Mar 16, 2015

SXSW Recap: Phil Libin & Evernote


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For the list-obsessed Evernote is the holy grail. The app has evolved quickly over the years, thanks in part to the innovative foresight by CEO Phil Libin. This year at SXSW, Libin came to discuss the art of decision making and how fear-based decisions can hinder the longterm growth of startups. Libin believes a shift in focus needs to happen from the very beginning, by asking the question, “What if it’s epic?”

As a modern workplace, Evernote is in what Libin calls the “scissor stage” – a growth metaphor laid out with Rock, Paper, and Scissors. At this stage, your job is to attack paper – to disrupt and poke holes in things. Competition doesn’t matter at this stage because the rules don’t really apply to you. The goal is to produce something sufficiently excellent that is of importance to people. To get there, brands need to quickly and effectively identify problems.

“If you’re the only person working on a problem, you’re probably working on the wrong problem… Most decision making falls into the negativity bias – you think you sound smarter when you say something negative. However, in meetings you should really only talk about the upside – you can talk about risks later. But let’s focus on the upside only.”

With longterm strategic sections, brands need to ignore the downsides, rather making decisions that compare good to good. One way to push the right decisions is to take the success to the logical conclusion with each decision by asking, what does that look like? What is the impact?

To move the world, Libin believes you need to find a focus area with a rock and push. Remember to keep pushing, as everything is evolving. Evernote has evolved beyond little moments to total productivity, a truly modern workspace.

Wrap up:

  • Avoid the rocks
  • Focus – impressive (scissor); rocks (sustain pressure)
  • Ask yourself: What if it’s great? vs. What if it’s not?

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