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Trep Talk

Think Like A Startup: Look for Ideas Everywhere, Be Decisive.

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
5 min read

You never know where you are going to find a good idea.

That may sound like a saying from a fortune cookie. But for Normal CEO and founder Nikki Kaufman, it’s a management style. It’s also why the headquarters of her 3-D printed custom earphone company are open and transparent across departments. It’s a guiding principle in how she runs her team.

“I encourage new ideas all the time here at Normal. That’s one of the things that I really like about having everyone in one office,” she says, speaking from the floor of her New York City retail location, which also serves as the company’s factory and corporate office. “An idea can come from anywhere.”

Kaufman herself makes a point of walking the retail store floor an hour a day to observe customers and generate new ideas.

The transparent design of the office and store was entirely intentional. Kaufman says having the retail team in the same space as the production and management teams fosters an organic fluidity of ideas. It also benefits customers; in-store shoppers can see their earbuds being manufactured in 3-D printers and assembled behind a glass wall in the rear of the store.

Having worked at consumer-product company Quirky before launching her own business just over a year ago, Kaufman knows how to turn ideas into products. When an idea comes up, she encourages her team to test it, make a swift decision and then move forward. It keeps the iteration process flowing. “We learn from it, we change, we will iterate,” she says. “I would always rather make a decision than sit and wait around.”

Watch this video to have a peek inside the Normal headquarters and learn how Kaufman has worked to purposefully subvert the top-down idea generation structure that inhibits many large companies.


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