Thom Jenkins & Will Monk·17 July 2020
We love animals. Not just because they're cute. They are cute, though...
... so there's that.
(That's Will's dog, Ziggy. Awwww.)
More specifically, we love all creatures great and small because they remind us there are multiple ways of being. Sure, animals very much like you have written epic novels, been to the Moon, and the very best of them have even created a particularly wonderful app for pets. But can you lift 5,000 times your own body weight? Me neither. An ant can. What's the longest you can hold your breath? Seals have you beat - 2 hours! Don't try that at home.
These facts keep us humble.
Us humans have a tendency to view the world through an anthropocentric lens. That's boring. We value diversity, and the animal kingdom is full of it.
By the way, you're excellent too. Truth be told, Homo sapiens are still our favourites. I know we probably shouldn't have favourites but what can I say? We're only human. Animal-loving Homo sapiens are our favouritest of all.
But what else do we value in our people?
No, humans aren't the only animals that can talk...
But at PetsApp when we talk, we like to tell it like it is. Unlike Einstein the parrot, we leave the "gobble, gobble" to the turkeys. No fluff, an aversion for jargon, and the assumption of positive intent. This allows us to be all ears to constructive candour.
If you're in the PetsApp pack then there's a reason for that. And the reason wasn't for you to keep your opinions to yourself.
This is not an excuse to be mean or unnuanced but an opportunity to construct a company of which we are all proud to be a part. This process of construction happens through constructively candid feedback.
Telling someone something that'll make them feel bad without any route to improvement? Jog on, mate. Candidly, there's a company out there for you somewhere (all too many of them, I fear), but this is not it.
Telling someone something to help them be better? Crack on, even if it's hard. Maybe especially if it's hard. It would be cruel not to. Nice ≠ kind.
Are you a bit of a bird brain? Fantastic! Birds like the crow are some of the most intelligent creatures around. Don't believe me? Just watch:
At PetsApp, we love creative problem solving. This involves joined-up thinking. Finding connections between things that no one else sees. Being intellectually curious. A preparedness to fail for the sake of success.
If this video showing squirrels (and a human) at their best floats your boat then you're probably our kind of people.
At PetsApp we like to be judged on our output, not our input.
We have a supremely talented team, and sometimes we can fit a whole day's work into an hour. The rest of the time you might find us cat napping.
Sometimes things aren't quite so easy, and you'll find us beavering away into the evening. Shock, horror - sometimes we even work weekends!
We're happy to be flexible.
Because, guess what? Sometimes our kids have sports days and we like to be there. Sometimes we drop everything to go on a long walk with the dog. Sometimes we forego an hour of Netflix in the evening because we've come up with a creative solution that just can't wait.
We're adult homo sapiens, and we trust each other to make these sorts of decisions for ourselves.
But sometimes flexibility alone isn't enough. Sometimes you need to evolve. And this is where we need to ask: are you a cat person or a dog person? No, we don't mean do you love cats or dogs more - we love them both. Loads. But are you, as a person, more like a cat or a dog?
We pick dogs. Here's why:
Dogs literally evolve faster than cats. This is why you have Chihuahuas and Great Danes both claiming to be dogs. Meanwhile, cats might have pointy faces or flat faces, short hair, long hair or no hair at all but they're always indelibly and unapologetically cats.
Because we exist in the fast paced world of tech, because pet owners quite rightly always expect the best for their pets, because veterinary teams deserve the best too - we need high mutability at PetsApp. We need people that can evolve in the face of the changing needs and competing priorities of the company.
We need dogs.
(But we sure do love cats.)
Have you ever seen that picture of the wolf pack and the lessons around leadership? It's a bit of a meme.
The idea is that the three wolves in the front are elderly and sick, and they set the pace. And the one at the back is the leader. The leader ensures no one gets left behind, and is ready to do anything to protect the pack at a moment's notice.
Unfortunately, that is all made up.
Luckily, the truth is almost better.
Walking through snow is draining. So, this pack is led by the alpha female creating a path for the rest of them, as they travel single-file through the deep snow.
That's servant leadership. That's what we expect at PetsApp.
Guess what? This pack of 25 timberwolves hunt bison that are ten times their size. Poor bison. But the timberwolves in this National Park are the only ones that can manage this. I bet it helps that the whole pack doesn't have to expend energy travelling an untrodden path. This leader knows what she's doing.
Servant leadership sets teams up to achieve more than they ever thought they could.
Bee hives are beautiful structures. Honey is delicious. And bees are essential to the world as we know it. We love bees.
Take some time to watch a busy bee.
A bee buzzes around collecting nectar from flowers, pollenating as it goes. It knows just what to do.
At some point it'll return to the hive and do a little waggle dance to share what it's learnt with its team. And through their collective autonomous efforts the bees will maintain the hive, nurture more bees and produce delicious honey.
At PetsApp we are self-directed team-players. We value autonomy, and exercise that autonomy with not just self-awareness but team-awareness too.
We pick things to work on that we're passionate about. And we're passionate about working on those things that best help the team.
Have you ever seen a meerkat keeping guard? Course you have, it looks like this:
Yep, pretty cute.
But if a meerkat had to spend all their time on guard for birds of prey and snakes, when would they find time to eat? Who would rear the young? There are some burrow improvements that desperately need making - when are you going to get round to that?
Fortunately for meerkats somewhere along their evolutionary history they stumbled upon a little something called reciprocity.
When a meerkat keeps guard so that other meerkats can eat without worrying about threats flying overhead, they're not just guarding. They're also setting reciprocal expectations. In this case, the reciprocal expectation is that when it's their turn to eat, the fellow group members will ensure they don't get eaten either. And that's in everyone's interest because if anyone does get eaten there's one less person, sorry I mean meerkat, in the guard duty rota.
At PetsApp we believe in setting reciprocal expectations too. If I have expectations of you, you are entitled to have expectations of me.
The most fundamental reciprocal expectation at PetsApp is that we will all help each other achieve more than any of us thought we could. That's our common endeavour. A bit like meerkats.
What do PetsApp and jellyfish have in common?
We will be transparent with you. We expect you to be transparent with us.
Not sure why something is done the way it is? Just ask us. Think it could be better? Just tell us.
That's sort of why transparency is so important to us. If you can see everything then you can see what needs work. And if you're a constructively candid, creative problem solver then - empowered with the right information - you're bound to make us better.
Don't worry, unlike with jellyfish, you won't get stung. This is where trust comes in.
You know those little birds that pick the teeth of crocodiles? That's us that is.
There are little fish that do a similar thing cleaning sharks. They're us too.
Creative problem solving and constructive candour require a heck of a lot of vulnerability. You'll only feel comfortable making yourself vulnerable among people you trust.
Interestingly, it's by living our other values (such as: transparency, constructive candour, collective autonomy, servant leadership, flexibility and reciprocity) that we are able to build trust. This in turn sets up everyone to do their best work. Unlocking excellence.
What's the fastest animal in the world?
The peregrine falcon is faster. And it's not even close.
The falcon uses gravity to help it travel 300km/hr faster than the cheetah. Who's the real cheater you might be asking? (Oh you weren't asking that? Sorry.) But is using gravity really cheating?
As creative problem solvers who value output over input, we're with the falcon on this one.
The path to excellence is often simultaneously harder and easier than you'd initially think. Want to be as fast as a peregrine falcon? Sure you can use gravity, however, you'll need to work out the whole flying thing first or else it'll probably end badly. That's easier said than done. (But don't let that stop you!)
By the way, the peregrine falcon isn't the fastest animal in the world either. Humans have travelled an order of magnitude faster. I did tell you we're excellent.
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