The journey that started in 2018 came to an end today. Like every time in the past, I will forget the numbers and even product names. But will always remember the people. Every team has made me stronger. This team especially so.
What I learnt from the Riverside Insights Team:
(*) The magic of a worthy mission. Teams can deliver outsized results when they align on mission and values. When the mission aligns with something that gives them meaning to life. It was not about being the best in anything, it was not about being the biggest in anything, it was about “Enriching 1 Billion Lives by 2030”. That it became the best and biggest was a mere outcome, not the end goal.
(*) The power of independence. This was a carve out from a large public company. It was amazing to watch when given enough independence to think and freedom to act, how a team responds. The results delivered were of unthinkable magnitude compared to our original estimates pre-investment. We did have to remind ourselves at every step that independence also meant accountability. If we were not accountable, we would lose our independence.
(*) Optimism is a force multiplier. Covid hit Edtech very hard. We had some really tough days. And yet, at the end of it, the team emerged much stronger. It used this as an opportunity to fine tune long term focus. Going thru the tunnel of darkness brought out the most innovative side of the team constantly trying to adapt to the havoc that the pandemic was wreaking. The core of that was the belief the team had that bad days were not going to run for ever. We needed to be prepared for the turn in the tide.
(*) Attitude to change matters. The only way I can explain the post Covid meteoric growth of the company for nearly three years is the attitude to change. We brought some changes and some changes were brought to us. Clearly, we liked one more than the other. But the difference with this team was that more often than not, it learnt how to leverage change to grow regardless. It did not come naturally always, it certainly did not come without making a lot of mistakes. But believing change itself is not the differentiator – attitude towards it is what would make a difference is what stood out to me.
(*) On a personal front – five jobs, five industries. I have abandoned any hope of becoming a domain expert in anything. And yet, while businesses might be different, the picture of “business of business” becomes clearer and clearer. Understanding the core patterns – how does money flow in an industry, how to build talented teams and culture, how to not underestimate the complexity of a “customer”, how impedance mismatches get created in product market fits, the power of having balance at the top, the need to thin down the ivory tower and move power to people closer to the customer, the inherent non-linear nature of scaling and so on and so forth… they seem to become clearer and clearer.
I wish I had all these learnings at a much earlier age.
Heartfelt gratitude to this team that left me a better leader and a humbler human being.