As web development and business goes, I do not have a strong opinion about most things. I’m also not good at most things.
It might be surprising, coming from someone who’s been involved in this industry for going-on 13 years now, and who was there the first day We Are Mammoth (a.k.a. Xoprecious) was born — in a coffee shop — on a one-page mission statement.
Nearly five years, over a hundred consulting projects, and one profitable product in, the progress this company has made comes as much from the input I’ve given to the things I really care about, as it has from the input I haven’t given — from the things I really do not have a passionate opinion about.
Take our corporate identity. I was fine with the cutesy teddy-bear feel of our former name (Xoprecious), and our former logo (which you can see for about 10 seconds at xoprecious.com). If it were up to me, we’d still be Xoprecious today, with the same logo, the same business cards printed adequately by the fine folks at 4X6.com. I’d be too lazy to change it.
On the other hand, Craig does. And, so he pondered for months on the name, worked with our long-time tenant, friend, and A-list designer Colin Metcalf to produce our hauntingly-chic logo. A few years later, he commissioned an artist to hand design an etching of a woolly mammoth and convinced a couple workers to hang a huge-ass banner outside our office. New cards, new stationary, new mission statement, and our once homemade shop now looks and behaves like a professional one.
I don’t really have a strong opinion about our development stack either. I write in C# because that’s the language I used the first time I landed a corporate job. When Mustafa joined, he cared deeply about the tools we use. The move from web forms to MVC. The ORM switch from stored procedures and home-grown data access layers to LINQ, and, pretty soon, a move from LINQ to something else. The emphasis on finding bottlenecks in our code and database queries. How to handle exceptions properly. How to debug better.
I do care about these things a lot actually. They are critical to building great applications. But I don’t have a passion for continually finding a better way to do these things. For the most part, I let him run the show and generally get out of the way.
Currently, Mike is negotiating with our landlord to extend our lease, working with an architect and developer on our upcoming office redesign, and a lawyer to make sure everything is checking out properly. I really do have a strong opinion about the new redesign. I just don’t care about handling the rest. So, I’m never asked about any of it.
What you come to appreciate in a small, bullshit-less business is the fact that there is no need for me to feign interest or expertise in things that I am not good at or lack conviction in. I know too many people in corporate America who are struggling for contentment, let alone inspiration and motivation. I think a chunk of that beat-down feeling comes from the assumed default that you ought to really care, really have an opinion, really be good at everything you do at your job.
And so, that’s why so many corporate meetings can be filled with twenty people playing twenty-man-ping-pong against ideas and topics that go on and on for days and weeks and months. In reality, most people have real conviction and passion with just a very small sliver of the work they are doing. The rest is filler.
But, instead of saying “I don’t have a strong opinion about that,” the assumed position is you do have a strong opinion. You will make it up when called upon. You will do whatever you can to keep the discussion moving so long as you can paddle the question-at-hand onto someone else. That’s why some of these discussions, even the ones that require a yes or no answer, can go on for so long with so many people not caring yet pretending to care.
Not here. I don’t have a strong opinion about our corporate identity, the underlying technical architecture of our apps, or the long-term ramifications of our investment in a physical space. Someone else does. And that person does it. Decisions aren’t filibustered for the sake of participation brownie points.
Maybe that’s why things get done.