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Scientific Concept Robbery
Submitted by Steven Deobald (@stevendeobald) on Monday, 23 March 2015
Technical level: Beginner
I’ll be detailing some specific examples of concepts across various organizations
which can be stolen, reused, tweaked, and experimented on. The goal will be to
express not only the individual examples I’m familiar with, but the overarching
theme of “stealing” ideas to make your team as effective as possible.
Every organization has a different approach but it’s often surprising how
homogenous entire categories of business can become. Walk into any bank, hedge
fund, or HFT shop and you can probably tell where you are without being told.
Similarly for large tech shops. Startups. Time and Materials consultancies.
There are a number of great ideas floating around which are occasionally adopted,
sometimes written about, and often read about. We’ve all read “Mavrick” but very
few of us have tried to build a Socialist-Capitalist Non-Cooperative
Employee-Directed Industrial Paradise.
We don’t need to try all the ideas at once. If we treat these ideas like recipes,
we can experiment safely on our existing companies by trying one idea at a time,
in isolation, and observing the results. Managing a business can be a lot less about
“passion” or “intuition” and a lot more about Science, as long as we are disciplined about it.
I’ll describe some of these ideas in detail: Running your business like a software
project. Opening your business to absolute transparency. Eliminating “bus factor”
by eliminating self-importance. Letting your employees literally own the company.
Letting your employees literally direct the company. Running companies within your
With some examples behind us, I’ll cover the general case of experimenting with
these (or other) ideas and creating variations on the ideas to mitigate risk.
Steven has worked for international consultancies, early-stage startups,
slow-saas-ramp-of-death startups, trading firms, the Canadian government,
intelligence agencies, and a little employee-owned tech coop here in Bangalore.
Across these organizations, he’s seen a lot of project management and team
management strategies. Some work by flow. Some work by force. Some never work. It’s
become a mission in recent years to figure out not just what works for him, but
what general toolset our companies can use the world over to create more meaningful,
enjoyable places to work.