The project deck is fully loaded with status quo type projects, based on client demands. Teams are asked to track all of their hours toward these projects.
The subtext is, "Do the grunt work during your 40 hours that we're sure will generate revenue, and please, please, do something innovative on top of that on your own time/dime".
It just comes off as begging.
You can't have a leader that rewards/punishes one way and managers who pick a different approach.
So it only really works if those at the top embrace these ideas, otherwise you end up with this system where they communicate they value innovation, but in their behavior fail to do so.
- a tolerance for failure requires an intolerance for incompetence
- willingness to experiment requires rigorous discipline
- psychological safety requires comfort with brutal candor
- collaboration must be balanced with a individual accountability
- flatness requires strong leadership.
This one is a little more nuanced by DARING to suggest that there's a flip-side to every decision and that one has to embrace paradox.
Truly talented managers already know that intrinsically. Bad one's just won't understand-- they'll just see what they want to see, "oh look, it says here that Amazon does rank-and-yank, hmmm, that's 'intolerance for incompetence' maybe I should do that!"
And the guy with the red shirt always dies. Kirk always gets away.
I would disagree with this. Candour and honesty do not have to be brutal to be effective in this context.
A mob mentality can also act as the "authoritarian" that retaliates against "inappropriate thought". The vagueness of terms is deliberate because it is culturally specific what their elephants in the room are. Even if you think it is worth risking them or they are objectively stupid it is important to keep them in mind for planning presentations.
It is worth ignoring those who think eradicating a disease is playing god but know that some think that to prepare accordingly.
"Authoritarian" organizations fall into insanity obvious to fearless outsiders. For instance intelligence agencies fired people for being gay or otherwise sexually unorthodox. Now it is damn obvious - they created their own blackmail risk in the first place! Compare to a "tenured" system that said they don't give a damn so long as you aren't betraying secrets. So they could laugh off would be blackmailers. To give a colorful illustration of the effectiveness of such a policy. "The New York Times could print a full page spread of me sleeping with my brother in law and wife at the same time and I would still have a job!"
That this would be considered unthinkable to propose in that time period only demonstrates the depth of the problems.
> When it comes to innovation, the candid organization will outperform the nice one every time. The latter confuses politeness and niceness with respect. There is nothing inconsistent about being frank and respectful. In fact, I would argue that providing and accepting frank criticism is one of the hallmarks of respect. Accepting a devastating critique of your idea is possible only if you respect the opinion of the person providing that feedback.
Which very much means that communication was not consistently open.
It has done every time I've seen it.
Some may literally consider honesty more important than concern for feelings.
It is also a somewhat cultural thing - in some it is rude to ask politely to someone well known to "please pass" as opposed to "gimme". Etiquite is ironically very contextual.
"I expected better from you."
When you say "brutal candor," the ones who understand how to create psychological safety will understand it as the ability to give real criticism without fear of retaliation. That's rare and refreshing when I see it.
However, I can think of several cases of managers I know who really should learn to create psychological safety, but they would read this as validation for establishing a straight pipeline from reptile brain to mouth as opposed to giving actionable criticism.
In one case, that literally happened: the manager read a book that framed communication with similar connotations to "brutal" and took it as license that he should continue to say things the way he did and expect others to suck it up. Unsurprisingly, it got so bad that all of his direct reports threatened to leave.
It doesn't belong on a list of intolerance for incompetence - it /is/ incompetence on management's part.
- in small teams quotas are enforced pretty loosely. Everybody understands that in a team of five engineers all five can be good and smart
- on the other hand, everybody understands that out of hundred people in the department there will be a couple of underperformers.
- a department head may claim that all his one hundred people are brilliant, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
- usually there is a surprising consensus about who belongs to where. Yes, there are occasional clashes between the managers about whose guy is "brilliant" and whose is "exceptionally brilliant", but I've never ever seen a smart person being force ranked into a "bad" bucket
Any set of rules can appear reasonable in practice when people ignore the rules when their results would be unreasonable.
That's the theory. In practice, what happens is that underpeformers who are good at puffing up their accomplishments or people who maintain good relationships with managers get ranked higher than people who are performing at an average level but are working on unexciting projects or are less capable of selling themselves (e.g. introverts or shy people).
Not at a couple of the companies I have worked for. Small teams were still expected to have average ratings that were close to the company-wide average.
The law of large numbers only works when the sample is unbiased. If the stack ranking was working as intended to any degree or the hiring procedures have any quality, no team will be composed of random people.
So, if that statement holds for your company (I doubt it), then both hiring managers are completely incompetent, and the rank process is completely ineffective.
Your general point may be true, but using examples of specific products like this is really unconvincing. Amazon is one of the most valuable and successful companies in the world. How do you counter the phenomenal success of Amazon.com, Amazon Web Services and the Amazon Echo?
Frankly, I think most companies wish they could be "incompetent" enough to have the smash hits that Amazon does.
