The NY Times fala com o Brian Chesky, CEO da Airbnb, sobre a vontade de criar.
A. I had two different sides to me growing up. I was captain of some of the hockey teams I was on, and that taught me a fair amount about leadership. My dad also taught me a lot about setting a good example for other teammates and trying hard.
But the other side of me was an artist, and my parents realized early on that I had this proclivity to art and design. Most kids would ask Santa Claus for toys because they wanted to actually play with them. I would ask Santa Claus for badly designed toys so I could redesign them. I was obsessed with video game consoles because I thought the layout of them was terrible.
Then I got into footwear. I have old sketchbooks of hundreds of redesigns of Nike and Reebok shoes. After my friend’s parents started redesigning their deck and backyard, I got into landscape architecture and designing decks. That led to an interest in massive-scale design, like cities and towns. I’d go to Disney World, and I became obsessed with Walt Disney growing up; he was the person I looked up to.
And what about college?
I decided I would go to art school, and went to the Rhode Island School of Design. I was searching for my identity within that school and I found it through industrial design. I think it helped me become a good C.E.O. because it really teaches you empathy. It’s like method acting; you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s very easy for C.E.O.s to become transactional and focus on numbers and quantitative analysis, and that can create an emotional detachment. Industrial design teaches you exactly the opposite.
How did industrial design lead to Airbnb?
After I graduated, I worked in an industrial design shop in Los Angeles. But a year in, I realized this isn’t what I should be doing for the rest of my life. Part of it was that I was working with entrepreneurs on small projects, and I started to think, “Why are they doing that and not me?” I realized the difference is that they took the chance and I didn’t. I needed to take the risk, too.
Everyone’s got a moment or two in their life where something happens and you make a decision and then your entire life changes. Everything has just been a chain reaction from that decision. That ultimately led to a few of us having the idea to turn the house we were renting in San Francisco into a bed-and-breakfast, because there was an international design conference going on, and all the hotels were sold out.
We didn’t have any beds, so we pulled three airbeds out of the closet, inflated them, and called it the Air Bed & Breakfast. This was not going to be a business; this was a way to make rent for the month. We, of course, evolved from there, but the name stuck.
And I think there was a lesson there. One of the things I always tell entrepreneurs is to solve your own problem. A lot of people are way too academic about what they’re trying to create. But everyone has their own itch — something they’re trying to solve. For us, our problem was we didn’t know how to make rent, we had this extra space and we wanted to meet people. So we created this idea.
How has your leadership style evolved since you started the company in 2008?
The most important thing I’ve learned how to do is learn. I’ve had to embrace the fact that I’m constantly going to be in uncharted waters, and I’m constantly going to be doing something I’ve never done before. I had to learn to get comfortable in a role of ambiguity where I had to seek out advisers and learn quickly.
The second thing I had to do was not to be reluctant as a leader. When you first start leading people, it can be a little uncomfortable — you feel like maybe you’re bossy, maybe you’re mean, you might be reticent about making decisions or reluctant to give feedback. But I removed all reticence whenever a crisis occurred, and I made a unilateral decision to be direct. And when I started doing that, I realized that people are thriving from this, and that it’s so much more helpful for people.
How do you hire? What do you look for, and what questions do you ask?
For every hire, you need a very specific thesis of what you’re looking for, and it has to be simple. It can’t be a bunch of responsibilities; it’s got to be a word, or a mantra, and it has to be around the outcome or goal that I want them to achieve.
More broadly, we’re looking for people who see the world as it could be rather than as it is. They’re dreamers, big thinkers, and they are generally trusting — they’re not cynical, although they are very contrarian and they are willing to challenge the status quo. They are kids at heart — not in terms of maturity, but in terms of curiosity.
I also ask people to summarize their life in three minutes. I’m trying to figure out the formative decisions and experiences that influenced who you are as a person. Once I figure that out, I’m trying to understand the two or three most remarkable things you’ve ever done in your life. Because if you’ve never done anything remarkable in your life until this point, you probably never will.
What advice do you give to graduating college students?
I’d say, don’t listen to your parents. They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world.
I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.