Talentism

Eric Kinariwala

Eric Kinariwala

Jeff Hunter:Hi and welcome. I'm Jeff Hunter and you were listening to Coaching in the Clear, the podcastcommitted to help you learn about coaching. Coaching is more popular than ever, and webelieve that sharing in-depth personal conversations about coaching experiences is the bestway for you to learn whether coaching is for you and how you can get the most out of yourcoaching practice. We are especially interested in how people use coaching to unleash theirpotential while creating market leading big change businesses. Coaching in the Clear is aproduction of Talentism, a business dedicated to helping the world's most ambitious leadersachieve their ultimate goals by systematically turning confusion into clarity. We send out aweekly newsletter called the Sensemaker where we offer our latest thinking about issuesaffecting big change companies and their leaders, as well as provide other helpful content toenable you to unleash your potential, learn more and sign up at Talentism.com. Today I'mspeaking with Eric Kinariwala. Eric is the founder and CEO of Capsule, the pharmacy of thefuture. Over the last five years, he and his team have built Capsule into a multi-city, multipharmacy platform across the United States. Eric and I met soon after he started Capsule andI've enjoyed watching him learn, struggle, and grow as a successful entrepreneur and aself-aware leader. We'll talk about talent, being a craftsman, helping others to do the same,contextualizing intuition and much, much more. Eric, thanks very much for joining and welcometo the conversation.Eric Kinariwala:Thanks for having me excited to have the conversation.Jeff Hunter:Yeah, well, let's give this a shot. So Eric, you have envisioned designed and built an incrediblecompany. You've worked with me, you've partnered with Talentism. So, you know, you'refamiliar with our approach and our thinking. And of course I've seen you do a lot of your owncoaching over time as a successful executive and investor. And that leads me to ask you, howdo you think about the value and importance of coaching?Eric Kinariwala:It's been really interesting. I'd never had a coach before you and I started working together ahandful of years ago now. And I think there was sort of initially I had some trepidation aroundcoaching as almost a sense of like, you know, I don't need a coach. I can kind of figure it out.And I think the phrase, the idea of like; Hey, even tiger woods has a coach that kind of alwaysresonated with me which is like, no matter who you are and where you are in your own kind ofjourney. I think everyone needs somebody to bring out the best in them. Then that can mean alot of different things. But for me, it's really been, I think what's been valuable, has been acouple of things. I think one has been to create a safe space to really have somebody be able towork through with you some of the unique challenges that really only, you know, in my case thatonly the CEO has to deal with and to have somebody who can provide and share a frameworkthat I think that not only has helped me, like, think about the specific sort of situation that I'm in,but what are the kind of guiding principles that let me then apply that framework to the same orsimilar situations are gonna happen over time. I think the other thing that's been really helpful issort of a process of self discovery around, you know, my own mental models, my ownassumptions that are bacon decisions. I make that I might not even know their assumptionsbecause they're so deep rooted. So this idea of a mirror and somebody who can bothunderstand who you are, but bring that mirror back and help you kind of work through what theimpact of your words, your decisions, your actions are on those around you all with sort of, Ithink the consistent goal of unleashing the greatness within, you know, that exists in each of us.And so I think for me, it's been two things. One has been sort of a set of tools and a frameworkto approach problems over time. And the second has been a mirror to be able to uncover blindspots or to better understand myself, to be able to be more effective with others over time.Jeff Hunter:That makes a lot of sense and so thank you for saying that and thank you for saying thatbecause of course that's what we're trying to do. So it's good to know that it's working in someway. The thing you said about self discovery is something I wanted to pick up on a little bit. Soas you know, cause you and I have talked about this frequently, the way I think about it as the,you are the only tool that you have to bring to the table when you're a leader or a manager likefundamentally, you've got this mind and the mind has models and capabilities and impressionsand all these things in it. And the most valuable thing you can do is to get to know that toolbetter and become a real craftsmen with that tool, as opposed to trying to acquire new tools,because fundamentally, if the underlying thing that you're working with, the, you know, the brainyou've got is something that's a mystery to you. All the other tools are going to be secondary tothat primary problem of you don't know how to use that thing. So that self discovery is a criticalpart of what we're trying to do. And of course, as you and I have talked about many times, whatmakes that especially difficult is you yourself, can't really interrogate your own mind to figure outwhat's going on underneath. There's this really thin channel between your consciousness andyour