There is no playbook for building Storytell, because our Crew is building the future of AI. Creating Storytell is not like starting a sandwich shop, where there's a deep understanding of how to make great sandwiches, and many people have done it before.
A "win" is something valuable that happens externally because of an action taken by our Crew. This sounds simple but can be surprisingly hard to understand! Here's an easy way to think about it: If you work at Storytell, you cannot "manufacture" a win. It will never be something that we did inside the company. It will always be something someone outside the company did. Here are some examples of wins:
A new user signs up because they are excited to use our product
A new customer signs up and pays for our product
A person decides to join the Storytell Crew because of our recruiting efforts
A churned user re-engages with Storytell because of our outreach
A user gives us kudos because of an experience they had with our product, or our Crew
As you can see, none of the actions marked in green are happening inside our company. They are all external to us, but based on work we've done. These are the wins that build a valuable company.
So how do we get a "win?" We do it by listening to our users -- in fact, in our shared company value "Market Signal is our North Star" we specifically say "Our truth comes from our users." We want wins to be based on "Good News," but they are often based on "Learnings" instead, which turn out to be even more valuable. So let's talk about learnings next.
A "learning" is something that didn't go the way that we thought it would. Some companies call this "failure" but as a learning organization, we believe the only failure is a failure to learn.
💡 We like to term "failures" as "misses" — this helps keep people in a growth mindset to stay focused on treating misses as opportunities to learn vs. being "bad" things that must be avoided.
Learning requires experimentation, and in an innovative environment like the AI space, most experiments don't go the way that one thinks they will. So there's a lot of learning inside our company, which we celebrate (for example, we specifically call learnings out in our all-hands meetings). This does not mean we're celebrating "not winning" -- in fact, it's the opposite: We believe that to win, we need to learn as fast as possible; to have as many shots on goal as possible. So our goal is always to learn faster. This is why we invite users to our company offsites and build the entire offsite around user-driven rapid prototyping sessions like this one.
Here are some examples of learnings:
A user says "I stopped using Storytell for [xyz] reason"
Our NSM calculation is going down, and we are able to figure out why by looking at the data
We launch a new version of our Chrome extension, usage drops, and we figure out why by talking to our users
Learnings typically follow the scientific method: We start with a hypothesis, we test that hypothesis, and we find out whether the result is a "win" (it worked and there was a positive external impact!), "good news" (it worked and there was positive internal impact!) or a "learning" (it didn't work and we figure out why).
One great way to celebrate "failure as learning" is by doing retrospectives, which we do internally within our teams, as a Crew, and externally with users -- we even retro in job interviews with candidates.
This brings us to "good news" -- and good news can be dangerous! A successful company is not built on good news, but as a Crew, we typically feel great producing it. In fact, one of the main reasons we distinguish between "wins" being external and "good news" being internal is because it's so easy to get stuck in the echo chamber of producing good news, and never get any wins. It's easiest to see with examples -- how often have you celebrated things like:
You create a new process doc to help everyone in the company work in a more aligned way
You have a meeting to get everyone in the company on the same page on a topic that's been confusing to employees
You get through all your email -- finally at Inbox Zero!!!
You create a detailed Powerpoint presentation for the executive team with lots of learnings about why something's happening
You ship a new feature that you've been spending months building
These things can feel great -- you're aligning the company, you're getting things done and checking them off your to-do list... but they won't get you any closer to success unless you can turn them into wins. As a multi-startup Founder I see many, many companies die because they don't understand the difference between good news and wins.
And one more thing:
In order to learn as fast as possible and therefore to get as many wins as possible, you need speed and focus. There are a number of valuable FounderCulture resources around these topics, including: