Reinventing Business
Discovering Your Best Organizational Structure

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joel Spolky's Spinoff

I'm not arguing prescience here, but it's certainly interesting that I wrote about spinoffs right before Joel announced Trello as a spinoff. For people who were wondering what I was talking about, that's an example.

There is one thing I'd watch out for, however. Trello sounds like a great place to work, but the reason it is great is because all the good things in this system flow from management. This means it is vulnerable to changes in management. A benevolent dictatorship only lasts while the dictator is in power.

I think I'm becoming a process-and-mechanism guy. This probably comes from reading too many hand-waving business books that say "things should be this way" without describing how they get that way, and how they steer that particular boat. Even if you do have process and mechanisms, I'm going to ask about stability -- can the change of one person change the company? I'm absolutely not arguing for consensus, but rather a system where the people who are affected by the decisions are somehow in the middle of making those decisions (Holacracy is an example of such a process). Otherwise you're taking a huge risk if you invest your time in that company, by putting all the power in a hierarchy that can be hijacked.

I know Joel, although our last interaction was when I gave a presentation at the Stackoverflow launch in Virginia. The next time I'm in New York I'll make it a point to go visit Trello and find out in person how he intends to maintain that "business operating system."

The Logical Fallacy of Magical Thinking

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.” -- Henry Ford
Not exactly. If you think you can't do something, that is a necessary and sufficient condition to prevent you from doing that thing. "Necessary and sufficient" means "you need it, and if you only have it, it's enough."

The converse of the previous paragraph is "if you think you can do something, then you can do it," a form of magical thinking. Taken to the extreme, we hear "all you have to do is think it, and it will (somehow, magically) happen."

Positive thinking is a "helpful condition" to be able to accomplish something (that is, it's possible to accomplish things while practicing negative thinking, but that's an uphill battle and way less fun). There are activities for which it is even sufficient. For example, positive thinking will improve your state of mind, and will probably even make you physically healthier. Things that are hardwired to the brain will probably be affected by the activities of the brain. Positive thinking might even have a positive influence on other people's brains (I've heard of some mass-meditation experiments that seemed to have positive effects, but we have to treat those as hearsay for now).

We have no repeatable evidence showing that positive thinking will allow you to walk unaided on water or "attract" money or love (although a positive person is certainly far more attractive for doing business with or falling in love). Or start a business and create a product based on antigravity. Such a business will probably need a lot of positive thinking, but that won't be sufficient. We'll also need to know enough about the laws of physics to figure out some way to actually produce antigravity. And once you figure that out, a grumpy company could still make a go of it (but again, less fun).

By all means, think positive. It has overwhelming benefits. The only downside is when you believe that thinking positive is all you need, which puts you on the slippery slope to magical thinking. Think positive, but maintain a healthy skepticism.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spinoff Machine

Reading this article and comments about Microsoft's new CEO and his sketchy-sounding recent positioning memo made me observe:

  • The industrial-age corporation desires power, and sees acquisitions as a path to power.
  • Most acquisitions (80%?) are considered failures.
  • Acquisitions add to the number of products controlled by a company. 
Or, do the products control the company? When you have a product, you have a thing you must manage and maintain, and most importantly, you have a thing that incentivizes you not to rock the boat. Add to that the goal of the organizational hierarchy: to do the same thing over and over. These, and I'm sure other forces that I haven't considered here, make it nearly impossible to innovate.

What if a company reversed its goal? Instead of trying to get bigger, it intentionally stays small. After it creates a product, it spins off a company for that product. The spinner gets money back from the spinoff, perhaps diminishing over time, and the spinner can go back to creating new products, unencumbered by the spinoff and its product. The spinner stays small, agile and innovative.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Star Trek Conjecture

All predictions are wrong. Some are useful. Science fiction writers are particularly prone to bad predictions because they are primarily driven by the need for conflict. This is why there is such a predominance of dystopian science fiction -- conflict is easiest when everything is going wrong. It's harder to come up with drama when everything in the world isn't stacked against you.