unconsciousness, the consciousness of what you're going through and how you think andwhat you believe, etcetera. And then this whole huge mass of intuition and instinct and memoryand emotion and all those things that are really not accessible. So you have to go into battle inessence, you have to like get to work and you've got to do things and then try to take the data orthe evidence that you produce and bring it back to the table and say, okay, how am I going tomake sense of this. How am I going to make sense of what this says about me? Becausefrankly that surprised me or I thought I was better at that or whatever it was. I think the role ofcoach, at least a clarity coach is crucial to try to help you make sense of that. So one of myquestions would be just for you personally, what's been one of the things that, because you andI have worked together so long, what have been the things that you started out and thought, youknow, I'm pretty good at this thing. I think I'm good at it. And then over time through the process,through the work and through just being a successful executive, you've come to maybe a bitmore humility or a perspective of like, wow, I've learned that's much harder than I thought, or I'mnot as good at it as I thought.Eric Kinariwala:A lot of things. Hey, you know, one of the things I spent a lot of time doing is building anamazing team to tackle the mission that we have, which is large and ambitious. And so I spent alot of my time recruiting and interviewing, and I think there's, I think getting more, in some waysgetting more sophisticated about interviewing, but in some ways actually just becoming muchsimpler and much clearer about what, you know, what is an interview process and what is thepoint of the interview process and what are you actually trying to do in a conversation or aseries of conversations in an interview process. And I think the thing that has resonated themost for me is that it's all about context and that, you know, one of the things that I've learnedthrough coaching is really to start with what is the context that exists at our company? What isthe context that exists of somebody working for me or being on my team? And then how do youuse the interview process to collect evidence, to suggest whether that person or that individualcan be successful in that context as almost the primary driver or predictor of whether thatindividual you know, will be likely more likely or less likely to be successful, you know, in thatenvironment. And so this idea that it's not about finding the world's best marketer, it's aboutfinding the person that can be the world's best marketer at your company, working for you. And Ithink that's a really important distinction that maybe was less clear and less codified when Istarted doing this five years ago. And I think has come in to pretty extreme focus as anindividual and as a company, as a team, we get better and better and better at assessing talentand building out our team. That's been a really powerful way I think to kind of combine what yousaid is like, how are you a craftsman with your own tool and your own set of tools? And thenhow do you bring folks in that are going to enable them to be the best craftsman they can be?And that's all about the context and past evidence of being successful in contexts andenvironments that are successful. So I think that's probably the, one of the biggest things that Ihave. I think a lot of humility for people that are really good for being able to pattern match, youknow, what kinds of people will be successful in the environment that you have, or that you'vecreated, you know, both who else is around the table, but also just what are the values andnorms that exist at your own company. And a lot of that for founder led businesses, the wayCapsule is, you know, stems from the founder, you know, herself or himself. And so being ableto understand your own, the context that you create as a virtue of being you and then being veryupfront, open and transparent about what that is, and this is who we are. But also then seekingto collect evidence, whether that individual can be successful in that context. So, you know, anexample of that is really, I think, you know, communication style and pattern is something thatyou know, that is perhaps not unique at Capsule, but it's certainly consistent at Capsule. Andthat we're a company that prefers to be in rapid sync to be in continuous communication. Andwe, because we're a company that is very focused on learning and iterating and moving quickly,the idea of, you know, we have found that there are individuals on either end of the spectrum.There are individuals who really prefer to take a problem and then go away for a month and puttogether a very polished presentation and come and kind of have like the, tada, big presentationmoment. And we have generally found that, that is not the context that we have at Capsule. Andso like while that presentation might be really excellent and that person might be very excellentat their craft, that at Capsule we are about learning together. We're about winning together andwe're about, you know, continuously staying in sync so that, you know, every day, every weekwe're learning so that over the course of that month, the information that gets put into whateverthe initiative is, is actually kind of an uphill trajectory versus staying static for a month. And thenI think we found that people that thrive in that environment of kind of short bursts ofcommunication and wanting to stay