leader to take decisions that can’t be taken by individuals or a team. No need for additional overhead, just take a decision (or escalate it).
This is also slightly related to the non-politics or societal discussions at work. Not at my business. Google seems to have a strong culture for that (but also reaches it limits if the wine lovers group starts fighting the breast-feeding-moms or they disagree with the group of people bringing their dogs to work and the pastafarians). I believe in a world where all of these discussions are welcome, but outside the workplace.
4. No more lingering or dwelling on past decisions.
Let me just quote and repeat what Jason wrote: “It’s time to get back to making calls, explaining why once, and moving on.”.
5. No more 360 reviews.
Yay! Finally. I’m happy I resisted to that trend for so many years. Constant manager/employee feedback it is. I promise, for the near future I’ll continue to stay away from them.
6. No forgetting what we do here.
I believe in a world where each individual can make it’s own choices (as long it is in accordance with the law and not discriminating/hurting others – also see above). And it’s also everybody’s personal decision which movements to join and where to spend energy. But at my workplace we’re making mostly software and that’s a big enough problem to solve.
Über die letzten 7 Jahre – während ich Crate gegründet und mit aufgebaut habe – hatte ich über zahlreiche Finanzierungsrunden Gelegenheit Pitches zu üben und zu “delivern”. Ich habe mich sehr gefreut, darüber mit Boris Gloger darüber eine Podcastfolge aufzunehmen.
This has originally been posted on the Crate.io blog end of September 2020.
I’ve had many roles at Crate.io over the years, and today I have a new, final one – a still convinced user and ambassador of CrateDB. But I will no longer be part of day-to-day operations. Instead, after obsessing for so many years over distributed databases and building a strong engineering culture built on trust, it’s time to move on and focus on solving other problems on this planet. Going forward I’ll use my experience and endurance to tackle them in any way I can.
Seven years ago, Bernd Dorn, Manfred Schwendinger and me built the first version of CrateDB and then we configured our startup: Manfred had to take care of our pre-existing business, I took the CEO role, Bernd, the best coder and architect was the natural choice as CTO and Christian Lutz, with his experience and success in funding, building and selling tech companies initially as our COO. Our goal was to make scaling super simple. CrateDB and “Big Data SQL in Real-Time” did a picture-perfect launch: HackerNews, trending Github repository, TechCrunch, Gigaom, TheNextWeb, Pioneers,…
It was crystal clear that building an open source database is a long-term, difficult undertaking requiring lots of VC funding, which would allow us to build together a successful business and raise capital in multiple rounds.
Machine generated data – including Time Series Data – is the fastest growing database segment and the fully distributed SQL query engine of CrateDB is the perfect foundation for the enterprise IOT market.
End of 2015 it was again a natural move that I took the CTO seat and Christian took over the CEO seat to build out with the team the commercial part of the company and execute professional VC fundraises in UK and Silicon Valley.
End of 2016 we tipped the cow, released CrateDB 1.0 and also started monetizing our product. This led to a global, strong growth of users and we transitioned from an engineering-only r&d company to a financially successful B2B enterprise business and also raise our Series A.
Today, 7 years and 360 CrateDB releases later, Crate.io is grown-up and is a revenue driven enterprise business with large customers and partners, and even more ambitious growth targets than ever. That’s why the board of directors brought in Eva Schönleitner as CEO, Christian got appointed as President to the board and I am happy to see Bernd coming back and taking again the engineering lead as CTO. To be able to pursue that huge opportunity that lies ahead of Crate the leadership team needs to evolve and guide the company to further growth. As a leaving executive I couldn’t be happier to see that the company is set up for success and find a new role.
As a founder, of course, I have mixed emotions. When you create a company, your job is to make sure it can one day succeed without you. Then eventually that one day comes and the celebration can be bittersweet.
It’s never easy for a founder to part ways with their work. I know that most ideas never materialize. Most software goes unused. Most businesses fail in their first years but we didn’t and here we are. Now, with Petabytes of data being processed by CrateDB, some of the largest and most successful businesses using CrateDB in their core processes, being recognized by Forbes Magazine and named a Cool Vendor by Gartner you know that your work was meaningful, and that a vibrant group of customers and partner will continue building upon it…. can any founder ask for anything more?
I want to thank from the bottom of my heart every Cratie – our team members, past and present, for making Crate.io what it is today. Thanks to you, this founder’s bittersweet moment is mostly sweet. I look forward to seeing where you will take it next.
