Remember my post about letting people in front in a traffic jam? I recently returned home from a short family trip to Germany and there I witnessed the solution, and I thank Hayek for coming up with the theory to explain the phenomenon.
See, in the northern part of Germany where I was, I noticed that it was an unwritten rule of thumb to always let in one car in front of you. This worked really well, with both lanes accepting it, and behaving accordingly without taking advantage or offence.
As far as I know, there is no direct law concerning this. Therefore it is what Hayek called a spontaneous order. Spontaneous orders are orders that are shaped by human actions in social contexts, but without the coercive force of government or other type of planning and without external enforcing, like a police force. They tend to be highly efficient, as in this case.
Unfortunately I live in Denmark and not Germany, where this rule has not emerged. I believe these two nations to be very alike culturally. The only main difference is that the Danish state is huge and involved in incredible many aspects of the life of its subjects. That is not beneficial for the emergence of social orders. They need freedom, even a little chaos, to evolve. The other path, that of violent government planning, is not able to account of the multitude of situations that spontaneous order typically do, and they need enforcement, where spontaneous orders comes natural, as all will likely on average benefit equally. After all, you do not know where in the morning rush hour traffic you might end up.
So thank you Germany for solving the issue… And thank you dear reader for taking the time to read this.
I had the great joy to listen in when John Ndege from Facebook stopped by Founders House the other day. Obviously he shared some good insights, but when he said the magic words: “Facebook is doing really well and is very successful” I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask him what that meant?
If you have 800 mil users what is successful exactly? What is the financial KPIs you are using? Like the average monetary value per user? What do you compare this to?
John Ndege did not give me a direct answer, so I share the question here. Which monitory or financial KPIs and at what level should they be for a company with a resource 800 mil users to be deemed successful?
Naveen Selvadurai from Foursquare dropped by amazing Founders House to have a chat a while back. As you might have guessed, he sure carries a lot of wisdom around. Of the many things he said, one particular almost Hinduistic insight struck home with me.
Naveen views life as a tree growing and trying to strive for the life-giving light. As the tree grows, the branches split up. Some grows to large trunks, and others never reach beyond the twig stage. Naveen point was that you are the tree – or rather your company is. It is your duty to always pick the branch where there is most light and which is likely to give room for more branches – or opportunities – in the future. Interesting! It is kind of like instilling opportunity costs theory with existentialism.
However, it also gives rise to the question, as to when are the tree your life and when is it the company that you have founded or work for? As an entrepreneur, when do your private branches and the company’s branches start and end? I mean everybody has been in this situation, where doing one thing would benefit you or your company, but not both. This is a really interesting thought, and my answer might surprise you…
The founder as entrepreneur
When you establish a company alone or with others, many compare it to give birth to a child you must now nurture and care for. That is not really true when put in the above context. For while you should always think of the child’s best branches, that is not necessarily true for a company, for we must remember what a company is. A company is a legal structure and institution that makes people able to align conflicting goals and utilize resources better over time, while trying to meet a demand for a product. The first part of that definition is like a child. Everybody can found a company and potentially keep it alive forever if they invest enough. But the last part is the important part. It is why companies are such a genius social institution: They breathe demand. So if you have given birth to a company (not a human, mind you) that is unable to breathe demand, it is not a normative responsibility to put its wellbeing in front of yours – you could be damaging the world by wasting your life power on this little twig rather than to go out on a trunk of a branch somewhere else. Twigs are the rarely pretty and can even be annoying, but they are a needed side effect of the tree of life trying to find light, or the humanity trying to find the best possible resource allocation, but they should not be nurtured beyond a certain stage. A surprising task of the entreprenuer is hence to always evaluate the company as a branch.
The employee as entrepreneur
First off, everybody should view themselves and be viewed as an entrepreneur of their own life. My good friend and associate Simon Schock has a really cool girlfriend Maia Mazaurette (read her blog here) who says it well, when on her Linkedin profile, she writes her current position, as “Freelance CEO of my own career”. Great! When you are an employee you spend a lot of time on a job for which you get pay (revenue). I think you as such have an ethical obligation to only think about the wellbeing of the company you work for – it is what you are paid for after all, not your own comfort or career. Great leaders realize this, and motivate employees with a vision to love and fight for the company only. Other leader types do not tap into this extra value pool in their employees, they don’t share and they never care*. Such leaders get lazy employees who only view their job as that, a job, and subsequently will chose only the branches of their private tree, not the company’s. This is really dangerous, as another great thing about companies as a structure is that they decreases short term resource dependency, which leave mental room for long term strategy planning for secure higher pay out of sunlight – an intelligent tree if you like. Imaging that.
So on what kind of tree are you growing? And what about the people around you?
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you Naveen for inspiration for my rant. Have a nice day y’all!
*) I have had the privilege to work for both types and needless to say, I prefer the visionary who get me to work long hours, by including me and saying a little nice word now and again. But who am I to judge.
I have rocked danish anarcho-kapitalist webzine @liberator.dk with a mindblowing, ear raping and cultural boundary pushing peice. Read it here: http://liberator.dk/the-sound-of-freedom-liberty-punk-rock-compilation
Also on the topic of music: Remember to come and dance at Backstreet Northern Soul Club 20th year anniversery on the 19th at http://www.stengade.dk/
More info here. See you out on the floor!
I have not been updating this for a while. Please do not take this as a measure of indifference to your or the subjects of this blog – I love you and them. Also, action speaks louder than words, so I should just leave it at that and start posting again. So I will.
Since my preferred (to say regular would be a stretch) posting day is Monday, I thought I kick of your weekend with this nice little ditty from electro rock phenomenon Bodega Girls and their lovely School Night. This is a sexy video, so #FraekFredag (props to a @LauraJul).
I think highly of these danceable trolls and I even think I can hear reminiscences of their hardcore past – maybe that is just me, but they insist on having fun and recording in just one night – that is always a cool approach to music and one that can produce great results (think Morrissey, Black Flag and many others… Love it). And don’t let the happy attitude fool ya: They are quite good lyricist too as in “You where always saying nothing but it was so profound”. Heck, I just wanted to promote them a little and took this chance.
So stay tuned for great updates the coming weeks. And go dance tonight.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.