in sync with the folks around them really find theenvironment energizing. And for individuals who prefer to be able to go off in a corner bythemselves for an extended period of time, find that environment to be, you know, find theenvironment to be distracting, believe they're being micromanaged. And generally find that to bethe opposite of energizing.Jeff Hunter:Yeah. I want to connect something you said, because I think it's a really important insight forleaders and for managers, you're bringing up this idea of context, but also something that youstarted talking about, which is like, what are your underlying mental models? So my experienceof us working together as when we first started working together, that you have had this greatcareer where you'd done a certain thing you'd been worked in the hedge fund industry, andyou'd have this sort of pedigreed educational background. And so early, when we startedworking with each other, you would talk a lot about, oh, this person went to a good school, orthey've been at good companies, etcetera. And you'd really think, wow, given that resume, thisperson's going to be great. And then over time, what I saw you do is cause you're very analyticaland you tend to like follow the data through to completion. So you can, so you can learn. What Isaw you do is say, you know, there doesn't seem to be much correlation in this context, insidethe Capsule between having done these sorts of things and being successful here, there mustbe something else that is a correlation. And through that work, I think you've come to theseinsights, but I believe connecting to coaching and the value of coaching. And what you talkedabout in the beginning is this self discovery process. We all come to the table with these mentalmodels and we all come to the table. Anybody who's having a conversation at work is operatingfrom a position of having underlying unconscious mental models. And in those mental modelsare all sorts of assumptions about how the world works and about what we're like, theconnection between the two and then all sorts of things like what kinds of people are going to besuccessful here or not be successful here, etcetera, and a lot of those models are just wrong.They just aren't predictive. They aren't helpful or predictive of future success. And it's incrediblydifficult to try to uncover those things because you have to again, do it through the, you know,evidentiary investigative process. You've got to do stuff. And then you got to look at the resultsand say, wow, that really doesn't work. What if we tried something else? And I've found you tobe very good at that sense-making action taking experimentation sort of loop. But now, so oneof the things I think you're especially good at is, I think you're very good at trying to use data tounderstand what's happening and why something is happening. And you describe not only thisthing where you're in constant sync with people, but I can imagine also trying to find people whowant to speak your language since as CEO, you have ultimate hire, fire authority, and you sortof create the context under which other people are going to be successful. How do you thinkabout having conversations about data and situations versus how people feel about thingsversus how, when you're thinking about yourself as a leader and who you need to show up as indifferent times in order to achieve the goal that you want, how have you thought about yourstrengths around data and analysis versus other things that might be needed in leadership andhow you've come to learn about yourself in that over time?Eric Kinariwala:Yeah, I think a lot more like facts than data, I think same concept, but thinking about really,because I think, you know, data can be, data is usually perceived to be quantitative, but I'm abeliever in sort of, you know, driving to decisions based on facts. And those facts can be eitherquantitative or qualitative. And being able to use those facts, to be able to tell a story, to supporta hypothesis for a decision that needs to get made and being able to do that relatively quickly.And I think it's, you know, I think in all businesses, there are parts of the, there are some parts,hopefully they're some, if you're innovating and learning, there should always be parts of thebusiness that are more nascent and more unknown than others than when you first start out.You know, you have the maximum period of uncertainty and as your business matures, maybethere are, you know, new initiatives and new projects that have less certainty and less data andevidence. But I think the ability for individuals to be able to gather facts and to compare those toa hypothesis they have for a decision that they need to make is a really structured way of beingable to ensure that the decision making in the company compounds on itself, you know, withevery decision that you're getting better and better and better. And so the input to the nextdecision is informed by what you learned from the prior decision that you made. But if you'renot, if you're not able to use facts to make your decisions, and you're really not getting betterand better over time, your really just staying on the same plane and just making, you know, kindof spring a gun and just making a bunch of decisions versus really, you know, kind of coming upa hill with every decision sort of elevating the next decision and the next decision. And so, Imean, looking for, you know, looking for facts or looking for evidence of when people have donethat in their prior