We believe great products are built by great teams. But establishing a great team can be challenging, especially when your team includes thousands of people and spans across three functional areas, four externally facing brands and five continents.
As part of our roles at Expedia, we often are asked, “What is your vision for Expedia and how do you motivate everyone to build your vision?” People are often surprised by our answer, “we don’t.” Consumers are too unpredictable, the industry is changing too fast and investing in one vision is too restrictive. Although we’re acutely aware of new trends and always watching for new concepts to test, we can’t predict the future nor do we want to pretend we can. Our teams want to contribute their own intellect, talents and efforts to the future of Expedia. They want meaningful problems to solve and they don’t want their leaders to give them precise, especially falsely precise, answers.
That said, we need to provide direction so our teams can make their own autonomous decisions on a daily basis. So how do we motivate our teams to act as one cohesive group and, at the same time, challenge them to continuously improve and set new benchmarks for performance?
For us, this is all about our APPROACH.
Aman and I are vastly different people. We grew up in different cultures. We were raised on different continents. We have had fairly distinct life experiences. Our resumes have almost nothing in common. Yet, when it comes to the type of culture we want to build, we both want the same thing – a culture rich in debate, a hunger to learn and a drive for excellence. We want our teams to love the work as much as we do. Our approach can be described using four basic but powerful principles – applied to not only our jobs, but also to our personal selves.
Principle 1: Be scientific.
Get close to a problem, make observations, build and test a hypothesis, and follow the data. Then do it all again. This removes unintentional bias towards one solution or another and instead prioritizes data. If we are consistently scientific, and move and test and fail and learn quickly, we can iterate ourselves towards breakthrough.
Utilizing the scientific method has expedited our testing capabilities and changed our approach across the company. From branding to SEO to mobile product to our cloud solution teams, each group is implementing tests of varying sizes to understand what resonates with travelers and why.
Principle 2: Make it easy.
Life is complex. Complexity can make travelers afraid. Travelers frequently visit new places and are uncertain about what they will experience when they land or walk into a hotel or go on an excursion. We must make planning, booking, and enjoying travel as easy as possible to be successful.
It sounds counter intuitive, but we know that taking a vacation can be stressful. Our mutual responsibility is to make this process simple for travelers. Planning should be inspiring. Booking should be straightforward and instill a traveler with a sense of confidence that she found the best trip at the best price available. Enjoying a trip should be as simple as arriving and having clear guidance for what’s next – whether it’s lounging by a poolside bar, hiking a nearby trail, or exploring the local history.
Principle 3: Don’t be boring.
The world is distracted. We are competing for time among consumers. The internet used to be about relevancy, but relevancy is now table stakes. In order to succeed, you must be interesting.
We’ve entered an era where teens will have spent more time playing online games than they’ve spent in a classroom. In fact, there’s a recent trend evolving where teens are delaying getting their license – in favor of texting. This may sound silly, but when thinking about a group of teenagers loading into a car, they are all on their phones and connecting with others, whereas the person driving is out of the loop. This emphasis on content means companies are competing for attention. In that world, the most interesting information wins.
Principle 4: Be better every single day.
Make incremental changes. It’s hard to remember how you did something last year, but you can easily remember how you did something yesterday. So improve upon it. Learning is your friend and failing is your friend – both teach you things. You can do some really big things with small changes.
This applies to not only your personal being, but also the elements you interact with or work on every day. Being a better manager, building a slightly better product, driving with a bit more respect. These simple changes create a significant impact over time.
These principles have become our religion at Expedia: they are the mantras we echo in team meetings, in product review cycles, and with our partners. We’ve found they lead to better products, better efficiency, better job satisfaction, and a better life.
John and Aman first presented these guiding principles during Expedia’s Partner Conference in December 2014. This blog also appears on A Plus.