Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

I’m an engineer. I went to college for it. Got a degree in it. Dilbert cartoons apply to people like me.

One of the things that’s been really challenging since having my own company is just how idiotic the business world is.

You read about it. You hear about it. But seeing the idiocy first hand is just incredibly frustrating. Why did such and such deal get made? Because someone had a better technology? No. Because someone made a better business case? No. Instead, all too often I see deals made because “the other guys” has non-engineer sales teams that know how the biz game is really played. They got the decision maker at company X tickets to see their favorite baseball team at Spring Training. Or they pulled some strings to get the decision maker’s son a visit from a local sports hero or a visit from some other celebrity.

Hearing about it. Reading about it. It doesn’t come anywhere close to having the same impact in actually seeing it in action.


Comments
on May 07, 2010

I can't wait to join that world, eh?  My friend at an electronics measurement company tells me lots about sales teams who have too much sway over the course of product development.  Of course they promise the moon in a bow "just cause the ocmpetition has it" and divert resources from products and strengths that would actually make the company a better competitor.

Then he tells me about the near full year of documenting product lead content for European regulatory reasons and doing nearly zero engineering.

on May 07, 2010

But here's a question for you.  How much of this stuff you see is insincere?  Does it rub you the wrong way because it's silly decision making or because the sucking up is entirely too thick for words?

I get respect, relationship building, trust, cultural intelligence, etc.  Insincere flattery is icky.  I get making business decisions based on a relationship too.  He's more expensive, but you trust the guy and he's come through before.  That's honest.  That's human.  But yeah, playing one sucking-up guy off another and choosing whoever grovels the best is just wrong and demeaning.

on May 07, 2010

It's less relationship building and more outright bribery of decision makers that I see.

on May 07, 2010

Being in your shoes basically (keeping it at the engineer vs business model), I see it  all too often.

Entrepreneurs like you do not run major established companies.  They create them, and then the "business' guys run them into the ground.

on May 08, 2010

Back in the '95 was when I started work in the world.  I'd enjoyed Dilbert up to that point, but after a few years of work I stopped reading because it was just too depressing how accurate it was. 

on May 08, 2010

@Frogboy, two more question. 

1) Why does that bribery work?  Is someone's ego stroked?  (I'd tend to be turned off by it in the same way as, say, uber special review copies of games.)

2) How common is it?

on May 08, 2010

BTW, how did the business world react to you being such a maverick CEO? I read that you had to ditch things like investment opportunities.

on May 09, 2010

Instead, all too often I see deals made because “the other guys” has non-engineer sales teams that know how the biz game is really played.

Here's a little golden nugget for anyone reading this-

What's the most important skill or attribute you need to get ahead in a large corporation?

Tell people what they want to hear. That's it. That's all. Oh, and do it in a way that doesn't make you look like a complete used-car salesman fraud. That's why the sales/marketing/business guys always end up running the show, because they've learned that magical little lesson. Technical skills are irrelevant- in fact, the people with the best technical skills and or/creative ability to churn out new products usually end up slotted away in a little corner somewhere, -precisely- because they're so damned good at what they do, and -precisely- because their hard work makes their immediate superiors shine to the rest of the company.

Meanwhile, you ultimately end up with the majority of the upper echelons comprised of people who are expert word-smiths and silver tongued devils.

Now, is this the composition of every board member out there? Not at all. There's always a couple who squeak in who are the real deal, hard workers who got there through blood sweat and tears etc.

But most of the time (and this is replicated throughout all walks of life by the way) You will see that in a major corporate structure/organization those who make the most disastrous decisions tend to get promoted. It's the craziest thing to see, but I've personally witnessed several folks over the years who literally threw away millions of dollars on projects that anyone with half a clue knew would be a complete failure... only to get promoted to director or VP of so-and-so after that very project collapsed in utter failure. Why do these people not get fired for their complete lack of skill or competence?

Because they told their superiors what they wanted to hear. They are able to take anything and 'spin' it into a positive light, regardless of the actual reality.

This can be seen just about anywhere- after the break-up of Lehman and Bear Stearns most of the higher ups from those failed outfits got high paying jobs at other financial outfits. Timothy Geithner, if you look at his actual track record, has been at the helm of several different groups that have tanked and he's been promoted for his incompetence into running the treasury department!!!!!

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