careers or in prior experiences has been something that we, or I personallyhave, you know, found to be really valuable to ask in an interview process.Jeff Hunter:So that make sense to me, but let's talk a little bit about that. My experience is as CEO, not justas a coach, but as a person who's started businesses is that there are times that you need todeal with data. And I understand the distinction you're making between data and facts. Thirdtimes you need to deal with facts and there's actually times you take a leap and there's timesyou use intuition, which is a pattern matching, which of course is pattern matching, but it'spattern matching blur consciousness or awareness, and in the intuitive space or artistic space oflike somebody is going to come in and say, I think we should just try this. And it's an opinion it'snot grounded. In fact, it's not grounded in analysis, there's very little data to support it. And yet Ido believe we should do it. I have found that to be important inside an organization as well, andespecially in the early stages, because every founder as a founder, I can say this. Every founderI've ever dealt with is a little bit crazy because you just can't do enough analysis or have enoughfacts at your disposal to convince yourself of anything other than the fact that you've got an 80%probability of failure. And that, that's a pretty high probability. And yet you, I know you wellenough to know, you know, those odds are long and you know, that you probably could havemade more money doing other things. And yet you were inspired and compelled to startCapsule and get this done. And to me, that was as much an act of intuition and drive andcompulsion as it was rationality, in fact. So how do you think about balancing those things andhow do you think about the time when someone shows up to you and says; Hey, listen, I reallywant to give this a fly and I don't have a lot of rationality behind it, versus when someone comesto you and says, I want to do this thing. And you're like, yeah, it doesn't make any sense. Howdo you think through that as a leader, especially as Capsule grows.Eric Kinariwala:I think it's spot on. I think there are high beta decisions and high and low beta decisions that youhave to make. And so I think teasing out, you know, hey, like does this decision even matter,like, is it going to have a big impact or not? In fact, I think at some of the mental models from,you know, Amazon and kind of one way decision, two way decision. I think those are helpfulheuristics in terms of how much time should any of us be even talking about this, becausewhether it goes wrong or right, like just doesn’t matter. So it's just, you know, the benefit isn'tjust making the decision and moving on, I think for decisions like, that can have high impact andyet there's no facts and data. I think what is helpful then is to really understand, well, if I'm right,what happens and if I'm wrong, what happens? And one of the reasons that might inform, youknow, either of those things. And so I think there's intuition is a wonderful place to start becauseI think as you mentioned like intuition really is, is really just, is the accumulation of experience.That is almost so second hand that you're not taking time to kind of separate it out and codify itthe way you might with something else. And so I think we're believers in having strong intuitionfor things, because it probably reflects having, you know, done something, the quote, you know,proverbial 10,000 hours. And having the ability to sort of almost instinctively kind of know whatthat decision is. And so I think there, it becomes can you really just understand what thedecision path is then going, you know, going forward? Is it, you know, if I do this, then thishappens. And if I do this and it doesn't happen, this is the next thing I'm going to do, but I, youknow, I think you're spot on like, you know, early stage companies are moving often too fast,and there's so much unknown that you can't have facts perhaps to inform the decision, but youcan certainly have facts to understand what the impact of that decision is going to be and how tomake that decision stronger and better or to mitigate the risks that, you know, may exist frombeing wrong. Which, you know, there's inherent uncertainty in everything.Jeff Hunter:Yeah. I think there's two things that you said over the course of our conversation, I just want topick up on and tie into that. So one is, I think there are, not to steal liberally from economistsand Klein and others, but there are people who are good at intuition. There are people are badat intuition, and you have to actually understand how to differentiate between the two. We allhave intuitions and we al,l there's innumerable biases littered throughout our intuitions. And thenthe thing that I always loved about like, you know, thinking fast and slow and Gary Klein's workis sort of differentiating and separating our, when should you trust your intuitions versus whenyou shouldn't. And then to connect that back to something that you said earlier about context. Ithink what that work show to the extent I understand it is people who have actually had to makedecisions that have big impacts and make those intuitions quickly without all available data, andthen experience the loss for the problems associated when those decisions go wrong and hadto repeat that and get it more right over time, because they were in that context, those peoplehave intuition more like that you're more likely to