Brad Neuberg on Inventing with Values

A few months ago, my friend, Brad Neuberg, gave the keynote at Yahoo’s internal Front-End Engineering Summit. The video is now online, and it’s worth watching. Brad’s not only a great guy and a great hacker, he’s an excellent speaker. He speaks from the heart with intensity and good humor.    (ME6)

I want to highlight four things Brad said:    (ME7)

  • A good way to approach invention is, “I Against I.” (The name comes from a classic punk song from the mid-80s.) Don’t worry about what others will do. Instead of trying to protect your ideas by putting up walls, compete against yourself. If you’re going to be put to pasture by somebody, it might as well be by you. And as Brad points out, no ideas are safe. In this day and age, you will be put to pasture.    (ME8)
  • Brad’s section on values was tremendous. He cited two techniques for clarifying values. The first was “Mob Rule.” If you were the only thing between an angry mob and some other thing, what thing would cause you to stand your ground? This reminds me of something Alan Dershowitz said in the best class I ever took in college. Dershowitz said that he was willing to die for freedom of speech. I was astounded by that statement, and it made me think about the values that I was willing to die for.    (ME9)
  • The second technique was, “The Last Speech.” Imagine you were about to leave your company and that you were asked to deliver a final speech. What would you say? This actually happened. A decade ago, James Gosling was fed up with Sun and decided to leave. Scott McNealy asked Gosling to write a letter before he left, explaining what he would do differently if he were in charge. Gosling outlined a vision which ultimately led to him staying at Sun and creating Java.    (MEA)
  • Brad ended his section on values with a story about Archie Rand, the famous expressionist painter who was one of Brad’s professors at Columbia. Rand used to walk around the room as his students worked, look at them with his eyes blazing, and say, “This shit matters.”    (MEB)

Each of these things are worth thinking about and trying.    (MEC)

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