Sci Fi writers also ignore the obvious. Every single fighting machine story I've read or watched seems to require that the human be right in the path of risk, inside the machine that everyone is shooting at (or the machine is controlled by artificial intelligence (AI); there's no in-between). The actual soldier, however, is highly motivated to be as far as possible from that danger. We have remotely-piloted drones now; how long before we have remotely-piloted ground-fighting units? I predict soon -- there are already robots that can run over complex terrain. Sure, AI might eventually come along, but we have the ability to use human intelligence to control vehicles right now. I wonder whether there could be some interesting consequences of this: if a human isn't in actual danger, might they become less trigger-happy and more patient, leading to more peaceful results sooner? Currently, if you trust and you're wrong, it could lead to serious bodily injury or death -- very high stakes. But if you're remotely piloting a fighting unit you can afford to trust. If you're attacked, you lose the unit and find out for sure that someone is hostile, but if not you can eliminate a lot of misunderstandings that lead to bad outcomes and degrade relationships.

The Federation of Star Trek has effectively no robots, except for the one super-advanced intelligent android that was created under special circumstances. Star Trek is supposed to be our future, and even now the impact of robots is huge -- they are responsible for the dramatic loss of manufacturing jobs while the US remains the #1 manufacturer in the world. But not a peep in the Star Trek world of why they don't have lots of robots doing lots of dangerous/messy work (there are explanations/apologetics in this post, but I don't buy it -- humans are tool creating/using creatures). Or even why it takes so many people to run the ship. In (the new) Battlestar Galactica they had a very good reason for retro-flying-aircraft-carrier mode: anything that had the slightest bit of clever electronics could be hacked by the Cylons.

One particularly interesting evolution that happens in the world of the Federation is the disappearance of money (we become a post-scarcity society). In several places in The Next Generation there are statements to the effect that "we stopped using money long ago" as if it were a quaint anachronism. Everyone, apparently, is able to get by comfortably and their lives do not revolve around the pursuit of wealth. Instead, they seem to seek meaningful ways to add value to their lives, their team and the world/galaxy.

I've struggled with this idea. It's difficult because we are so entrenched in the idea that money is a real thing that you have to get in order to survive. But money is a relationship; it's trust and other ethereal things. We have to believe in money in order to accept it, and to do things in exchange for it.

Right now, we have a small group of people who don't have to work, because, often by accident, they happen to have a lot of money. Despite strident declarations that they are "job creators," they aren't -- only small businesses create jobs. At the other end of the spectrum, there's the example of a local high-school student volunteering at a disadvantaged elementary school in Denver. She tells me that the school can't have tests on Mondays because many of the students don't get enough food on the weekends and are mentally impacted because of this. They rely on school meals for basic nutrition. It's that bad.

If the small percentage of wealthy folks earn more money, they effectively add nothing to the world (with isolated dramatic differences like the Gates Foundation). But if people who are disadvantaged get a little more, they can eat better, which has a large impact. The brain burns a big percentage of our fuel, so they can think better. Perhaps eventually discover special interests that they can develop, and make contributions to the world. The pursuit of more wealth at the top end adds very little, whereas bringing up the bottom end can be huge.

The industrialist world view is that if people aren't afraid of not having enough, they won't work. This appears to be borne out in our culture where money is the only important pursuit: children of the wealthy are often rudderless and unproductive. What if this comes from the culture? If money is the important thing, and you have enough from your parents, what motivates you?

I keep encountering both writings and live people for whom the answer is "to create meaningful value." Money-focused parents seem to discourage pursuits that are meaningful for the child but not to them, which might account for a confused and drifting child.

One man I know retired early, sometime in his mid- to late-fifties, and went through a crisis while figuring out who he was. An essential part of his life arc was the need to make meaningful contributions to the world, and that was strongly tied to his working life. As many do when discovering this, he began to volunteer for various causes. I think he missed his work, but there was no way he could continue his old job in a partial way.

My friend Dick has also encountered this. He's a rare programmer, self-motivated, self-managing and very productive. However, just like me, he has discovered he's only really productive for part of the day and it's a waste of time for him to try to work a so-called "standard 8-hour day." So he's begun trying to find a job where he can mostly work from home, and work part time. Because of the "people are lazy and stupid" mantra that is ingrained in management schools and practices, he's encountered a great deal of resistance to this -- companies tell him they can only hire him if he commutes in and works an 8-hour day, and so they lose out on an exceptional programmer. Their company could be a lot better by hiring him, but "there are rules," and the company must be the one in power, not the individual. Dick wants to create meaningful value, but cannot because of meaningless rules.

