Dec. 23, 2020

Productivity Depends on Mindset and Culture, Say Flexport CEO and Ashton Kutcher

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Recently, Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen spoke with actor and early Flexport investor Ashton Kutcher for ELC Summit 2020, an annual celebration for engineering leaders. During the discussion, “Productivity Practices to Scale Your Time and Mind,” the two shared their respective outlooks, tools, and hacks for getting things done.

As a new year looms, resolutions and commitments to doing and being better are in the works for many people. For some, it’s about tapping into systems and tricks that can transform into habits.

In the world of shipping and logistics, anything that translates into efficiency can have compound effects throughout the supply chain. In fact, that’s the principle behind Flexport’s digital platform. To that point, a recent TechValidate survey of 206 Flexport customers revealed that 91% agree the Flexport platform enables clear and fast communication and collaboration with suppliers, partners, and their teams.

Personal Hacks

Ryan stays on task and aligns his days with Flexport objectives using simple approaches. Particularly helpful for him is the idea of breaking to-dos into bite-sized tasks—a method he credits to the book “Getting Things Done'' by David Allen.

A quick tip he follows: If an item stays on your list longer than you’d like, it could mean it's too big. Break the task down further for smaller chunks of achievement.

Another important tip: Know your core values. Ryan and Kutcher both cite the significance of self-awareness. Knowing yourself makes it easier to guide or participate in a company culture.

For instance, Ryan shared anecdotes of how he and Kutcher are both passionate about being entrepreneurs. Kutcher concurs that an essential element of the entrepreneurial spirit is a desire to improve how things are done.

Accordingly, in middle school, Ryan was crunching numbers and tweaking his sourcing to offer a better value on lollipops than a competing student. Kutcher was an unwitting subscription-services pioneer in high school, selling access to his locker, which he filled with candy and updated with a new combination monthly.

A dedication to streamlined growth and improvement flows across the culture at their own companies. Straightforward matters to address include what work is prioritized, how meetings are run, and what the decision-making process is.

More subtle is the question of when things happen. Ryan isn’t just referring to schedules, on-time performance, and other metrics worth tracking. He points to business cycles, like planning or sprints, which can build cadence. Another suggestion: Scan for rituals that may mark certain time periods or shifts in demand.

Consistency is how culture can best support productivity. At Flexport, technology and topical expertise help drive the company. Even during a highly unpredictable year in freight forwarding, established frameworks can provide a certain level of predictability that allows people to trust their instincts and focus.

Kutcher can attest to the approach. While preparing for a movie role as a US Coast Guard lifeguard, a boot camp he was participating in denied participants a timed structure. Instead, it directed them to perform a specific challenge until they were told to stop. He found it excruciating.

He realized that predictability allows the mind to relax and returns creative problem-solving, which ultimately impacts productivity.

This type of discovery, paired with quick tricks for to-dos, informs the kind of goal-setting that inspires individuals to get their best work done, comfortably and with confidence.

For more, watch the ELC Summit 2020 discussion, or to help us scale at Flexport, check out our open positions.

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