So Tej got on me the other day about not having posted to my blog in some time. To be honest, between writing 1-2 reports per week for 451 Research and visiting the merry band of miscreants at StartupCity Des Moines a few times a week, it hasn't left much free time to update ye olde blog here. Fortunately, between Tej's kick in the ass and some social media postings of late, paired with an unprecendented amount of productivity (entirely attributable to my new coffee regimen), gave me cause to write this up.
I have never really taken to either dominant political party in the United States, just as I have never really taken to any particular religious faith. There are positive and negative aspects to both parties, as there are in each faith (and before anyone declares a fatwa or crusade against me, I think the belief systems taken alone are often quite lovely, but fail miserably when it comes to actual application of same by mortal men and women). About the time I gained my majority, I decided that I was, at best, an independent voter, and have voted for whichever candidate(s) I found least repulsive in the intervening 27 years. Over time, I have gradually shifted closer to libertarianism (I attribute it to too much early exposure to Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand), with a healthy dose of Anarchy.
Everything I do professionally reflects this. If you look at StartupCity Des Moines, it is the antithesis of hierarchical. It is a meritocratic anarchic-libertarian state in a microcosm. No walls, no real rules (other than ones imposed upon us by the landlord), and a self-forming creative tsunami ensued. You don't mess with others and they dont mess with you. To each their own. Like the man said, it's very similar to "Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten." It's great, especially now that Hatchlings and Volunteer Local and Bunchball and eleven other companies are comfortably ensconced, giving the space the people-density to make the entrepreneurial-creative-friction math work.
But it has honestly tested my anarchic ethos. On a couple of occasions, people imposed rules upon others that I did not agree with, and had to remind everyone that Tej and I are technically the owners. So much for people peacefully self forming and working in perfect harmony. We have a number of glassholes (not the Google Glass kind, but rather the kind that walks past the dishwasher to leave dirty dishes in the sink), which has resulted in Danyelle having to send out ever-strident emails to the residents and co-workers to clean up after themselves (not to mention a sign or two being posted).
On the whole, people generally respect each other's personal space, and read personal cues like BIG HEADPHONES ON YOUR HEAD to know not to interrupt you with meaningless banter. Our music, once on every day at nosebleed volume, is now on during Open Coworking Thursdays, at a non-downstairs-neighbor-complaining level. There is considerable horizontal interaction and collaboration, and countless expensive mishaps have been avoided by peer advice, most often beginning with "I wasn't listening in on your conversation, BUT...". The benefits of an open environment, despite articles to the contrary, are tangible and immediate because you can't anticipate what you don't know exists ("Unknown unknowns", in Donald Rumsfeld's parlance), so you cant send me an Outlook invite to conference room A117 from 10:30-11am to discuss how we can help each other about things we don't know the other can contribute to. I believe this is why so many large companies have so much waste and overlap and duplicate effort, because of this artificial compartmentalization.
So, back to Anarchy. We have a City Manager, Danyelle, who is ultimately the 'questions and complaints' department, as its a shared space and people often dont know if they should bring in their own ketchup or if we provide any. We have Tej and I who started the incubator with a heavy hand with meetings and process, but have backed off almost entirely. Other than the perpetually unerased whiteboards, dirty conference tables, and glassholes (all the cliche 'Tragedy of the Commons' problems shared in any space occupied by >2 people), it works. Anarchy works, at least in a startup incubator.