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Tribal knowledge is good to have, and inevitable, but it is also a blinder that tends to limit people to a particular set of architectural assumptions, and this gets worse the older the company becomes. It’s also an obstacle to bringing in new people.

Some people are able to join a company and expand/modernize/build on the tribal knowledge to make things better. It’s a rare gift but I’ve seen a few people do it. People like that could be a principal engineer at almost any company.

I've seen engineering leaders at companies with lots of tribal knowledge who have been there so long and are so committed to and defensive of old decisions that they're net negatives to the company. They're like helicopter architects.

I've seen that too. And I've also seen some of the same people with very adaptable personalities who are continually learning and inquiring and who make working at such places tolerable.

Thank you for the simple description of this. I've struggled to describe what I enjoy (and like to believe I'm good at).

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