“We said every single opportunity is a moment where we have to pivot and move fast,” says Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “What actually happened was, first of all, you have to have the mindset, a mindset of hope, of optimism, and of resiliency, that we’re going to get through this. And not only are we going to get through this but every one of these crises is going to lead to a new point of innovation. Let’s look for moments and a moment happened.”
Every Crisis Should Lead To A New Point Of Innovation
Andy Grove, one of the founders of Intel, said that bad companies are destroyed by a crisis, good companies survive a crisis, but great companies are defined by a crisis. I wanted us to be in that third bucket. So much of it is mindset. If you think you’re going to win, if you think that this is going to define you in a positive way and you’re going to learn something from it and it’s going to make you stronger, it kind of happens. So much of your mindset as the leader becomes the psychology of the organization and that psychology really becomes a collective consciousness. It becomes real.
So that was the thing. We said every single opportunity is a moment where we have to pivot and move fast. What actually happened was, first of all, you have to have the mindset, a mindset of hope, of optimism, and of resiliency, that we’re going to get through this. And not only are we going to get through this but every one of these crises is going to lead to a new point of innovation. Let’s look for moments and a moment happened.
In Just 14 Days We Pivoted The Entire Product Line
With social distancing, we had to shut down in-person Airbnb Experiences. Airbnb is known for homes but we also have three-hour activities that you can book with people all over the world. They got paused. Suddenly, we started doing listening sessions with our hosts. It’s important, by the way, to listen and be curious. I don’t think it’s so much in life that you have to have ideas as much as it is to be a receiver for ideas. It’s not my job to have an idea and it’s not our job for any of us to have ideas. We need to be receivers. We’re like radio antennas, we just got to get on the right signal and people will tell you things.
People told us they wanted to host but since they can’t do it in person, can they offer them online? At first, I thought to myself, no you can’t offer them online. We’re about connections in the real world. Then, I thought, well if that’s the case there’s not going to be a lot of connections anytime soon. So we quickly realized that we should get in on this. So within 14 days, we pivoted the entire product line to offer online experiences. Now we have 800 experiences and 200 Olympians including Jackie Joyner-Kersee. They do these activities where you can actually go online and meet them and remotely be on an Experience with them.
Preservation Mode Is A Very Dangerous Place To Be
I think so much of it was turning on a dime. I never wanted to just be focused on survival. If you focus on survival that’s probably all you’re going to get. All these other companies I saw were like just shuddering their businesses and just in defensive mode and preservation mode. I think preservation mode is a very dangerous place to be. The more resources the company accumulates the more they start worrying about losing things. It’s like a parent with an overactive amygdala putting the helmet on their child before they go outside because you’re worried something’s going to happen. They can never live their life.
It’s the same thing with a company. You have got to be concerned but not so concerned that you protect the company from itself and you’re afraid to do anything and you’re just preserving resources. Actually, that’s the worst possible thing ironically for shareholders. Shareholders need the company to grow. This weird obsession sometimes that some people have with serving shareholders is not actually in the shareholder’s best interest. They need companies to create value and therefore they need to be focused on doing new things people love. That’s what needs to happen to create value.