I am a huge fan of Bill Gates – especially his post Microsoft avatar focused on philanthropy. Melinda and he have posted their Annual Letter. Longish read – but entirely worth it.
And for me, 3 key takeaways that should hold good in business (and life in general):
- Go after the hard problems: The Foundation is going after some of the toughest problems facing us as a society. It is a matter of choice – either play safe and make incremental improvements in many areas or focus on a few, really hard problems and go after them. The Foundation has clearly made a choice to go after the latter. And so : it is not just about showing up. It is about going all-in after the toughest problems. There is no point in a play-it-safe approach.
- Go all in: The Foundation is betting big on the problems it has chosen to focus on. And Bill Gates is well and truly all-in: far more than just a funder. He gets into the minutiae: doing in-depth research, asking the difficult questions and most importantly, working on the ground. After all, this is the engineering approach: execution mindset and working in the trenches. And so: it is about giving all you have. It is about bringing the best version of ourselves. Turns out that this is the only way to work on the hard problems.
- Be objective during Execution: This seems redundant, but we all know how hard this can be. The Foundation borders on the ruthless when it comes to evaluating the progress of its projects: define the right set of tracking metrics, and abide by them. And so: Even while you are all in, make sure that you have an objective measure of progress – and be ready to make the hard choices. By far, the most difficult one of the three.