Hacking, puzzle-boxes and company culture

Lucy Boyes on her Boyes Club blog:

The second example of hacking – the magical shortcut approach – is a whole different problem. It’s fine for inanimate objects and codebases, assuming the “magic” does actually work, but in the context of human beings it’s an appalling way to operate. The idea that you can “hack” human things – people, culture, communications, you name it – is at least somewhat predicated on the puzzle box mentality. The linked example describes a particular way of perceiving women which can lead men (assuming this is a cis, hetero scenario) to believe that there’s a magic combination of words, actions and/or behaviours which will convince a woman to give up the “prize” of sex to men who figure out the puzzle. It’s a mentality which keeps pickup artist in lucrative business selling books and lecture dates. And this leads to all kinds of not-okay behaviours, like persistent stalking, harassment, creeping, etc., because the dude’s entire framework of belief tells him that if he just keeps trying hard enough he will eventually unlock the magic sex box.

Awesome, and it gets better…

This pertains to hacking culture thusly: the myth of the incredible founder, while it exists, legitimises doing fucking stupid shit to your people in the name of culture. The guy in charge thinks he’s in charge because he’s The Best. He succeeded by being The Best. And the most obvious way to make the company more successful as a whole is for everyone to be More Like Him. Which is why so many startups have crippling long-hours cultures (and lionise said crippling cultures even as everyone is balls-deep in the business of burning out), and why the culture and how the company relates to people is allowed to be run according to the whimsy of someone who hasn’t spent long enough thinking about how the world works to realise the unlikelihood, the tenuousness, of their own success. They drink their own Kool-Aid, and then they make everyone else drink it too.

Terrific read. Worth every word. Follow up with Klei.