What’s your BHAG?

Last week, together with 25 EAs from the UK and Australia, I visited Silicon Valley and met senior people from Facebook, Google, Tesla, Stanford University and Airbnb – and learned so much that I hardly know where to start.

However, on rereading my many pages of notes there’s one thing that leaps out… every one of these incredible companies has what Jim Collins calls a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) and in particular I love Airbnb’s.

Airbnb is sensational but it didn’t happen overnight. As Andrew Lee told us, when we visited their HQ and were seated in their ‘Dr Strangelove’ meeting room, “Airbnb launched three times. The first two nobody noticed so we just launched again and again until people did.” With refreshing candour and a total absence of corporate babble, we were told how Airbnb makes money, its next major initiative (guided tours, events, entertainment) and their BHAG – “10 years from now Airbnb will win the Nobel peace prize.”

Airbnb has a purpose way beyond making a profit – “To create a world where you can belong anywhere” – they see themselves as helping to break down barriers with jewish people having muslims stay in their home, people from Africa staying with a white, middle class western family, young and old under the same roof. And I sensed this BHAG is being lived out and sought after every day – and in a self-effacing manner, the BHAG was revealed with a touch of embarrassment, almost a throw away comment and yet with total conviction too.

Google, Tesla and Facebook all have BHAGs as well and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all four companies are incredibly profitable in addition to achieving remarkable things. They have a higher purpose that’s their attraction magnet for some of the most talented people in the world – what might yours be?

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