09 August 2007

Means and ends

I’ve been asked to speak a little more explicitly about where I’m going with this blog and why. I’m a little punchy and informal this evening, so bear with me.

I am an adherent to the philosophy of user centered design. This is easy when the user and designer are both me. It mostly involves being honest with myself, articulating the problem clearly, and then exercising good judgment in solving the problem. A reasonably astute kid can do this. But I make a pretty comfortable living because it gets progressively, possibly geometrically, more difficult as you increase the complexity of the problem space beyond simple and expand the consumer base of the solution beyond self. I can readily design a corporate structure that makes me cheerful and productive and makes scads of money. I can do that for myself with relative ease, even if it takes a few tries.

Cheerful and productive and scads of money are all lovely. But I’m already cheerful and productive and [certainly compared to the rest of the world, I] have scads of money [and access to resources I take for granted that are so far beyond the pinnacle of conceivable luxury to most people on Earth that I am frankly uncomfortable at what that implies]. Did you get all of that aside? There’s an implication buried next to the globalized post-industrial guilt. It’s that for me to be happy – not just feelin’ okay – I have to positively impact other people. With rare exception, at the companies I’ve worked for I have only been able to do this peripherally or trivially.

So I started ticking off a list:
  • I likes me some UCD.
  • I want to make a difference for people.
  • Of my many talents, one of the things that I am very bestest at is getting elegant concepts to ground complex processes and then marry those mechanisms to messy relationships in order to make a planned thing happen.
  • I am consistently astonished that companies are ill conceived, badly engineered, hostile to employees, incorporate disincentives for honesty, and encourage a long list of other mean pathologies. It strikes me as counterproductive and wasteful to do business this way, expensive in terms monetary and metaphoric.
  • I am sufficiently puffed up with me'self that I think I can do something about the toxicity I perceive in the contemporary corporate form.
Running through that list, it strikes me that my skills and passions are unusually well aligned with building a capital G good company. I'm sure that such animals are already out there in the wild, but they are rare. And there should be more of them.

If I’m utilizing UCD to generate a suh-weet interface to the problem space of the ugly company, and that interface is a company that benefits not only me, but other people who want to do meaningful (if not life-altering, though wouldn’t that be ducky) work, then I need to reach out to the possible consumers of my solution: you. Then I use my self-styled bestest talent to transpose what I learned from you onto the template of the aweXXome company that makes a bunch of us happy. So that’s the target. A company that feels good to work for, filled with people I (we) like and admire, doing work that makes me want to go out big-talkin’ about the place.

Then we go steal the other villages' mead benches. Good times!


Joel413 said...

Interesting concept of comparing CD to the organizational structure of a company.

In doing do, you got me to thinking about why companies seem to be so crapy to their employees, and my mind sadly came up with the following. When a company is smaller, and a CEO can "manage" the expectations of everyone in the company on nearly a personal level then Good things can happen, but as a company grows and te CEO becomes more and more separated from the people who are "in the trenches" the things that tended to make the company Good get taken advantage of by those people who came to work at the company to take advantage of the Good things, once enough people start using the Good things inappropriately then the company has to be less Good and make rles that spoil it for everyone else.

Especially if a company goes public and is unable to turn Good things into money for the company and if the company did less Good things than they have more money to make the shareholders happy.

But then again there must be some Good companies out there. I think of one company that I have heard good things about and that would be Gore Industries, the company that makes GoreTex and other materials from teflon coated textiles, etc. I could attempt to explain it here, but perhaps if your interested in learning more about the flat-lattice structure I could send you the page out of my text book from last year.

I do think it is possible however to have a large company and have a Good company. I think the things that define it as a Good company can be carefully managed and maintained and tht they could benefit everyone in the long run.

This was a bit stream of consciousness and not very well thought or planned out, but you tend to be able to suck the marrow from my ramblings usually.

tacomachickadee said...

Mead bench. Cool. Not a term I'd run across at least in a state of mind not pulled in a thousand directions and in which I could retain such tantalizing verbage. Thanks for giving me something to research. That was fun. :)

EGV said...

Joel -

My experience with companies dominated by strong top-down personalities is that as the company grows, the personality of the CEO is first supplemented and ultimately replaced by a bureaucracy designed to mimic and mirror the things that the CEO was once able to do hands on.

It's way easier to do this with a privately held company than a publicly held one. Part of it is the retention of control of the owner and part of it is that the nature of the company fundamentally shifts once it is publicly held - if nothing else, there are just different rules.

Alicia(tacomachickadee) -

Well, I did say I was punchy. For whatever reason, I'm liable to start referencing ancient lit when I'm in that frame of mind. I came a hair's beadth from working in Naegling. Thankfully, I resisted.