Outside tech, “hacker” means someone who breaks into computers. Among engineers, it means a good programmer and someone who can make a computer do what they want - whether the computer wants to or not.
Startups need hackers everywhere, be it tech, product, sales, marketing, or operations. In a startup, there’s a new problem to solve and new problems to discover every day, be it piecing together an impromptu production to shoot marketing videos or creating tools to simplify complex operations. All of these are solutions to problems found in a ‘hacky’ way.
Hack value may be found in anything that challenges established methods of doing things and traditional ways of thinking, creating, and learning. If you were to study the DNA of perfect early startup hires under a microscope, these are the qualities you'd find:
It’s called a hack when you do something so brilliant that you manage to outsmart the system. It's about “doing something in a nonconventional way” - and that's largely what you do in a startup.
If you have a preference for unstructured and flexible processes then you will find that it's part of startups by their very nature. Those that can thrive in a fast-paced, ambiguous environment tend to excel in startups. In such environments, doing something in an established way simply means preparing to grow at the pace everyone else in the industry is.
Hackers take ownership of everything and aren’t restricted by their role. They own failures and they credit the team for their success. Despite the fact that things have a tendency to slow down, hackers are always striving to push momentum to move things forward.
Startups move quicker and take more risks. So, with a startup, the mindset should constantly be, "How can I add value to customers' life?" every moment. To accomplish so, you'll need to be proactive in discovering, assessing, and acting on opportunities as they arise on a daily basis.
Instead of being part of the herd, step outside and not let your thinking be limited by the rules and restrictions that others put up around you. It's often vital to have the courage to take a chance and believing in your gut, especially when it seems to have more conviction than your mind. When you push the boundaries of what is possible, you'll end up accomplishing something interesting and significant as a result.
It takes bravery to bet on something that’s still in process. Unlike established organizations that have defined work for each function, a startup is still figuring out what place its employees have in their project. This is why a startup employee should be ready to confront unanticipated scenarios and, most importantly, to adapt. Anyone who works for a startup must be relentless. It's about making the most of the tools at your disposal to scale a startup.
We can all translate these clever, ethical, enjoyable, excellence-seeking behaviour into our everyday lives. Hacking is a mindset, not a skill set. When you seek, in your everyday life, to deliberately find opportunities to be clever, ethical, to enjoy what you are doing, to seek excellence, you’re ‘hacking’. Now the key here is that this behaviour is deliberate, not a happy accident. If you aren't already functioning in this manner on purpose, we'll need to alter your thinking and behaviour to make this your default mode of operation. In fact, your mission for tomorrow should be to do something that has ‘hack value’.