Sundar Pichai: Walk away in the middle of meetings
Google’s softly-spoken CEO has a number of unusual quirks. For one thing, he remembers almost any phone number that’s given to him, and has done since he was a small boy – a curiously analogue trait, to say the least, for the modern architect of the digital world.
His most striking habit – and the one that CEOs, business students and Google lackeys around the world have begun to mimic to mixed results – is his tendency to get up and walk out of meetings when he is deep in thought. Pichai says he thinks best when on the move, and colleagues note that, almost every single time, the Alphabet boss comes back with a nifty solution to the problem at hand.
Jeff Bezos: Stick to the two pizza rule
Amazon’s CEO had a brief flirtation with the “World’s Richest Man” name badge earlier this month (he’s since crashed back down to third position, the loser), and at least some of that success can be attributed to his famous attention to detail. One of the bookmonger’s favourite tips is his “two pizza rule”, an Amazonian diktat that states that any team should be able to be fed by just two takeaway pizzas.
If it can’t, the team’s too big, and needs to be broken up. The rule ensures the company stays lean, quick and nimble despite its huge overall headcount. With small and independent teams, the company can think and act like a startup – even when its founder is sitting on enough dough to put the entire world into a pizza coma.
Richard Branson: Prank your team members
Richard Branson is famous for his April Fool’s pranks, which he sees as mass-media PR opportunities and expressions of the Virgin spirit. But the serial entrepreneur also thinks they’re pretty useful for reminding staff of the importance of fun. And while some of Branson’s pranks are aimed squarely at the media (glass-bottomed transatlantic flights, mobile phones for lefties, an animals-only gym) he prefers the ones that are directed at his team members.
Back when Branson was running Virgin Records with Ken Berry, he decided to stage a robbery at his business partner’s flat the night before the 1st of April. The plan was to take Berry and his girlfriend for dinner while the robbery took place, go to the flat where actors dressed as policemen would pretend to take notes and dust for fingerprints, then at midnight Branson would jump out, shout “April Fool’s!” and return the gear.
Except that while Branson was away from the dinner table, Berry was tipped off that his flat had been burgled and left immediately with his girlfriend. When Branson went home, he discovered the police waiting to arrest him – Berry had filed a police report about the burglary. Branson was dragged to a cell in his slippers and a dressing gown. When he walked out of Harrow Police Station the next morning, he discovered a Berry and his staff shouting “April Fools!”
Yoshiro Nakamatsu: Almost kill yourself
The Japanese tech guru and compulsive inventor (Nakamatsu is said to own over 3,000 patents, one of which holds claim to the prototype floppy disk) has learned to spark his creativity through a baffling and highly unusual process.
Any time he needs a new idea, the eccentric inventor likes to partake in an unassisted underwater dive, which he says is essential for fresh thinking and untainted vision. Nakamatsu claims that the lack of oxygen helps his focus, and maintains that he has had his greatest ideas when he is “0.5 seconds from death.”
Mark Parker: Split your brain – and notebooks – in half
Mark Parker, the Nike lifer and visionary CEO, worked his way from a lowly designer at the footwear giant’s R&D division in New Hampshire all the way to the very top. As such, he’s still as involved in the nuts and bolts of shoe design as he is in the managerial echelons of the business. To keep these two hemispheres of his brain – the creative and functional – equally stimulated, Parker splits every single notebook he owns down the middle.
Every left page is devoted to business brainstorming and numbers, while every right page is reserved for designs, doodling and abstract expression. To the Nike topdog, this sketchbook ensure that design is always equally given equal weighting with the needs of the business. “I think about balance a lot,” Parker says. “Most of us are out of balance, and that’s OK, but you need to keep your eye on the overall equilibrium to be successful.”
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