May 23, 2017 4:03:46 AM

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Shares the Key to Creating Chemistry at the Top

It’s no surprise that the most successful companies have great leadership teams at the top. Dubbed Silicon Valley’s “oddest couple” by The New York Times, together Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg have driven Facebook’s astronomical growth and supported one another along the way.

May 22, 2017 5:43:18 AM

5 Great Ways to Keep Your Superstars!

When giving feedback to your superstar performers, the key issue to recognize is that the “no news is good news” feedback approach is not an effective management technique for handling them.

May 22, 2017 4:34:50 AM

True Breakthroughs = Crazy Ideas + Passion

“Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Airbnb all sounded crazy, before they scaled spectacularly.” That line -- from today’s episode of Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast -- really struck me. The episode itself offers fascinating ideas about why getting laughed out of the room by potential investors might actually be a good sign. It inspired me to write this piece.

Burt Rutan, the man who designed and built SpaceShipOne, the brilliant launch vehicle that won the $10M Ansari XPRIZE, had something similar with Reid to say, and it has always stuck with me. He said “the day before something is a breakthrough it’s a crazy idea.”

As Rutan explained it to me, if the breakthrough idea wasn’t considered “crazy” just a few days ago, then it's not a true breakthrough.

A computer that is 10% or 20% faster is predictable and incremental.  

Going from vacuum tubes to silicon for computation, on the other hand, is a real breakthrough.

This mantra fueled me to push past the criticism for many of my own crazy ideas.

To ignore the many “experts” who said it couldn’t be done, and ultimately to bend reality toward the future I passionately desired.

If I had to name my superpower, it would be persistence (or grit) — i.e. not giving up, even when everyone is telling me that it isn’t going to work.

In reality, many of my successes have taken me 10 years or more to implement.  

Here are a couple of stories:


In 1993, I wanted to fly on NASA’s zero-g (KC-135) plane used to simulate weightlessness and train NASA’s astronauts.

As much as I tried, NASA turned me down.

My response was, “Okay, screw it. If I want to experience it that much, I bet others do as well... I’ll start a zero-g company myself.”

So I did. Along with my co-founders -- astronaut Byron Lichtenberg and NASA scientist Ray Cronise -- I became CEO of a company called Zero Gravity Corporation, or Zero-G.

Back in May 1993 we had our first meeting with the FAA. Their response? "YOU WANT TO DO WHAT?

My answer: “Put 36 people in an airplane, take off their seat belts, put the plane into a parabolic maneuver, 50 degrees nose up, over the top, and then 50 degrees nose down, where they can float in the center of the cabin for 30 seconds.”

This is where my passion hit a bureaucratic decade-long brick wall.

It took us 11 years of constant pressure, hard work, and outlasting bureaucrats to become operational, which finally happened in September of 2004.

Since then, I’m proud to say that we’ve flown over 20,000 people ranging from age 7 to 93, including Professor Stephen Hawking and wheelchair-bound children, into weightlessness. You can book your flight here:

XPRIZE Foundation:

I first read Charles Lindbergh’s book, Spirit of St. Louis, in December 1993. I learned that Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927 to win a $25,000 prize.

It was that leverage and efficiency of an incentive prize that led me to propose the idea of a $10 million purse for the first person to build and fly a reusable private spaceship carrying three people into space on two flights within two weeks.

In May of 1996, without the prize money in hand, I went onstage under the St. Louis Arch and announced the $10 million XPRIZE anyway.

I thought (mistakenly) that someone would quickly fund the $10 million prize purse. After all, you didn’t pay out the prize money until after a team had successfully completed both flights.

Between 1996 and 2001, I pitched 150+ sponsors, and received 150 “no’s”.

Finally (long story) in 2002, I met the Ansari family, who ultimately funded the $10 million purse (we named it the Ansari XPRIZE in their honor).

Two years later on October 4, 2004, the XPRIZE was won.

It took 12 years, from concept to Prize Award…

Once again, this was a tale about grit, persistence and making my own luck.

Today, as the XPRIZE Foundation is hitting its stride, the Foundation is now 24 years old with over $300 million in awarded, funded and/or designed XPRIZEs.

Two Questions for You:

I have two questions for you...

1. Where in your organization do you allow crazy ideas to be funded and attempted? If that doesn’t exist, have you committed yourself to only pursuing incremental improvement? Or do you plan to buy your innovation from the outside world?

2. What do you believe in strongly enough that you will dedicate a decade to its pursuit, and be able to withstand 150 ‘no’s’?

At the end of the day, the formula for a true breakthrough is equal to “having a crazy idea” you believe in plus the passion to pursue that idea against all naysayers and obstacles.

So, what “bad” idea led to your greatest success? If you’d like share it, use the hashtag #XPRIZE and #MastersofScale. Reid and I would love to hear it!

May 21, 2017 12:56:55 AM

10 Reasons Your Culture is Failing and New Insights on How to Fix It

After studying customer experience, digital transformation and innovation for so many years, I've found that the next big thing in business (r)evolution is culture. The other most interesting thing I've learned is that while businesses are readying or investing in change, the definition of meaningful culture is elusive or inconsequential. Yet, company culture is either the number one catalyst or inhibitor to progress. Culture needs a champion. As Peter Drucker once famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast…”

May 21, 2017 12:52:57 AM

The CEO's Guide to Increasing Diversity (And Making Money)

Originally published on Linkedin Pulse.

I realized my company had to change after talking to an African-American woman who'd just quit Redfin. When I asked her what it was like being black at Redfin, she simply said “lonely.” I wish all the people engaged in culture wars and political-correctness debates could have been there to tell me what I should have told her then.

May 21, 2017 12:45:15 AM

8 Principles for Changing the World

Denise Carpenter came from a low-income family, a low-performing school and was a teenage mom, but she was determined to make a better life for herself and her family. Now a Dell Scholar and graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, Denise is pursuing her master’s degree in social work and mentoring students, much like her young self, in her spare time. 

May 21, 2017 12:30:38 AM

5 Ways to Create a Killer Culture

Discovered on Linkedin Pulse. First published on

May 13, 2017 11:27:36 AM

The Age of Digital Transformation

Although we’ve been anticipating it for years, I think we can all agree that the digital revolution is now transforming every aspect of our lives—at home and in business.

May 13, 2017 11:10:43 AM

The Truly Successful Don't Use Willpower To Succeed (And, You Shouldn't Either!)

Everything we've ever thought about willpower is wrong. Studies show we don't have a limited supply of it. It's also not something we can manufacture or build. Which means, every time you excuse away why you didn't achieve your goals due to a, "lack of willpower" - you've been lying to yourself.

May 13, 2017 11:01:26 AM

7 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Super Successful CEO

In many ways, the current beliefs and thinking around leadership are amazing compared to the leadership beliefs of prior generations. No longer does it feel like leaders have to rule with an iron fist, not care about their people, or be afraid to show vulnerability in front of those people.

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