My own example argues against the idea that people who have enough to get by will just become mindless consumers and not contributors (indeed, I suspect people like Chuck Blakeman would argue that one of the core goals of the industrial age was to produce mindless consumers). I have enough resources to get by for awhile AND I've managed to convince myself that it's OK not to just pursue the most financially lucrative goal. Instead, I've become highly motivated to reach for the next level of meaning and contribution, even though it's far more difficult than just writing more computer programming books (which I might also do, just to have a more concrete anchor to balance out the uncertainty of Reinventing Business).

So try to imagine this: what if everyone had enough? What if people didn't have to strive and struggle just for the basics -- and try to evade a knee-jerk reaction of "why would anyone work if they don't have to?" Imagine what you would do if you had enough ... and more importantly, what would your children do if raised in such a world, with the idea that "meaningful contribution" is how they find fulfillment?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mind is a Muscle

There's a very interesting idea moving through the educational world. It seems that we are unconsciously trained to think that if you aren't immediately good at something, then you have no talent for it and should give up and move on. This is so deeply rooted that we don't think about it. It's an unquestioned part of our core mindset.

It's being questioned now, by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The process, as I understand it from listening to lectures, is simply to first make students aware of the "fixed mindset" that we've been trained into, and then to go through a series of exercises designed to change to the "growth mindset." In the growth mindset, you learn not to concern yourself with how "good" or "bad" or "talented" you are in a particular pursuit. Instead, you focus on the amount of effort you put in, with the idea that you're exercising your brain and it will get stronger in your chosen topic. The results seem to be dramatic: there is no longer any consideration -- in the mind of the teacher, and more importantly, in the mind of the student -- of whether you happen to be good at something. Effort is the only thing that counts. Effort is the only thing that makes you good at something, by developing the muscle that is your mind.

The fixed mindset effectively cripples the learning process, and it's as subtle as saying "oh, you're so good at that" (fixed) vs. "oh, look at how much work you did" (growth).

The fixed mindset, they say, also strongly affects the business world:
"...people with the fixed mindset do not admit and correct their deficiencies. And a company that cannot self-correct cannot survive."
and:
"When bosses become controlling and abusive, they put everyone into a fixed mindset. This means that instead of learning, growing, and moving the company forward, everyone starts worrying about being judged. It starts with the bosses’ worry about being judged, but it winds up being everybody’s fear about being judged. It’s hard for courage and innovation to survive a company-wide fixed mindset."
This is one of the things I've been searching for: what is the water that we swim through, unaware that it's there? Things that are so ingrained by our culture that we never think to question them, but instead quietly, unconsciously repeat them to ourselves over and over again. Each time our creative self tries to open a door, these unconscious traps close it again.

In Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea (and Other Business Diseases of the Industrial Age), Chuck Blakeman makes the point that Frederick Winslow Taylor created a mental mindset within corporations that says "People are Lazy and Stupid." Basically, managers unconsciously repeat this mantra to themselves every time they make a decision, and you can see the trail of congruent choices ever since.

What if we make a similar mental shift by coming up with a different mantra for us to repeat when making decisions, something like, "People are Smart and Motivated?" This seems like it could be a fruitful workshop exercise: present a set of decisions, and make them first with the old mantra, then the new.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Transparent Salaries

This Planet Money episode explores experiments where everyone knows everyone else's salaries. We've been trained so strongly against this that even in the case where the company was started from scratch with transparent salaries, some people initially had trouble with the idea.

The guy who created the startup using open salaries made two observations that really stuck out for me:

  1. It's a lot easier to have transparent salaries: you stop spending time keeping them secret and negotiating them, and more time doing the work of the company. Also there's no drama when someone accidentally finds out someone else's pay.
  2. It eliminates a lot of bad behavior because you can't hide it. For example, you can't pay a woman less than a man for the same work because everyone could see that.
I wonder if transparent salaries also create more of a "we're all in this together" feel. People have a hardwired sense of fairness, and this seems well-served when things aren't secret. Also, discrepancies can be quickly remedied rather than waiting for the next "review cycle." The review cycle itself might change or even go away with transparent salaries, being replaced with more open and dynamic evaluations.

I've also heard of experiments where pay is set by (in effect) the wisdom of crowds, so your peers set your salary. This has a number of effects, but a huge one seems like it would be your perspective of who you serve. In the traditional hierarchy, you serve your boss who sets your salary, and so you are effectively discouraged from being a team player. But when your teammates set your salary, you have a special interest in ensuring they are happy with your work.

