How Ontology Founder Jun Li Improves His Team Every Day
This blockchain executive reads three books a day and still has time to build up his team.
Entrepreneur Jun Li reads three books per day. How does he do it?
"When you read enough books, you already have a knowledge structure in your mind," said Li, founder of Shanghai, China-based blockchain company Ontology. "You understand different parts of philosophy, management and business. So, when I read a new book, I can link all the knowledge together, and understand the highlights from the book faster and faster."
This even goes for sophisticated philosophy books, Li said. "If you have a very clear structure in the history, and which idea came from which school of thought, you can figure out what a certain book is talking about and what the differences are quicker."
Recently, Li has been reading a lot about society and knowledge — books on how to organize teams, how incentives affect different kinds of cooperation and collaboration, as well as the organization of people, including books about politics and more.
"Ecosystem mechanisms, incentive mechanisms, organization mechanisms are very helpful in building out the blockchain ecosystem," he said.
Exercise's key role
Other than reading, Li manages to find time for swimming and running in his spare time. "I run almost every day," he said. "In the morning I run on my treadmill. I swim, too."
A lot of people ask Li why he doesn't run outside. He does it to save time, he said. "While running, I have an iPad or an article in front of me, so I don't miss anything within the organization or on the news."
Exercise and improving oneself are both keys to being a leader, said Li.
Staying fit helps him think more clearly and better manage his 150-person team, which builds many facets of blockchain infrastructure and applications.
"It's not only building the infrastructure," he said. "You need a real application, and you need to build a growing, community-driven ecosystem. You also need to support enterprises converting a service into a decentralized service."
Ontology is also building decentralized identity and data exchanges on top of the infrastructure level.
A focus on delegation
Blockchain platforms entail many things, which requires a large team. Li's management style focuses on delegating to others and trusting his team to get things done. When needed, he supports his team and provides them with direction.
"I give some suggestions, such as new product ideas."
Sharing knowledge with the whole team is a key part of the building process at Ontology. "Every person, no matter if they're on the product team, technology team or business development team, has access to the same information to be able to make the decisions by themselves and use their own approach," said Li.
Ontology practices a scrum management style of strategy, which embraces iterative and incremental development practices. "We are building applications step by step," he said. "We're not setting a long term target. Our strategy is very short term, with maybe two weeks' vision at a time, step by step."
The company provides training once or twice per year. "But, normally every week, we discuss the product and business — those meetings are a kind of training. Everyone will share information, their ideas, and their concept for different problems." It challenges the team and helps them learn from each other.
Giving employees space
Li focuses on building a healthy culture. "We give people more space to do things by their own ways or own approach and to have some creative judgments," he said. "Once the direction has been agreed upon, you'll have very good management to meet milestones and have good results in the implementation or the execution phase."
While there is a time to open one's mind and experiment, the balance between freedom and direction is also important. "People still need support to ensure they are doing the correct work to ensure good results."
Li personally focuses mostly on product and application, ensuring the company is building real-world applications that provide value to users. He also focuses on strategy and the correct direction, not only for Ontology, but also for the entire blockchain industry.
Currently, Ontology's infrastructure level strategy is quite clear, focusing on building a blockchain infrastructure. "But, at the application level, you still need a lot of exploration of more directions. So, you need to learn more and have access to more information."
Finding the killer app
Li says a primary challenge for the blockchain industry is figuring out which direction it will take and which application will prove to be the killer app. "We need to do more trial runs and to be very clear to figure out which direction will have the most potential to become a large scale application."
Along the way, blockchain companies might implement different management styles to meet various goals. Staying focused and achieving one's objectives sometimes comes down to a healthy lifestyle, says Li.
"At the end of the day, leadership is important in running an organization that builds upon decentralized innovations," he said. "Leaders and their workers need to elevate themselves by maintaining a fit lifestyle, learning a lot from books and reading, and maximizing one's time, such as by consuming information while on a fitness routine. These lifestyle philosophies can influence vision and perspective in running an organization."
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