For me, learning has been about continuing to ask “Why?” and eventually getting to “I don’t know.” That’s where the process begins. Square is a good example, because we jumped in knowing nothing at all about the credit card industry. We started by reading all 800 pages of Visa’s operating principles, which was the driest material in the world, just to get an understanding. The biggest “I don’t know” we eventually encountered was why someone had to go through a credit check to accept credit card payments. The industry put up that blockade in part because it didn’t understand its potential customers, and only about 30% of people were getting through. By starting from a place of trust and using new technology to verify that trust, we were able to get to over 90% and enable a lot more people to participate in the economy.
I think it’s also important to focus on team dynamics rather than hiring individual superstars, because those dynamics can make or break a company. It can also be difficult to see before people start working together, though, so one thing that’s been helpful for us at Square is doing more contract-to-hire recruiting. Candidates get to test us out before they have to go all-in, and we can assess how they contribute to the dynamic—and whether we’re aligned on purpose. Usually, someone either falls in love with the problem we’re solving or they don’t. Both sides can very quickly determine if it’s a relationship we want to continue.
And that goes beyond public speaking, because facing that fear led me to seek out other opportunities to do things that make me uncomfortable—in business, but also in my personal life, in everything.Those are the experiences that have benefitted and propelled me the most.
Ultimately, I’m more focused on how someone thinks than on their skills. If you’re smart and creative, you can apply that to lots of different problem sets where a specific experience doesn’t add much value. None of the first 50 or so people at Square had backgrounds in financial services or banking, and that was actually really beneficial. They had completely fresh eyes and questioned a lot of what the industry took for granted.
In a company, I think a lot of the little details are about how we communicate, but it can also be something as simple as pushing in your chair when you leave a meeting room.That shows you’re respecting the people who come in after you and the shared space where we all create. If you’re paying attention to a detail like that, it helps you pay attention to details in the service or software as well. And with that daily practice, as we get better and better at those little things, they ultimately become the big things.
After about six months, I decided I had no choice but to cut ties—and the service did go down, but three people rose to the occasion and brought it back up. By finally removing that toxic presence, we also allowed new people to level up and advance, and eliminated the single point of failure that had been getting scarier every day.The lesson for me was to act more quickly—assuming I have what I need to make an informed decision—but also that I really need to pay attention to how a team works together, rather than just the individual and their skills.
Having a sound global currency will enable so much more innovation and collaboration.Currency and communication are the foundation of everything we do; if we want inventions like better AI or flying cars, we need a better sense of traded value. And when something is global, with more people participating, that means more diversity of opinion. That’s how you start to see all the edge cases and solve problems that aren’t specific to just one culture or nation or group.