Co-NOT-Working

This person had a negative experience with coworking and decided to change to a conventional space.

The first coworking space I visited was in Manhattan and it was particularly uninteresting: some tables in a room. Manhattan coworking is at a decided disadvantage because just finding ANY space there is difficult, so the marketplace can be around space rather than the finer points of the experience.

The fact that the coworking space she went to was only open table space makes it different than all the other spaces I've visited. Virtually every other space has three options: the low-cost open table space where you come in and grab what's available, the dedicated desk, and the dedicated office. It sounds like what her team really needed was a dedicated office, but she seemed unaware that this was an option with coworking spaces -- perhaps those options simply haven't appeared in New York for some reason.

To me, the real red flag was the "mandatory orientation session" where they were presented with a "raft of sponsors and their offerings." I've never seen this at any of the coworking spaces that I've visited, and it sounds like a way for the coworking space to make money more than a service for the coworkers.

She also seemed to expect that everyone there would be interested in forming companies, and was disappointed when not everyone was. In general it seems like there's a mix of folks -- some are independent and just want a space to work with like-minded people around. I hear that it's not uncommon for companies to actually form within a coworking space, but it's not an incubator.

The comments are worth reading; notably it looks like coworking spaces might be causing evolution in other kinds of workspaces as well. What other new ways can we imagine?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Women Still Aren't Thriving in the Workplace

One of the TEDx Denver talks sort of addressed this issue, and on the drive back I listened to two others that also touched on the issues, from TEDx Women. I found all of them frustrating because I feel like they missed the central issue.

If I were giving such a talk, I would start with the Einstein quote (apparently paraphrased):
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Men created the workplace. Just "allowing" women into that workplace isn't going to make it a place where women thrive, because it's still "the workplace designed by men." I understand this because it's the same workplace I don't want to participate in.

Our culture constrains us. When I was in graduate school, I heard stories from the (very few) women in engineering about how some of the professors would tell them, flat out, that women didn't belong in engineering. I'm sure those professors are retired by now, but that's the culture we're coming from.

Everyone must be participants in the actual design of the workplace, and that means it's going to look and feel very different. It may bear little resemblance to the "traditional" workplace. So far, all such attempts have been met with the fiercest of resistance, cries of un-businesslike and that-couldn't-possibly-work (defending a system that has produced up to 80% "disengagement"). But some will take hold, eventually, places that are designed both for and by everyone

So far the only system I've seen where everyone participates in organizational design is Holacracy (to clarify; I hope others exist but this the only one I've had any direct experience with, by taking the training). As impressed as I am with Holacracy, I do wonder whether there are subtle constraints that I am blind to that might be inappropriate. These might be preventing us from seeing a different way through (I don't know; I'm just describing my hyper-skeptical analysis process).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"The Innovator's Dilemma" Debunked

It seems like the more popular and faddish a business book/movement is, the more likely it is that the ideas within are chock full of magical thinking. I've previously written about the fake science so predominant in the world of business books, but when lots of people are talking about the wonders of a particular set of ideas, I find myself pondering whether, this time, there might be something behind the enthusiasm (because, on rare occasions, there is).

A combination of happenstance and intuition has kept me away from "The Innovator's Dilemma," and this New Yorker article has now relieved me of any need to investigate it. The article debunks the idea that there might have been anything remotely approaching science behind that book -- it's yet another business book that posits an idea, then seeks anything to support that idea while studiously ignoring anything that might disagree, just as I describe in the fake science posting.

It's only disappointing that it's taken this long -- the book was published in 1997 -- to discredit it. It takes far less effort to generate BS than to debunk it. Apparently "Innovator's Dilemma" theory predicted that the iPhone would fail -- how, after such a monumental demonstration of the poor predictive ability of that theory, has it thrived for so long? (Answer, probably: we like what it says). After hunting a bit, I could only find a few pieces that I would qualify as critical analyses of parts of Christensen's book:


I'm sure there are parts of Christensen's theories that have use, but he falls down in enough places that figuring out what works and what doesn't is "left as an exercise for the reader." When you want me to do the work but you still keep getting the money, I categorize that as "not serving the customer."