What started with an Cathode powered screencast ends with the same:
Mein Freund Boris Gloger ist ein besonderer Mensch. Mich verbinden viele Sachen mit ihm. Wir wollten und wollen immer noch mehr gemeinsam unternehmen. Ein erster kleiner Schritt ist, dass wir es endlich geschafft haben, einen ersten Podcast aufzunehmen.
Hört euch an, was wir zum Thema “unternehmen” plaudern:
“Die Ideen gehen mir nicht aus”, Jodok Batlogg ist Gründer und Geschäftsführer von Crate.io in Dornbirn. Außerdem ist er Informatiker und mehrfacher Entrepreneur, der bereits sieben Unternehmen aufgebaut hat und nun das achte Jahr im aktuellen Unternehmen Crate.io angeht. Ausgehend von einer – für ihn – glasklaren Idee einer hochskalierbaren Datenbank für maschinengenerierte Daten (z.B. Sensordaten, Daten in der industriellen Produktion) gründete er das Start-up Crate.io und fing dafür wieder einmal bei Null an.
Ich unterhalte mich mit Jodok darüber, wieso er es nicht lassen kann, was ihn antreibt und welche Hürden er überwinden musste. Er erzählt uns ein wenig über seine Produktidee, was seinen Lebensstil als Unternehmer ausmacht und wie er das gesamte Unternehmen denkt. Silicon Valley spielt natürlich auch ein Rolle.
A couple of weeks ago my friend “Menze” a.k.a. Gerhard Beer from Hittisau introduced me to the great people from Digital Instinct. As many of us they were impacted by COVID-19 as well. However every challenge also unlocks a lot of potential.
The movie (german) is about you, how you can unlock potentials NOW, just do it. Let yourself be inspired:
There business is to make films for others. However, they decided to finally devote their talent and passion to create a film for themselves. And share it with the world.
I’m one of multiple protagonists. It was great to see the perfectionism and love for detail the team put into the movie. You don’t really see them in the movie, therefor I’d like to show them here:
But even for my small contribution we spent close to a full day in the Forest, with my Bees and in the office to capture a couple of impressions.
I had the opportunity to record an episode of the “Digitale Leute Podcast” with my friend Oliver Thielmann from Giant Swarm and would like to reshare it here as well:
Why industrial IoT startup Crate.io can easily do distributed databases but still had trouble finding product-market fit
Being at number one at Hacker News or winning the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battle might help create a hype around your startup. But it doesn’t help finding the product-market fit. Jodok Batlogg, CTO at industrial IoT startup Crate.io explains in this episode why they needed six years to finally hit product-market fit.
Digitale Leute Insights is the podcast for passionate product people. We interview product developers from around the world and take a closer look at their tools and tactics.
When Jodok Batlogg was the CTO at StudiVZ, the largest social network in Germany before Facebook got traction in Europe, the biggest problem they had was data storage. The data of 60 million users were running on about a thousand servers and Docker had not been invented yet. It was clear to Jodok that the amount of data would be growing and the problems with it.
Four years later, he founded Crate.io with a prototype of CrateDB. The open-source distributed SQL database management system used Elastic Search when that was still “a crazy guy sitting in Israel coding at a new kind of approach on how to deal with distributed computing,” as Jodok puts it in this episode.
His startup enjoyed two hypes early. The first one was a Hacker News article that resulted in the company going into the “Big Data SQL in real-time” direction. The second boost came after winning the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battle, which Jodok completed with a broken fibula. Although it helped to keep the company alive with bringing in investors, they were still to find product-market fit, Jodok admits. “On the product side, it was fine, but from the going-to-market side and on the monetization side, it was totally wrong.”
How to gain product-market fit
The turnaround came as late as five years after the foundation when the company did a customer survey. The result was a transformation to a more enterprise-focused company concentrating on industrial IoT. They switched the open-source model, which allowed the customers to perceive Crate.io as a product worth buying. It also helped the sales department actually to sell the product. Before that, even hiring extra sales employees had resulted in zero sales.
Today Crate.io is a remote-first company, led by Jodok Batlogg as CTO from Dornbirn, a small town in Vorarlberg, Austria. The mountainous country and Jodoks attempt to not use his Audi anymore leads him to try out all the new electric boards, bikes, and gadgets on the market. He shares this passion with our host Oliver Thylmann. This is why they close this episode by discussing electromobility and paying it with bitcoin.
About the Host Oliver Thylmann is a serial entrepreneur based in Cologne, Germany. He is the co-founder of Giant Swarm, a 35-person SaaS company providing managed microservice infrastructure to big enterprises.