Sabotage is the wrong word. I would say more that it rewards doing things that are flashy and look good (which can involve cooperation with like-minded ambitious peers) than boring but important stuff that keeps the business running. There's little "sabotage" in an active sense because if it gets perceived as such, it will backfire onto the saboteur. What's more likely to happen is people not bothering to help out others where it doesn't advance their own interests even if it's the right thing to do for the team or the business.
This one is working through the concept of companies having innovative cultures and pointing out that each of the (presumed) positive/happy/fun attributes of innovative business cultures come with aspects that aren't so nice.
It is all hand waving but the purpose isn't to get anyone (I assume the main audience here is executives and managers) to take specific actions but to get them to adopt this mental model.
To me, the general message is a pretty good one: the good/positive/happy/fun things you want probably also have less good/positive/happy/fun implications and you have to deal with those implications effectively or the good stuff won't actually end up being good.
The article just iterates over a set of things considered positive traits of innovative cultures and applies this concept. Each of the positive traits are vague, ambiguous, and ill-defined so the counter-point traits can't be better.
I guess someone could potentially study the success of adopting the general approach implied by this article. (That is, whether focusing on dealing with the negative implications of a business approach helps the approach be more successful.)
I really don't see how this is puzzling.. there's plenty of people living in denial, sure, but there's whole a load of people who understand intellectualy how to do all kind of things: lead a happy fulfilling life, bring up your kids in a healthy way, be physically healthy. Knowing things is really overrated.
There are discussions here about Xerox PARC, and I would suggest including Bell Labs and probably a few other business research parks, and you'll find highly educated people given the freedom to experiment.
I guess my argument is that in order to produce innovation, I think that the best thing that management can do is put the right people together and get out of the way, but undirected innovation might not aid the business. It's an interesting problem.
EDIT: I should include the processes that developed things like Linux.
you can game this kind of culture. advance your career in such an "innovative" environment merely by frequently criticizing other people's ideas before they gain too much traction. then advance your own ideas and defend them by any means necessary.
if you get really good at this, others will fear you and always run their ideas past you. you will become the gatekeeper. you will have power.
and you don't, in the last analysis, have to be more correct than anyone else, just more difficult, more critical and more competitive. you are an advocate and a fighter. you don't have to be an engineer.
these exceptional companies can get away with very aggressive hr practice because their salaries are off the charts and i do not think this can be taken as a guideline for other business at all.
A few kind of unrelated points about innovation within large, established companies.
(1) A lot of these hard things (incompetence intolerance, flat but strong leadership model) are the easy default for a small, young company. So... a lot of this is about making large, old companies culturaly similar to small, young ones. No surprise that this is hard.
(2) A lot of these points relate to "legibility^" issues. I wrote this one three times and it still doesn't make sense, so I'll just leave it to Venkat's awesome blog to explain.
(3) the Economist Ronald coase's "theory of the firm" starts (paraphrase) with the question: if competitive markets are so efficient, why do companies run like Marxist states internally.
Large company culture isn't arbitrary. It also isn't dictated by proclamations, value statements and such. It's a product of their structure, incentives and such. You can't fundamentally change the culture without changing the environment that formed it. ..the social and economic incentives, the feedback loops...
I'm surprised there aren't more radical ideas in this space, to be honest.
- Taking money from taxpayer bailouts and inflating prices
- Dumping all your problems on the people who fought for you and gave you the room to get you started
- Paying lawyers to stack the deck in your favor and jail your competition
- Forcing your customers into debt by making your $2,000 products a necessity.
- Turning your great country into a place where only cheap plastic goes in, and cheap paper goes out
That's not failure.
But being 2 weeks late on a feature is.
PS: Take a good look at how you really make money. It's the most vulgar uncultured garbage I've ever seen. Porn has more dignity.
Teach lessons. Otherwise you just race to the finish line as fast as you can, cowering to arbitrary delusions, and end up as some grotesque burden on everyone.
There are loftier ambitions than cell phones, clickbait, mailing out boxes of tomorrow's garbage, or making cartoons. These are no different than police sting. You are a fool to think power gives it up to make things better.
Aim for lofty ambitions first. Take all of creation before working for kings. And when you do, know there are poor people out there who can take them out with nothing.
But Apple had not invented the GUI or the mouse. This brilliant work had been done by the scientists at Xerox PARC. So why was it Apple and not Xerox that was launching a product in 1984 and benefiting from PARC’s great inventions? The answer to that question lies in the fact that R&D and invention are not enough. In order to innovate successfully, companies need frameworks, tools and processes that can help them take their inventions from ideas to commercial success."
> In 1979, Steve Jobs arranged a visit to Xerox PARC, in which Apple Computer personnel would receive a demonstration of the technology from Xerox in exchange for Xerox being able to purchase stock options in Apple. After two visits to see the Alto, Apple engineers used the concepts to introduce the Apple Lisa and Macintosh systems.