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Hosain Rahman, CEO, Jawbone
Yves Béhar, CEO, Fuseproject; Creative Director, Jawbone

Dynamic Duos: Jawbone's Hosain Rahman And Yves Béhar On The Power Of Trust

From headsets to personal data sensors, Jawbone has built a distinctive consumer brand by putting design first.

Hosain Rahman, CEO, Jawbone
Yves Béhar, CEO, Fuseproject; Creative Director, Jawbone

Béhar: You know, when we started together in 2002, Apple wasn't celebrated then.

Rahman: It was just the beginning of the iPod, right? Dell was the poster child of success. This is when Michael Dell made the famous quote about what should Apple do, remember that? He was sort of like, 'shut it down.'

Béhar: We used to create kind of maps and diagrams of what design would mean for Jawbone. And this is at a time when Jawbone didn't have a product, but we had this big vision that design was gonna be central and we discovered that really in discussions, like, in the first three, four times that we met.

Rahman: We had that sort of shared passion, shared vision. It is a marriage I guess, right? I think it starts with like a deep level of trust. There is a friendship, but in some ways it's almost familial because we are able to trust each other so much that we can push on each other and have the honest conversation, like ‘Hey, ya know what, that doesn't work, can we do better.’

Béhar: Trust is key. What trust does is that it allows you to push each other further, meaning there are a lot of meetings that I go in and I present something that I'm happy with and the client is happy with and that's it, the end of the meeting. We go and we execute on that.

But how often can you ask, ‘Are we getting even beyond where we wanted to get? Are we delivering on my crazy dreams or your crazy dreams or the company's crazy dreams that go beyond great, that go one step further?’ And being able to push me or me being able to push him, that is something that goes beyond professional relationships.

Rahman: We've learned a lot. We grew up together.

Béhar: If I have learned one thing it’s that in any life or business enterprise, you need to have at least two people who are focused on building magic and shipping it.

Rahman: You need at least two of those stewards.

Hosain Rahman and Yves Béhar

Béhar: The model that we established between Hosain and I for the work we do together is not just a new model for us, it was a new model for the design industry. And I'm being asked by a lot of designers, ‘how can I get the same kind of relationship with a company like Jawbone, how do you build that, how does it work mechanically?’

Rahman: I get asked that by entrepreneurs a lot. How do you make that collaboration work, how do you structure it at a business level, how is the incentive right and how do you line it up and how do you work together, what's the interaction mode, what's the thing?

Béhar: But we had to invent that model; we had to invent that together. For a long time, my defining Steve Jobs quote was 'great artists ship.’ The quote that I use now is 'great CEOs ship'--but they ship with the artist. That's how I judge any new project, new venture, or new thing to do. Are we gonna be the great partners we need to be in order to achieve this dream to manifest something?

Béhar: We should tell the story of that meeting, if you're comfortable telling it, where..

Rahman: Sure.

Béhar: There was a meeting about five, six years ago maybe when we were in a room and we were there with a person that is not longer at Jawbone who was sort of an executive. We had a meeting about the color black. We were about to ship a product and we had spent about -

Rahman: We were looking at packaging.

Béhar: We had spent about forty-five minutes with the product and the packaging. This is a really important thing, how do all of the different pieces of the experience need to be fused into a cohesive whole? But we were looking at packaging and we were looking at the product and we were talking about the color black, and whether it was the right color black and whether we had more work to do there and blah, blah, blah...but we had been arguing about this for quite a while.

And then this guy chimes in. He’s been in the meeting and kind of loses patience with us.

Rahman: He was basically like ‘When are we gonna put the crayons away and do real work?’ [laughter] And I was like, ‘Yeah I don't think it's gonna work out for you here.’ Because I kind of knew at that moment, that was sort of just the wrong way to think about product experience.

Yeah, we care. We care about the de-bossing and embossing, the matte, the shiny, all of the different iterations of black and how they interplay when you do black-on-black. And it was important to us that we were sweating that detail for the experience.

We weren't doing it because it was fun. It's not fun. I mean it's fun when you get to a great outcome, but it's work.

Béhar: I had practiced design for ten years before I met Hosain, but he is the model for the kind of partner I would look for to make anything.

Rahman: Thank you. And I feel the same way.

See Hosain Rahman and Yves Béhar live at Fast Company's Innovation By Design Conference on October 2 in New York. For a full list of speakers and events, go here.


Read more pairings from Fast Company's 10th Annual Innovation By Design issue:

[Photo by Jason Madara]

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