Corporate Darwinism — Amazon’s bloodthirsty culture makes the news. (Again.)

IMG_1444It’s Sunday, I enjoyed Church this morning, had lunch a few minutes ago outside. In a moment, I’m out the door for a walk on the beach with my dog. If you’re an an employee working at a computer trying to catch up from last week or get ahead for next week, reading this may help you consider your “reality.” How wisely (actually), are you “investing” your time?

The news this week on Amazon’s toxic corporate culture was a “refreshing” counterpoint / contrast to the story of the poor fellow who raised the minimum salary at his company to $70K (and who is shortly thereafter going broke.) I say “refreshing” facetiously. But yes, the Amazon situation is the opposite extreme.

So each, it seems, will suffer from the “Law of unintended consequences.

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. http://www.econlib.org

The same almost certainly applies to corporate management.

Amazon competes in the market place for workers, and we concede: that success breeds more success.

Many intelligent, talented people take gigs at Amazon. Why? They obtain the credential of being a ‘former’, they make acquaintances and gain experience – and quite quickly learn that there is more to success than drinking the company cool-aid. Within a couple of years everyone but all-stars, the psychopathically ruthless and utterly entrenched are managed out of the company.

Is this really a sustainable operating model?

The thing is: Most that “go in” are immature. Why? Quite simply so that the “Amazon Way” can be more easily imprinted on impressionable minds.

Does it concern you that in hiring an an ex-Amazonian, you could be contaminating your staff?!

If not, you might consider some of the potential consequences.

At the New York Times, some of these questions are being asked…

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace
“The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push
white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.”

It’s the contrast between these two extremes (Dan Price vs. Jeff Bezos) that interests me.  While Dan’s experiment failed quickly, it’s likely his will cause less overall pain. When Amazon fails it will be a real mess.  Why? Insane complexity.

I not only wonder about the viability of some kind of “middle ground” between these extremes — I wonder about it’s existence. If it exists, it seems like it would be unsatisfactory to everyone – workers, human resources and to management and ultimately the “investor” class who cares only for profit.

As an independent consultant, I’ll say it as clearly as I can: I left employment insanity for the insecurity of “rolling my own.” Am I happier? Perhaps? Am I as wealthy? Certainly not. I do enjoy being creative and accountable. And that conveys a ton of satisfaction.

The thought occurs: Is there a model we haven’t considered?

Why is this important? For starters, Amazon just recently became the worlds biggest retailer. But also, because — there is a pattern we’re witnessing — we’ve noticed it with Banking — “too big to fail.” In retail I might term the same result: “Too broad to go around.” What I mean is: if you’re selling a product, you’ll have to build a strategy for Amazon.

Eventually, I can say for sure — there are companies who have already begun to distinguish that there is more than just the prior functional experience a worker brings to a new job.  There is a way of being – of being human – that has an equal impact.

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