From the beginning Noyce gave all the engineers and most of the office workers stock options. He had learned at Fairchild that in a business so dependent upon research, stock options were a more powerful incentive than profit sharing. People sharing profits naturally wanted to concentrate on products that were already profitable rather than plunge into avant-garde research that would not pay off in the short run even if it were successful. But people with stock options lived for research breakthroughs. The news would send a semiconductor company’s stock up immediately, regardless of profits.
Relevant to the Executive archetype is the engineer-manager impedance mismatch. As a software programmer, I’m routinely told by my “subordinate” (the compiler) that I fucked up at my job. Over minor typos, the machine yells back at me, “Fix your shit or I’m not doing anything.” It simply won’t do anything if I give it nonsensical instructions. It’s frustrating! But it’s also a part of how I see the world. I like blunt feedback. Loud failure draws attention and I can fix it. Silent failure is the worst. Executives don’t think this way. If they hand down nonsensical or conflicting requirements, your job is to “make it work anyway”, not push back (like a machine) until their instructions make sense. If you push back against a bad instruction (in the way that a compiler would, and we like that) he can’t separate (a) your concerns about the decision, which may have been horrible, and (b) his perception that your objection is a slight against him and his ability to lead. Programmers get regular feedback about mistakes they made; executives never do. That’s why they’re so much more arrogant than we our, despite our reputation.
Here’s something a bit different, just for kicks. These extremely abstracted topological diagrams of U.S. rail transit systems were sent to me by Herbie Markwort, who runs the Gateway Streets blog about transportation issues in St. Louis.
Personally, I love the way that these diagrams look. Simplified down to their bare essentials — connecting points and termini — the systems take on an almost runic appearance. As much as possible, the distance between connection points is kept the same in these diagrams, regardless of the length of the lines in real life.
Obviously then, diagram “A” could represent any of the single-line rail systems in the U.S. — Buffalo, Phoenix, Seattle, et al — and diagram “B” represents a system (or systems) with just one branch line extending from a main trunk line. It’s certainly a fascinating way to look at something familiar from a different viewpoint, and had me scratching my head for quite a while before Herbie let me in on the answers.
Let me know what you think they are — reblog, reply, or use the Disqus commenting system to post your answers.