The nature of work

Some time back, I had interviews at Amazon. It was an intensive experience, 5 hours of interviews in 7 hours. Whatever you may think of their interviewing policy, I found one aspect particularly interesting, the Leadership Principles. These are sort of the guiding policies at Amazon, and they take it very seriously. I can say this because, in 5 hours of interviewing for a technical position, 60% of the time was allotted to Leadership principles style questions. The interviewers want to talk about your past experiences and look for your ability to think about and answer their questions in accordance with these leadership principles. I encourage you to take this exercise, and I found just preparing for these interviews to be very helpful themselves.

I find it interesting because it is a framework for thinking about what you are working on. How do you measure success or failure. Are you measuring the right things, are you getting feedback. Rather than just preparing for an interview, I think these questions apply to all sorts of knowledge work, in whatever field that may be. As someone (apparently not Peter Drucker ) has said, "What gets measured, gets managed".

Take that quote with a grain of salt though, as you should all quotes. Drucker also said "Working on the right things is what makes knowledge work effective. This is not capable of being measured by any of the yardsticks for manual work." and "Moreover, because knowledge work cannot be measured the way manual work can, one cannot tell a knowledge worker in a few simple words whether he is doing the right job and how well he is doing it."

What I do believe is that there is benefit in trying to measure your output, to be able to see the reality of your work. What I think we all have different systems for, is how we meaure our work. Another perspective by Naval Ravikant "What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work." Followed up by Work As Hard As You Can. One way to achieve this is really thinking hard about your priorities, and letting go of everything else. Read this blog at Farnam Street for a little detailed visualization.

This may seem too obsessive. I will quote VJ here "Somehow in the race of constantly being productive and doing better we don't pause and appreciate our past efforts. Not every effort results in a certificated accomplishment and therefore go away unnoticed; even if it's as trivial as maintaining a fixed sleep schedule.". It's important we acknowledge our efforts, whatever they may be. VJ has also started a podcast recently, and it's just great. Check it out here!

I think this stuff is hard to think about, damn schools should teach us this (along with personal finance). Hope these references help you somehow.

Let me know how you think about your work.