Monkeys and Pedestals

I recently listened to a great Second City Works podcast, where Kelly interviewed Annie Duke about her new book Quit. It was a fascinating discussion with so many great insights. A highlight for me was hearing about Alphabet (Google) X’s Astro Teller’s concept of Monkeys and Pedestals, where you focus on validating the hard parts of a possible program (the metaphor is building a pedestal is low risk compared to teaching a monkey to juggle). Humans tend toward “low hanging fruit” to build momentum/feel like we’re making progress, but for projects that have risk, we should instead start with the hard stuff, so we quickly validate and quit if necessary. It relates to Eric Ries’ Lean Startup concept of “Get Out of the Building”, meaning you need to go actively validate assumptions (instead of starting to build what you think you should build without external validation).

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