Kindel’s Law

Kindel’s Law – Every payment system eventually becomes an anti-fraud system. -Charlie Kindel, 2013 I’m not sure how this law thing works. But I’m jealous of folks like Moore, Atwood, and Shannon. I think everyone should have a law named after them. In 2013, when I was tasked with build Amazon’s equivalent of ApplePay I had an epiphany. After studying all of the payment systems going back to the invention of currency up to credit …Continue reading

A FAQ About Frequently Asked Questions

A list of questions with answers written in English are a great way to drive clear thinking on all the stuff that surround the central idea presented in a narrative. This ‘stuff’ includes things like strategy, execution, technology, business, and resources.Continue reading

I’m Betting on Control4

Previously I blogged about revamping the home control and entertainment system in my home. I decided to go with Control4. I mean REALLY go with Control4. First, I’ve been having a professional premium smart home installer (Wipliance) completely revamp my home with Control4 products. Second, I’ve decided to join Control4 as Senior Vice President of all their products and services. See the press release here. The home project is almost complete. All that’s left for …Continue reading

Tools to Achieve Clarity of Thought

This post inventories the tools I use from my toolbox to drive clear thinking in product development. I was inspired to write this based on a Twitter conversation: The more details you know, the better questions you can ask. The better questions you ask, the more everyone gets clarity of thought. Better clarity of thought leads to better decisions. By everyone. Essentially. — Charlie Kindel (@ckindel) March 30, 2018 Charlie’s Clarity of Thought Toolbox Write …Continue reading

Let Word Work For You

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I have to edit a document someone else has written and they’ve manually messed with the formatting. Microsoft Word has an incredibly flexible style system that makes creating docs that look great easy. It also makes easy for others editing the doc can keep things consistent. This isn’t to say Word’s style system is perfect. Far from it. Many of the same styling bugs that existed in …Continue reading

Ownership

A strong bias towards ownership is important in org culture. The problem is, folks often over-index on ‘I own this area, so I’m going to nail it!’ vs. ‘I am an owner on behalf of the entire company and need to do the right thing for our customers!’. The key is to balance these. Amazon’s definition tries to make this tension apparent by explicitly stating ownership is broader than themselves or their team: Ownership Leaders …Continue reading

Concierge Home Technology

I had written the following in my blog post announcing my departure from Amazon: I am hiring a CEDIA-level installer to completely refit my home automation system and I will project manage that. A few weeks ago someone at Control4 tweeted the following, which I replied to with a tweetstorm. This post expands on the idea I presented in that tweetstorm… Even Charlie Kindel who brought Amazon Alexa to market, with all his technological experience …Continue reading

Friday was my last day at Amazon

The goodbye mail to the Alexa Smart Home team explains it all pretty well: Date: Apr 27, 2018 3:03 PM Subject: Smart Home Org Update Team, With mixed emotions I share the news that Charlie Kindel has decided to leave Amazon. Charlie has accomplished many things in his time here, not the least of which is the founding and scaling of Alexa Smart Home. Alexa would not be the leader in Smart Home that it …Continue reading

Clear Narratives Show Instead of Tell

This is yet-another-post on the topic of Amazon-style “six-page memos,” aka Narratives. This post focuses on the mantra: “Great narratives show, they don’t tell.” When writing things you believe to be facts, ask yourself: How do I know? How can I qualify it? Then, qualify it in your words. Tell (Bad): The BMW E28 M5 is a rare car. Show (Good): Of the 722,328 E28 5-series sedans BMW built between 1981 and 1987, only 2,191 …Continue reading

Be a Great Reader

When an organization has a culture where the written word is valued, being a great reader is just as important as being a great writer. Over time, I’ve tried to have a very high-bar for my own writing. I wrote a little about this in my post Details Matter. I’ve also learned the importance of being a great reader, and that’s the topic of this post. In the 2017 Amazon Shareholder letter Jeff Bezos wrote …Continue reading

Customer, Business, Technology, Organization (CBTO)

CBTO = Customer + Business + Technology + OrganizationContinue reading

Details Matter in Presenting Narratives

Narratives are written documents used to present clear thinking. Narratives enable readers to quickly understand the author’s ideas in order to drive robust conversations and decisive decision making. Details matter when it comes to printing narratives for others to read. Sloppy presentation of the written word detracts from content and shows the author lacks obsession about his or her customer (the reader). Authors must apply a very high standard for making it easy and pleasing …Continue reading

Merit Badges – A Mental Model for Success

A long-time mentor of mine, Chris Phillips, taught me the Merit Badge mental model. This mental model has given me clarity and peace of mind over the years when navigating big career decisions. What’s the Merit Badge mental model for measuring success? The concept of a Merit Badge comes from the Boy Scouts. The idea being a scout can only earn a particular merit badge (actually a patch that gets sewn onto a vest) by …Continue reading

My Apple ][ Tribute

It’s safe to say that the Apple ][ personal computer had a great an impact on my life as any other factor, short of the fact that I was born. This is my tribute to the Apple ][ on it’s 40th birthday. In 1978 I spent a day at my cousin’s factory in Grand Rapids, MI. I was 11 years old. I had never touched a computer beyond the Atari Pong my family had. After …Continue reading

What it Means to Be Great Product Manager

A Tweetstorm of mine from earlier in the week: https://twitter.com/natbro/timelines/611337333711843330 Piling on a comment @natbro made about PMs: Besides customers, there are two groups of people involved in building tech products: Engineers and everyone else. Only the engineers actually produce anything for the customer. The job of everyone else, especially PMs is to generate clarity and commitment to a purpose so that the engineers can create magic. Bad PMs don’t get this and think the …Continue reading

Attention is the Currency of Leadership

Great leaders optimize how they spend their attention. They are skilled at turning up the heat to get others to focus their attention on the right things at the right times. Attention is the currency of leadership, and each person has a fixed amount of attention to spend. “Leaders have a fixed amount of attention units they can spend in a day, week, or year. Are you spending yours on the right things?” (A mentor …Continue reading

Find Work That Does Not Feel Like Work

The first thing I ask people who are looking for a new job is “What work do you want to do in your ideal job?” It is interesting how few people answer this question. Almost everybody wants to answer different questions like “What do you want to work on?” or “What kind of work environment are you looking for?” They respond with answers like “I want to work on a small dynamic team with other …Continue reading

Once I was Afraid

Once I was afraid to ride a bike. Then I did it. Once I was afraid to program in BASIC. Then I did it. Once I was afraid of getting married. Then I married Julie. Once I was afraid of assembly language. Then I did it. Once I was afraid of printer drivers. Then I mastered them. Once I was afraid of having kids. Then I had two. Once I was afraid of network protocols. …Continue reading

Iconic: Photos of Every Apple Product

Last year Jonathan Zufi reached out to me asking if he could use a quote from my “Why Nobody Can Copy Apple” blog post in a book on Apple he was working on. I said sure, why not? I’m glad I did. Jonathan has released the book, Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation, and sent me a complimentary copy. Fittingly, I received it on the anniversary of Steve Job’s death. My quote is on …Continue reading

Be Excellent At Saying No

Steven Sinofski has written another great post on his “Learning by Shipping” blog. In this one, titled “8 steps for engineering leaders to keep the peace” he focuses on things an engineering leader can do when his or her ‘manager’ asks for too much. Solid advice, but it only addresses half the problem (the engineering leader). #5 in his list of things is 1. As part of doing that, I’m going to sometimes feel like …Continue reading