trust or should trust assuming they're in thesame sort of context. I think what many have talked about is the, station commander or fire chiefwho shows up at a burning house and can make a relatively good decision about whether tosend people into a burning building or not, there'll be right more often than wrong in a sort ofsurprising above random sort of way, but it's because the mechanics of building that intuitionhave been pretty good. And the good feedback loops, high-impact feedback, loops, immediacylow latency, etcetera. And that if you put them in situations similar to that, you can probably geta good decision out of it. But where we make a lot of mistakes is we think because you are agood fire chief, you're going to be good stock picker. As an example, you know, a lot of gut gotto make the trade, got to move fast. And the reality is they're extremely different contexts. Andso one of the things I've seen CEO’s think about is like, okay, what is my own mental model ofwhat intuition is and isn't and how I can use it and not use it. And who am I going to choose totrust with their intuition? And some of that is, I don't know what I don't know. So I'm going topick, as you said, two way doors you know, simple two-way doors, sorts of situations anddecisions so that I can see how you do and we can test your intuition. And some of it is like,yeah, I think this context is the same, and you're good at this. Like you have a good sense forhow to do these things. And I think I can trust you in that being explicit about that and learningabout your own sort of internal understanding of that through the coaching process, or justthrough experience and being able to bring that as a leader, I think improves your ownleadership and management over time. And I've certainly seen that with you. I've certainly seenyou improve in that over time just by having that awareness of what intuition is and isn't, but itvery often has to do with building a fact base about the person, not a fact-based about thesituation itself and knowing when you can and should trust somebody or how you should beable to test them as you move into that. Now, when you think about the future of Capsule andwhat you're facing and all the things that you're aspiring to, cause you have huge, a huge visionand a huge drive to disrupt the pharmacy industry, you know, to your credit, so far, so good.What do you think about with regards to the challenges you'll face as a leader in that next stageof growth, that next stage of evolution, what are you going to face and how do you expectcoaching to be helpful to you in that?Eric Kinariwala:I think you know, I think at some point you don't know when, but at some point, you know, myjob went from the very early is actually building the product that created value for the consumerand for the doctor and for other parts of the healthcare ecosystem and making sure we got thatproduct right and spot on and that people love using it and that it was scalable and theeconomics were right and the brand was right. And I think my job has evolved, continues toevolve to really from building the product, to building the company that can then continuouslybuild the product or a series of products that create value. And so really almost from a macroperspective, thinking about my job is now building the product, which is the company that canthen produce, you know, things of value or you know, consumers and doctors and other people.And so that evolution or that transition is, you know, what I think about as the next what the nextphase of leadership needs to be. And so that's things like the communication cadence of thebusiness, that's the management, you know, it's the management rituals, it's like goal setting.It's the team that we have in place. It's how the team engages with one another. It's what it'sculture, it's what are the behaviors that are rewarded, accepted? What are the behaviors thatare rejected and punished? It's all of those things that can then be built sort of a selfperpetuating, you know, organization or organism that allows us to, you know, systematicallyand continuously uncover needs in the marketplace, you know, friction points, frustration pointsconsumer needs and then solve those and distribute those in the market and sort of build that tobuild a quote unquote product that enables multiple products to be built and created without,you know, without my hands in everything. And so anything from, moving the role from sort of,you know, the builder to the, to kind of the architect, you know, is sort of, kind of somethingthat's already started, but where I foresee, you know, my role continuing to evolve into. And Ithink the role of coaching in that transition or in that evolution, one is to have somebody who isreinforcing that with you and making sure that your time allocations are, and your mind sharingyour attention are on those things. And that can come through a variety of things that can comethrough, but the problems that get surfaced in a coaching session, you know, part and parcel ofthat is fundamentally asking, you know, why are you even dealing with this? Because that reallyseems like something you need to process and a machine to deal with as part of like theorganization that you're creating versus you actually need to solve that on your own. And I thinkthat coaching will help will be essential in uncovering where, you know, my own mental modelsmay prevent or preclude or make more difficult, the ability to build and architect thatorganization. And