Alex Schleifer on how Airbnb’s mission informs product design

4 min read
Eli Woolery
  •  Sep 8, 2017
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What if your company’s mission were so powerful you not only embraced it, but used it every week to make product decisions?

Airbnb’s mission is to help create a world where you can belong anywhere—and Alex Schleifer, Airbnb’s head of design, helps make that possible. His team relies on the statement to guide product decisions large and small.

“At least a few times a week, somebody will bring up our mission at a meeting in which we are making a product decision … it is a really useful tool, and this is the first time I’ve seen this happen with such regularity.” – Alex Schleifer

Given Airbnb’s scale and velocity of growth, a mission statement alone isn’t all that Schleifer leans on to help align teams and ship products. He also believes in being a product-driven company, with teams organized in an Engineering, Product, Design (EPD) structure, which Airbnb refers to as “the triforce.”

Our interview with Schleifer goes beyond his current work at Airbnb. He talks about what got him into tech in the first place (turns out we’ve both worked with our brothers, and wanted to make computer games with them in our younger years).

A treehouse in Atlanta, one of the many amazing residences you can rent through Airbnb

It’s also interesting that Schleifer’s led a mostly self-employed life since starting an agency in 1997; Airbnb was his first job interview.

Aside from a glimpse into his past, Schleifer also shares plenty of useful insights. Here are a few others to listen for in the interview:

  • How he ensures company-wide consistency in style and quality
  • His viewpoints on the tradeoffs between quality and speed
  • What the rapport between engineering, product, and design leads is like

Grab your headphones and get ready for a great episode, whether you’re listening from a cozy treehouse or a loft in the city.

If you like what we’re doing, and want to hear the stories of more great designers like Alex Schleifer, it would help us out a lot if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review.

Thanks for listening!

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