Paul English: Getting Human

Entrepreneur Paul English was tired of navigating the endless menus of options when trying to get some customer service. Whether it was an airline, utility company, or car service center, English simply wanted to talk to a human. This was the inspiration behind his “Get Human” project. What started as a blog and growing database has now become a widely publicized campaign to transcend the depersonalization of customer service.

Behance caught up with English to discuss how he pushes ideas forward, his value for partnerships in projects, and his process for testing and developing ideas into successful outcomes.Paul English is a serial entrepreneur. He co-founded kayak.com and subsequently raised $30 million dollars to grow the travel company. He has many ideas, and he has a solid process to push them forward. He also reports that many people describe him as “the poster child for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).” As he explains, “A lot of creatives will go from idea to idea to idea, and when they encounter something painful, they just move on rather than solve the problem.” English describes this as the “blessing and curse of creativity.” English’s approach to the problem involves finding the right partners for his projects.

“I have hired people around me that are extremely predictable. They have the execution skills that I don’t, and they’re likely to keep me focused and the idea focused.” English credits the teams he has built around his various ideas with the follow through and success he has experienced. From his experience founding kayak.com and Get Human, English advocates “partnering yourself with someone who may not be as creative as you, but has execution skills.”

I have hired people around me that are extremely predictable. They have the execution skills that I don’t.

The Get Human project is a perfect example of Paul English’s “start small and test” philosophy. The whole idea for Get Human started when English was pissed off with Verizon. He couldn’t get through to customer service and found himself lost in an automatic phone tree. He found relief after coming across a phone number that was answered directly by a human at Verizon. English posted the phone number on his blog and got instant feedback. The blog world, as English explains it, “provides instant feedback because people link to some entries and not to others.” With the Get Human project, users were driving the momentum.

Accountability and small, quick doses of feedback help push good ideas forward. “Describe your ideas, get them out there. Creatives are so paranoid about sharing their ideas in fear of someone stealing them. But chances are your idea will never happen if you don’t get it out there.” Like Matt Douglas and other entrepreneurs featured on Behance, English uses his blog as a primary source for feedback and accountability on new ideas. “Every creative person should have a blog. It only takes a few minutes to put one together.”

If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never leave your house.

Paul English has a bias against broad strategic career goals in favor of incremental ideas, measured risks, and lots of testing. When working with new ideas, English suggests that you “demonstrate something small that people love…and then get more confidence…and scale up. Don’t aim for the all-American novel, start with small hilarious essays or mini-projects…then find small successes that you can build on…” As he explains it,” incremental achievements are easier and safer than grand career goals. I go against big grand plans. The original grand plans are usually wrong. Instead, I try to find a way to test ideas every day…and I remain open to new variations of ideas every day.

“Also, be willing to fail. If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never leave your house. When you do fail, just be sure to move on quickly…a lot of entrepreneurship is enjoying the process of creating. Even if you don’t get the eventual prize…you’ll still gain a better mastery of the process itself.”

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