Prominent Silicon Valley Investor John Doerr Advises Barowsky MBAs: Ideas Are Easy, It’s Execution That’s Challenging
John Doerr sat down with a small group of Barowsky School of Business (BSB) MBA students and shared invaluable insight derived from his incomparably successful career as a company founder and venture capitalist. His name is synonymous with Silicon Valley, a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Menlo Park, California, Mr. Doerr, a self-described tech junkie, has invested in some of the most prominent tech companies including Google, Amazon, and Twitter.
Mr. Doerr is one of a group of high-profile leaders who was a guest lecturer in the MBA course module titled “CEO of the Field – Coaching Your Business to Success,” led by mother-son duo Dr. Beth Seidenberg and Sammy Vogel-Seidenberg. Dr. Seidenberg is also a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins. Sammy Vogel-Seidenberg is the Head Coach of the men’s lacrosse team at Dominican. Along with BSB Professors Jacob Massoud and Tommy Cavanagh, Dr. Seidenberg and Coach Vogel-Seidenberg are helping Barowsky MBA students develop into effective leaders in organizations by building teams with an edge.
Leadership, goal setting, and team building are areas about which Mr. Doerr carries deep knowledge, in fact, he will be publishing a book on it: Measuring What Matters. “He affirmed our Barowsky MBAs by saying that business school teaches how to be a better leader faster. In business school, we teach students the language of business and the language of leadership so that once they are out in the world practicing, the learning happens more quickly,” said Sam Beldona, Dean of the Barowksy School of Business at Dominican.
“My advice to young people making career choices is to let one of your northstars be leadership. If you can develop into being an effective leader, there are a wide range of problems in the world that you and a team led by you, and only you, can solve,” Mr. Doerr said.
As he spoke, Mr. Doerr shared a slide deck that he has taken to over 100 organizations encouraging them to enter their objectives and key results (OKRs) into a web-based system to measure performance transparently and publicly. The system he shared is used by Google and the Gates Foundation, organizations with big, ambitious goals. But this system of goal setting, Mr. Doerr said, could be used by organizations of all sizes including small startups.
He outlined the benefits this system has on organizations, calling them “superpowers.”
The first superpower he highlighted was the ability to focus and commit, important for the way an organization sets priorities.
The second was to align and connect employees by setting goals and measuring the organization’s progress against them publicly.
The third was the importance of tracking and adapting. The ability to track and adapt to the way the world changes is a key component of goal-setting.
And finally, Mr. Doerr encouraged these organizations to “stretch for amazing,” using a goal system to reinforce a culture where it’s going to be ok to fail as long as they are reaching for a very great goal.
“If my goal is to get on the moon, but I only get into geostationary orbit, that’s a pretty fine achievement. Audacious goals are good. Having a culture of stretching for amazing goals causes greater achievement,” Mr. Doerr said
Touching on the importance of team building and collaboration, Mr. Doerr evoked the memory of two of his personal influences and mentors including former Intel CEO, Andy Grove and former Intuit CEO Bill Campbell whose counsel he sought when making investment decisions.
“If you’re going to do anything of consequence, you are almost surely going to do it in concert with others,” he said.
Mr. Doerr noted that what’s presently in short supply isn’t technologists but effective leaders. And he encouraged the Barowsky MBAs to rise to the challenge and make choices that support it; he also shared his personal email with all in attendance.
“You need to become a great leader. To lead, you need to be able to communicate. Take courses outside the business school, figure out what it’s like to program a machine, even if you’re terrible at it. Call your mom every Sunday night, select the right spouse for your life,” Mr. Doerr said.
Following his talk, Mr. Doerr engaged in a collaborative Q&A session for students along with Dr. Seidenberg and Coach Vogel-Seidenberg who joined him. Student questions were insightful and varied, including asking about the challenges of implementing OKRs at organizations, what indicators Mr. Doerr uses for his philanthropic endeavors, and his top three book recommendations (An Inconvenient Sequel by Al Gore; An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal; and Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman).
Professors Massoud and Cavanagh reflected that the Mr. Doerr’s lecture gave invaluable insight on leadership and was a special opportunity for Barowksy MBA students. “I really enjoyed the interaction with John and the exposure to these ideas. It’s incredible that they are able to bring leaders like John Doerr into the classes at BSB. I’m hoping to advance my career and grow as a person. I’m hoping to learn different perspectives and apply that in my work,” said MBA student, Griselda Oliveras.
For MBA student, Rudy Cherry, Mr. Doerr’s lessons also resonated, “I definitely want to start my own business, but I’d like to spend a few years getting some experience first. My family is Haitian. I have a strong belief that the biggest tool you can use to address poverty is education. I hadn’t heard of OKRs before, and this has opened up a world for me. It seems so effective at connecting teams and making real progress. John seems like he’s constantly solving something, looking for the next problem.”
The Barowsky School of Business MBA program is committed to helping our students evolve into great leaders. And Dominican University of California, as an institution, is committed to providing an inspired, nexus approach to learning that happens across disciplines and beyond the classroom.