Human Operating manual

English version of my 2021 chronicle (in French)

in the Tim Ferriss Show, Adam Grant observes that there is a user manual for every element around. For your car, your phone, there is always a user manual to help you.

On the other hand, for humans, there is no user manual. Everyone reacts depending on education or background.

Understanding how someone reacts takes time. Sometimes the way people react differs from the way you would react (and that’s good). Everyone is doing its best, but it takes time to understand. And time is a limited resource.
So Adam sends a description of who he is, and how he reacts.

A sort of user manual

To build this user manual, here are the questions Adam asks himself:

  • What are my strengths? What brings those out?
  • What are my weaknesses? What brings those out?
  • What are my blind spots?
  • And what do you know now about working with me that you wish you’d known when we first started working together?

Using the same method, here is my user manual


Gilles, born in 1973. Married to Sandrine. 2 daughters: Charlott (2002) and Camille (2006).

Classical education (Economics), left at 18 to work au-pair in the USA. I then went on to do a Master and then business school. In this context, I created the first Chocolate exhibition in France. First experience in company creation.

I then joined Accenture, where I stayed for 9 years. It was a classic, rather techno-focused career, where I learned to keep my mouth shut and follow orders. I learned rigor, attention to detail, « customer first », commitment, and meeting deadlines with demanding managers. An assignment sent me to Mauritius, where I discovered autonomy…

Following a mishap in a hotel, I resigned from Accenture and founded Vinivi in our daughter’s bedroom; No money was raised. The intuition was « travelers want to voice out their opinion » (TripAdvisor was unknown at that time in Europe (2006)). It worked quite well. Then TripAdvisor arrived in Europe. Things got complicated. I re-invented the company (nowadays people call it pivoting, I call it survival), transforming it into a tool for collecting reviews. Back on track. Merger with a competitor to create Guest Suite. Disagreement with my partners. Resold of my shares. I then started new companies.

Today, I work in business development and real estate.

How I work

I trust a priori. Trust works like chips in a casino. I give you all the chips from the start. You can only lose chips. Once lost, very tough to regain them.

I work by mixing ideas from various universes. This can sometimes be a bit tricky to follow. If that’s the case, let me know.

Autonomy and initiative
Autonomy is an important value. So is taking initiative. The phrase « It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than It Is To Get Permission » applies very well. If someone has an idea, and it’s urgent, and you’re waiting for an answer from me, do what you think is right (except in legal matters). I apply autonomy to people I work with: I tend not to do to others what I don’t want others to do to me.

I revere my sleep and sleep very well. If you have to decide and I’m not reachable, ask yourself if I’m going to sleep after hearing your decision.

I sometimes speak in a rather direct way (basically, if I think someone is bullshitting, I will say it). In the same way, I exaggerate things to make sure the message gets across. It’s not to everyone’s liking. Honestly, I don’t give a damn. Small talk and politics are not among my key skills (except with end customers, of course).

It’s what drives me. Discovering new subjects, setting up projects, meeting new people, and understanding new worlds. I’m a launch person, not a follow-up person. If you’re asking me to follow subjects on the long run (several years), I’m not the right person to talk to. This doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything once a project is launched, it just means that I’m not the best at it. My energy is best spent creating rather than following up (except with prospects, of course). I tend to do things immediately. Commando mode is when I produce the best.

Winston Wolf
If I forget modesty, I see myself as Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction. The character played by Harvey Keitel is there to solve problems. To do so, he has contacts and methods. It may be a little rough around the edges at times, but you don’t call him if everything’s going well. Reference

My first company wasn’t moving fast enough because I wasn’t taking enough decisions. By mimicry, the teams weren’t taking enough either. This is not a mistake to be repeated. As a result, making frequent decisions has become a habit. Let’s not get stuck, let’s move forward. Even if it means changing your mind if circumstances evolve. Even if it means saying we made a mistake.

I have no problem with mistakes. I make plenty of them. If you make a mistake, say so. And come up with a solution. If you really don’t have a solution, we’ll find one together.

I’m a talker. I love to give context (too much). And I try to correct myself. If it takes too long, say you’ve got a constraint, I’ll understand… If you want to be a timekeeper, I need one, so I’m very open.

What makes me tick

I don’t read drafts
Raised at Accenture, drafts with mistakes make me nervous. If you haven’t proofread what you’re presenting to me, don’t show it to me. It will save you 15 minutes of listening to stories on this topic…

Bad writing

Punctuation rules and spelling are essential. Not everyone is a good speller. There are apps like Grammarly for that. If you need it, take this app and I’ll pay the subscription. If you have a doubt about wording, I can hear it; say it first.

I don’t like surprises. Discovering an error ‘by chance’ because you didn’t dare/want to mention it beforehand will make me doubt it and I’ll probably go into ‘nitpicking/annoying’ mode. Warning of a potential problem is the best option. I very rarely get angry (for all intents and purposes).

Mail / Phone
Answering e-mails is not working. On the other hand, e-mails must be answered within 24 hours. I have a few mail habits :

  • no bcc:
  • no cc:
  • no forwards
  • one idea / one e-mail
  • no e-mail longer than 5 lines

Repeating things
I do not enunciate words a lot. So sometimes I’m not clear. I have no problem re-explaining the same idea several times because I must not have been clear. On the other hand, if you tell me that you’ve understood, it’s better that you have, because I hate repeating myself.

Kindness does not rhyme with weakness, kindness rhymes with intractability
I’m what you’d call a nice guy. On the other hand, if someone thinks that because I’m nice, they can do anything to me… I go into intractable mode and that becomes unpleasant for everyone.

Work Hard. Play Hard.
We don’t have to be serious all the time. We can be professional and original. Above all, we can be ourselves.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. I’m adapting and fighting against some of my weaknesses. If everything could be summed up in these few lines, it would be simple, but it would lose all taste. This is just a starting point to make it easier for us to understand each other. And if there are aspects that shock you or raise questions, let’s talk about them.

And to finish, my playlist