scraps of ideas around software and collaboration

Company culture, intentions and incentives

There is a chapter in Thomas Sowell's 'Basic Economics' that touches on the history of rent control:

In short, a policy intended to make housing affordable for the poor has had the net effect of shifting resources toward the building of housing that is affordable only by the affluent or the rich, since luxury housing is often exempt from rent control, just as office buildings and other commercial properties are.

Among other things, this illustrates the crucial importance of making a distinction between intentions and consequences. Economic policies need to be analyzed in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the hopes that inspired them.

- Thomas Sowell: "Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy" (p. 43)

It's easy to blame failure on lack of competence or ill intentions.

They are often simple, plain answers that leave no space for ambiguity. We can write it off and move forward.

Company culture can easily fall into the same traps.

It's easy to create policies and list values, add perks and call yourself a company with a strong culture.

Let's say one of your intentions is to be innovative. But if you don't let the uncertainty and chaos that comes with innovation to play out in a safe manner, you are actually incentivising everyone in the company to be risk-averse.

Courage, curiosity, inclusion, customer-obsession need to be values that are enacted in every team member, so that even if a new person joins the company and never reads the values, they will inherit them from the team members.

Who you are is not the values you list on the wall. It’s not what you say in company-wide meeting. It’s not your marketing campaign. It’s not even what you believe. Who you are is what you do.

- Ben Horrowitz: "What you do is who you are"

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Jamie Larson
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