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Research and Development (R&D)


The goal of R&D is to create a product users love. R&D consists of Product, Engineering, Design all which work towards this goal.

Key KPIs for R&D include:
- NPS (Net Promoter Score)
- Cycle Time (Time it takes to go from Idea => Production)

Simplifying requirements

Elon Musk's five steps for engineering:

  1. Make your requirements less dumb. The requirements are definitely dumb; it does not matter who gave them to you. It’s particularly dangerous when they come from an intelligent person, as you may not question them enough. Everyone’s wrong. No matter who you are, everyone is wrong some of the time... All requirements and constraint must be linked to a person who takes responsibility for the requirement, not a department. You must always be able to track down the author and someone who will defend it.
  2. Delete the part or process step. If you're not occassionally adding things back in, you're not deleting enough. The bias tends to be very strongly toward "let’s add this part or process step in case we need it". Whatever requirement or constraint you have, it must come with a name and not a department. That person who is putting forward the requirement or constraint must take responsibility for that requirement. You can basically make N case arguements for so many things, and for a rocket that's trying to be the first fully usable rocket, you have to run at tight margins. If you don't run tight margins, you're going to get nothing to orbit. That's why the grid fins do not fold down because it's a whole other mechanism that we don't need.
  3. Simplify / Optimize. The most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize the thing that should not exist. Everyone's been trained in highschool and college to answer the question, otherwise you get a bad grade.
  4. Accelerate cycle time. You're moving too slowly, go faster. But don’t go faster until you’ve worked on the other three things first.
  5. Automate.

I've personally made the mistake of going backwards on all five steps, multiple times.

Breadth vs Depth

It's always hard to find focus with so many opportunities. The key is to calibrate to your approriate level then grow into the next level.

Breadth / Depth Multiple Things One Thing
Great Great at multiple things (1) Great at one thing (2)
Ok Ok at multiple things (3) Ok at one thing (4)
Horrible Horrible at multiple things (6) Horrible at one thing (5)

Breadth i.e. Scaling a business. Fixing structural issues in healthcare.
Depth i.e. Make one customer love you. Help one patient deeply.

Asia Specific

Le Hong Minh of VNG: Rising above Global Giants as Vietnam’s Homegrown Startup @ 23:00

Hans Tung

You do many things and many things well, all number one in Vietnam, so the question is, being in Silicon Valley, you don't see a lot of companies that can do many things well. Each time you want to do something new, you need a new group of people and to properly incentivize them with equity. It's very difficult for big companies to keep spurring out new subsidiaries where each one is a category leader. Even the very best, Google and Facebook cannot churn out multiple hit products easily. But in Asia, whether it's in South Korea, Japan, or China or Vietnam, we see companies that can come out with multiple things and do it well... how do you build up a team that can execute well time after time?

Le Hong Minh:

The US market is very big and anyone that starts in the US will have a global market in mind.. basically you have a lot of talented people. The strategy is if you go after a large market and there's a lot of talent, you better focus on the few things you can do very well on a global scale, and become number one in a global market.
If you look at the technology market in the US, when they become the leader in the US it's very likely they become the leader in the rest of the world.
In Asia, even in large markets like China and Korea, or even in Vietnam, it's very hard for a company starting out to have a global view because we didn''t have really have the understanding of the global market along with the capabilities, talent, and resources to do that. Now it's different but it was like that 10-15 years ago. So, the natural expansion is to really focus on the local market and to win on multiple verticals.