Today somebody asked me why I love being freelance after 15 years in the corporate and agency worlds. What I told him, in a nutshell, is simple: I want my creativity unbound by specific locations, daily schedules, and mandatory adherence to the 9 to 5. We agreed that creativity and innovation are what’s going to move this economy for the foreseeable future. Finally, we talked about the need for companies to critically evaluate their org charts and the people in them using ethics and values as key drivers.
Afterwards, my friend sent me this incredible article written by Michael Abrash about his time with Valve. If you don’t know Valve then you’re not a gamer, and you should go check it out for a moment (and buy Portal 2 while you’re there, because it’s freaky-good). Michael has much to say about his personal tech journey and the whole article is well worth reading, but this part jumped out and hit me in the face:
If most of the value is now in the initial creative act, there’s little benefit to traditional hierarchical organization that’s designed to deliver the same thing over and over, making only incremental changes over time. What matters is being first and bootstrapping your product into a positive feedback spiral with a constant stream of creative innovation. Hierarchical management doesn’t help with that, because it bottlenecks innovation through the people at the top of the hierarchy, and there’s no reason to expect that those people would be particularly creative about coming up with new products that are dramatically different from existing ones – quite the opposite, in fact.
Allow me to quickly unbury the lead: VALVE HAS NO FORMAL MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE. None. Zero. Zilch. I don’t think most of us ever entertained the notion that a company like this exists *and* can be wildly successful, but Valve has done it. Want further proof that this is really and truly happening? Take a spin through their wonderfully straightforward and utterly charming employee handbook.
Today my brain broke in the most amazing way. I highly recommend it.