Canva - Giving Away Your Legos

Canva - Giving Away Your Legos

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This is an interview between Cameron Adams (CPO) from Canva and Lenny.

While they cover a range of interesting topics like MVPs, novel approaches to SEO, end to end user onboarding etc.

This post will be focused on what I found most interesting - their approach to culture and management.

Giving Away Your Legos

Simply put, you need to be able to give away things you are doing right now in order to get to that next level of the journey.

This solves both a scaling issue and a culture issue through cooperation.

The key takeaways are that:

  • You need to think about who to bring in and what systems you need in order to support scale
  • You need to be comfortable doing this
  • You need to be passing on experience and enabling others to be able to do great work

Practically this means:

Giving people the opportunity.

And that's opportunity with support - they do this with their novel coaching method, which we can get into.

As a company and at an individual level, we need to understand the pivot points for when you need to be coaching others into your opportunities.

When these opportunities are given, you need to push people out of their comfort zone and give them ownership.

When people come up with products and ideas that makes sense, listen to them and let them do it.

Give them the push.

Coaches not managers

A coach is simply someone who is in your lane of specialty who is in charge of the structures and trajectory needed for the person to grow.

This might be with one-on-ones or with documents.

In order to get a larger picture this coaching methodology is paired with 360 feedback.

The coaching approach is top down, meaning in order to have this process and culture be for everyone, it would be important for executives to be receiving coaching too.

A strong growth mindset is encouraged and built throughout all levels of the company.

Giving away your legos continued

There are additional posts on this idea namely this article interviewing Molly Graham

Here are some supplementary quotes to support this idea.

The best metaphor I have for scaling is building one of those huge, complex towers out of Legos
At first, everyone’s excited. Scaling a team is a privilege. Being inside a company that’s a rocket ship is really cool. There are so many Legos! You could build anything. At the beginning, as you start to scale, everyone has so many Legos to choose from — they’re doing 10 jobs — and they’re all part of building something important.
Molly Graham
Molly Graham
Almost everything about scaling is counterintuitive
And one of the foremost examples is that reacting to the emotions you’re having as your team adds more people is usually a bad idea. Everyone’s first instinct is to grab back the Legos that the new kid took — to fight them for that part of the tower or to micromanage the way they’re building the tower. But the best way to manage scaling (and one of the secrets to succeeding in a rapidly growing company) is to ignore those instincts, and go find a bigger and better Lego tower to build. Chances are if you pick your head up and look around, there’s a brand new exciting pile of Legos sitting right next to you.
Molly Graham
Molly Graham

The next best thing you can do is point to the new bright, shiny tower that needs to get built. This will allow for people to let go over their current legos

Listen to the questions people ask during your one-on-ones or in team meetings. When you start to hear a lot of, ‘So… why did we hire that person?’ or ‘Do we really need someone to do that job?’ or ‘Is Suzie going to take over this project?’ Those are the signs that either individually or collectively, you should start talking to your team about giving away their Legos.
Molly Graham
Molly Graham

30 to 50 people is where you go from being a family to being a company, and everything starts to get really hard.

The best remedy here is to start writing things down — especially the stuff that's never needed to be formal or official before, like mission, values, philosophies.
Success at this stage isn’t coming up with a bunch of bloated or premature process — it’s about developing the right principles.
Philosophies can answer a host of questions about an organization: What does a high performer at the company look like? What role does feedback play? What is the role of a manager at our company? How can someone fail here?
Molly Graham
Molly Graham


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