Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Disrupted: a very short review

Over the summer, I breezed through Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, by Dan Lyons.

Lyons has had a bit of an odd career:

  1. For a long time, he was a journalist, specifically a technology industry journalist. Over many years, he rose up through the world until he finally reached what must be one of the top rungs on the ladder for a technology industry journalist: chief technology correspondent for Newsweek. Then the Great Recession of 2008 happened, and Newsweek collapsed, and Lyons was discarded like so many others.
  2. Then, for a couple years, Lyons worked in Marketing for a technology startup in Boston
  3. Today, Lyons is a screenwriter; specifically, he is a screenwriter for the HBO series, Silicon Valley.

Disrupted is about that brief two-year period in the middle.

That experience, let us be blunt, was a complete disaster for Lyons:

  • he had no idea what job the company had hired him to do;
  • he had no idea what jobs his co-workers did;
  • he had no idea how to do things that would help his co-workers;
  • he had no idea how to do things that would help his company;
  • and he had no idea how to figure any of this out on his own.

What might surprise you, though, is that nothing about that story is surprising to me at all (except possibly that very last part).

This is the way modern industry works.

At least, this is the way that the modern technology industry works; I don't know what other industries are like, but I don't think they are much different.

Companies nowadays expect to hire you for a specific job. They expect that you already know how to do that job. They do not expect to train you how to do that job; in fact, they have absolutely no ability to train you to do that job, because nobody at the company knows how to train anybody else to do anything.

If you don't know how to do the job, the company expects you to figure it out on your own. If you cannot, they will fire you.

If you do succeed in doing your job, and you get to a point where you want a new more challenging and more rewarding job, companies expect you to quit this job and go get that new job someplace else; no company nowadays expects to provide anything like "career growth".

If you want to read about what it's like to take a job, having no idea how to do that job, be totally unable to figure out how to do the job on your own or by watching or talking with your co-workers, become totally frustrated, and finally lash out in anger and despair, read Disrupted.

If, on the other hand, you:

  1. want to read about what it's like to take a job, having no idea how to do that job, observe the behavior and activity of the people and teams around you, conceive of some things that you could do that would be contributions, listen to the feedback of colleagues, and learn how to succeed, then move on to some other situation elsewhere,
  2. or, want to understand how we got to a point where all modern organizations behave this way, and consider some ideas about how we as a society might change into a world where employment was some other sort of experience
then don't bother reading Disrupted, because Lyons has little or nothing to say about these topics.

Which is a shame, because I think those other two topics are much more interesting, and much more important.

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