That's one of the big challenges of this project. The business world is inundated with people claiming to have "the answer," and you basically can't trust any of them, so each one must be analyzed and picked apart, looking for the flawed thinking. It's a lot of work and the answer is almost always "nope, just more BS." With time, I might be getting slightly better at it but it always seems like a lot of effort and it's easy just to get angrier each time you discover that someone is -- intentionally or unintentionally -- presenting misinformation as fact.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Coworking in Denver

Coworking is exploding everywhere; some claims say it's doubling every year. The more I study the phenomenon, the more I see that it isn't about the services -- internet, copiers, desk space and the like. These days, anyone can set up a corner of their living room or bedroom with an equivalent office space. The reason you pay the extra for coworking and put the effort into going is because you get a lot more out of doing it. Initially that might just be the structure of going into an office-like environment, but ultimately it's because working by yourself is lonely (I had to do it the hard way, so I know exactly the appeal of coworking, something I would have jumped at while writing most of my books). And ultimately, coworking can lead to creating teams and forming companies. Yes, there's no guarantee this will happen, but in my opinion the teams/companies formed using this "organic" approach will be better and more robust, and that's worth the tradeoff of not "guaranteeing" company formation using one of the more forced approaches.

In my early years living in Colorado, I couldn't understand why anyone would live in Denver other than "having a job there." My perception of it was a giant, boring suburb. But a few years ago I went downtown for a writing conference and saw some of the older, more interesting parts, and I notice some new and fascinating buildings mixed in, and started to wonder if either Denver was changing, or my exposure to it was.

This trip (for the TEDx conference) was to a completely different place. For one thing, there has been a confluence of events that have produced an explosion of building, mostly downtown apartments. There's a combination of old and new, and my general perception is that there are a lot of really nice places to live downtown. In fact, downtown Denver has started feeling to me like some European cities. Somehow it seems to be developing into a place where you can live in the city rather than the suburbs.

Denver apparently has one of the most extensive set of bike paths in the US. There's a wonderful one that goes along a creek, which is effectively a park set down below the main roadways (so you aren't sharing with cars). I don't know how many of the pathways are like that; one of the things I liked about my recent trip to Budapest was how much progress they've made in that city creating completely separated bike paths -- I've never felt comfortable relying on drivers to pay attention to bicycles.

I started my tour of coworking spaces at Denver Greenspaces, where I met with the owner, Jennie Nevin, for about an hour. I found the space to be very pleasant, and it is lit, heated and cooled with the solar panels on the roof. Jennie validated two of my main hypotheses about coworking: 1) That people join coworking to be around other people 2) companies do form organically within coworking environments, as people get to know each other. I continue to prefer the organic company-formation approach to forced, in-a-hurry tactics. I'm sure those things work for some people but rushing into things isn't my style.

Jennie recommended that I visit Creative Density, which focuses primarily on remote workers. I went to the "main campus" which is a converted house in a nice neighborhood, also a very pleasant experience overall (which makes sense -- why would you want to cowork somewhere unpleasant?). Craig Baute is the owner and director and we had a very interesting conversation about his path to coworking. He observed that people who are working remotely often have no trouble getting their companies to pay the cost. Many companies are probably concerned about remote working, and knowing that the employee has someplace to go where others are also working seems like it might be reassuring.

My next visit was to Galvanize, which prefers to pitch itself as a "co-learning" space rather than co-working. Galvanize even has their "g-school" which is a 6-month intensive Ruby-On-Rails training course; my tourguide Johnny started by saying that people in the course put in 60 hours a week, and by the end of the tour he was saying it was 90 hours. Galvanize was a nice space and seemed to be thriving, especially considering it's only been around for 18 months. I think the focus on a particular technology is very powerful if you can do it, because you have a much better environment for information sharing (thus: co-learning). Also, if someone needs a Ruby on Rails person, they're easy to find. Galvanize has expanded with more locations in the Denver area as well as one in San Francisco.

Converge is located in the RiNo arts district, which is exploding with cutting-edge development. Although there's a marketer and a Python programmer there, Converge is mostly about artists. John Maikowski, the owner and founder, gave me the tour and told me how, after sending his two girls to college, he and his wife decided to move to Denver from Texas and do something new, different and interesting, thus the coworking space.

After I visited Converge, John pointed me two two additional places. The first was The Source, just across the street. This was a beautifully-converted warehouse; outside it looks funky, the parking lot is unpaved, and so the effect when you walk into the building is very dramatic -- inside it's completely new and high-tech, with a couple of restaurants, a bar, a bakery and a butcher shop and a few other places. RiNo in general feels to me like some un-imagined future, different -- and better -- than anything we expected.

