Reflections on Politics at Work

A brief note to Eric Meyerson

I admit to having mixed feelings on this, Eric. And I credit you for shifting my thinking. I’ll start by acknowledging that Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are not renowned for winning hearts. They are a couple of characters who I have followed over the last two decades despite my deep desire not to. Frankly, and judge me as you will, I don’t like them. More often than not I disagree with their views. And, for that matter, their motives. That said, I have learned a lot from them. I admire their commitment to first principles. I admire their consistency. And I always know where they stand. Their original 1,000 True Fans were (and remain) diehard. Lastly, I admire that they are willing to publicly change their mind and acknowledge their mistakes. They unapologetically and unflinchingly execute course corrections. In forming my opinion on their recent stance about politics at work, I started with the primary source content. It is worth reading in good faith:

You’re critique is absolutely fair: 6 “NOs” decrying bad behavior isn’t an inspirational force of gravity from the future to rally an organization forward. And there is no question that these guys are unabashedly of the mindset “my way or the highway.” Which may help explain why their company size has never risen above double digits. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to work for them.

Reflecting on Turntide, I feel spoiled. I’ve had a lot of deep, spirited discussions characterized by highly-charged disagreements. But the focus has always been on our mission: to replace the world’s electric motors with optimal systems. We are committed to the same, positive direction. My friends who work at other companies often commiserate that political debate overwhelms all else. We live in polarized times and an externality of exponential tech is algorithm-fueled information warfare. For the moment, at least, Turntide seems to be immune from this and I feel quite grateful for it. Returning to Basecamp, I don’t have the impression they have enjoyed this luxury.

One way of looking at the recent drama is this: Jason and David buried the lead. Had they listened to their sage, they might have framed this as: “We are in the pursuit of greatness which requires uncompromising focus…”

“…and here is what we DO”
“…and this is how we avoid being distracted from WHAT WE NEED TO DO.”

Thanks, Eric, for reminding me of the importance of staying focused on positive direction.

p.s. my thinking about group behavior is heavily influenced by a guy named John Robb. Something that he drew my attention to is how tribal networks form, function, and fail. Hint: networked tribes emerge around “NOs.” i.e. what are we aligned in *opposition* to? Choose you’re completion:
* racism
* colonialism
* woke-ism
* censorship
* …

Jason and David were reacting to such dynamics, but regrettably they responded in kind. Tideturners: shoot me a slack DM if you’re interested in taking 30 mins to discuss further over zoom. 🙂

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