so where there needs to be extra, you know, extra kind of attention to theplaces that will preclude something that is highly effective from being put in place and then sortof sustained.Eric Kinariwala:Yeah. So I think you're raising something that actually now that I'm thinking about it, you and Ihaven't talked a great deal about, but we have this idea called the four D model. We lovemodels with numbers and letters in them, but the four D model is based on this concept of howa leader, you know, a founder's evolution sort of maps to enterprise value creation. And so westart at the lower, lowest level of enterprise value creation. When the founder first starts in theirdoing, their just doing most of the work, a founder in the very early days as somebody who'sactually has to carry most of the load, they do everything from new product development to youknow, taking out the trash, and then at a certain point, you can't do everything and you start tohire other people and enlist them in your vision and what you're trying to achieve. And then youmove from a doer to a decider. And the deciding is deciding what is important. What's notimportant. What should we work on, etcetera. And the decider tells the people who are doingstuff you know, what to do and how to do it. But at a certain point, there is a transition where youcan't possibly decide everything that needs to be done. And you move from deciding todesigning the, actually playing the role. As you just said, as an architectural role, a design roleof trying to see how this thing would operate, what is the org model and what is the strategicmodel, etcetera, and how do you get people who are good deciders to be inside of that model?And then ultimately as you grow and you build more enterprise value, you're going to start tomove from designing to decoding. And decoding is where you have the ultimate strategic birchand you sit there and you see the longterm of the market. You see the longterm of thecustomer's need in that market, and you're no longer really designing the organization. You'rejust the person who sets the direction and talks about the vision and how to get there. And oneof the things that a lot of founders have is they're actually very good at the decoding. That's oneof the reasons they get into foundings because they have a vision that other people lack or don'tsee, or can't activate. And I would say that was certainly true of you and that, but they also thenhave to be the doing, they actually have to everyday be doing stuff to get that done. And whenthey start to move from doing to deciding, it's still, it's the same sort of psychological and mentalactivity. Like it's sort of quick turns high impact a lot activity in the moment. But moving fromdeciding to designing is very difficult. It's a very different thing where you step back and sort ofvisualize and imagine, and strategize and construct as opposed to do or tell. And so I think whatyou're describing is like, you're in that moment, I think you frankly have been in that moment forawhile, but you're in that moment of moving from more of the decider to the designer, whichmakes a lot of sense to me. And then I think what you're doing is describing the role of coachingas being like, hey, if you're going to be a designer, you've got to be good at A, B and C, and I'mnot sure you're actually good at that, which I think you should expect from coaching. But theother thing I think in at least clarity coaching, what you should expect is calling out whetheryou're actually good at that or not, because that's a very difficult term to take. And whether youactually, I've worked with founders who cannot make that term and they can still be incredibleCEOs. They just have to make sure they have good designers around them. And so it's really aself-awareness, which we're also describing with the self-awareness piece, so that not just like,I've got to be good at it. So hopefully you expect that out with your coach since we continue towork with each other and that's what we'll be doing. But I hope that makes sense to you.Eric Kinariwala:That makes sense and the self-awareness piece is incredibly, I think important as part of thecoaching process which is just sort of, you don't have to be good at everything. You just got tomake sure that the set, you know, in aggregate the set of people you have around you can begood at the things that need excellence around them. So that's probably where everything startsis being able to have the honest conversation with somebody who cares about you and whoknows you to be able to get to the realization of like, well, what are the things that you have ashot at being great at? And what are the things that are going to be like Sisyphean, I guess, likepushing, you know, pushing the Boulder up and it rolling back on you over and over and overagain. And which of those things may you want to bring somebody in who can actually get theBoulder up and over the hill so that you can be that person for the things that you are thatperson for.Jeff Hunter:Well, I certainly always enjoy a conversation that ranges from Greek myths to behavioraleconomics. Eric, this has been an absolute joy. Thank you so much for agreeing to be on theshow and participating. It's been a real honor to work with you and watch you build Capsule.And I'm just very grateful for everything and especially for you being here today. So thank youvery much.Eric Kinariwala:Thanks Jeff, always fun to to catch up.

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