The second spot was just a couple of blocks down from Converge: Industry, which is the largest coworking-like space that I've seen so far. They call it a "collaborative office space," and it does have a slight sense of a more traditional office park -- but only slight. It feels much more like coworking done large, with amenities that become available when you scale up. There's a common kitchen/restaurant, and even a small amphitheater (which had a nearly identical design to the one on the main floor of Github). Industry is a converted warehouse or similar building; they've managed to preserve the outside and on the inside there are skylights and the working spaces feel a bit like camps within the larger space. They weren't even finished creating the space and it was full, and they are working on the other half of the building and I think all those spaces are already spoken for (coworking is making sense to a lot of people). The largest space I saw had about 30 people in one room working away at their computers (actually that space seemed a bit crowded to me, not unlike what I saw at Spotify before they moved to a larger building). It felt to me like there are lots of big opportunities for cross-company interaction. It also feels like a step towards a much better future, when most office spaces look something like this ... and a lot more.

Here's an article on twelve coworking spaces in Denver, and a central site for coworking spaces in Boulder. There's also a national coworking conference. I spoke to a number of folks at the TEDx conference that led me to other spaces, in particular a couple of places that look like blended coworking/hackerspaces, and the live/work space Taxi. I plan to visit these during future trips to Denver.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Battling Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor, in brief, says "choose the simpler hypothesis." It's possible to make the geocentric model of the solar system (where everything revolves around the earth) work, but the math is way more complicated than if you put the sun at the center. Occan's razor creates a win with heliocentrism.

But what about when it gives us the wrong results? The Wikipedia article refers to the Razor as a principle of problem-solving (a helpful tool only), but especially in the world of business people seem to want simple, linear solutions that capture Taylor's promise of turning knobs and increasing profits. There seems to be huge resistance to anything else.

For example, consider the TEDx presentation I saw last Saturday by Phil Drolet where he made a case for working less. When I described this to my father, he (diplomatically, to dad's credit), described his own experiences. He grew up on a farm, and became a building contractor. In both cases (effectively, manufacturing), the work-to-productivity ratio is almost perfectly linear: the more work you do, the more results you get. As people put in more hours, you might see a little bit of diminishing returns, but not enough to consider it an effect. How, in the face of those years of direct experience, do you make any kind of case that you can get better results by putting in fewer hours?

Threat/reward incentives have also been a sticking point. In study after study reaching back to the 1940's, we find that the use of threats and rewards decrease productivity and engagement. But we've been taught threats and rewards since we began to toddle about and start to grasp causality. How can we change something that deeply rooted?

One of the tenets of capitalism is that more money will produce more happiness. And, below a salary of about $75,000, increasing wages do increase happiness (perhaps just by reducing worry). What goes through our minds when we get above that number and the effect stops working? For many, it might just seem like we're adapting to the drug and we need larger doses to feel good. Acknowledging that the entire relationship (upon which many have built their lives) is a mistake is the catalyst for a good many mid-life crises.

Popular startup culture seems to be founded on the idea that more pressure is always better. My recent experience at Startup Weekend is a good example: there was never any question that just cramming in more hours would always produce better results. To me, it was a perfect example of diminishing returns -- I was watching people wilt under pressure, even to the point of dropping out altogether because they didn't want to live under those conditions. My impression of the SW culture is that this is just part of the process, the "weeding out of the weak," much the way it must happen in high school and college football. Despite some successful experiments to the contrary, it "just makes sense" that to win, you find the toughest people and put them under pressure -- after all, people have done that and they've "seen it work" (even though it could be some un-observed effect that's actually responsible for success; this is an example of observation bias). As a result, at our Startup Weekend, I saw some of the most interesting people (and one of the most promising projects) quietly drop out; just as when people quit companies, this phenomenon was not studied or commented upon, but quietly swept under the rug (because, I suspect, it did not support the perception of SW success).

The whole problem may come down to our ability to deal with complexity. Our school systems were designed to produce obedient factory workers, for whom the world is simply following instructions. Especially in such an environment, learning to deal with non-simple, non-linear problems is particularly hard; we end up longing for the good old days when everything was simple, to the point where we put in significant effort to force the world into that mold (clinging to geocentrism). Perhaps "learning to work with complexity" is the most important thing that could be taught in a business school -- or the workshop I'm trying to create.