I've blogged in the past over Steve Gaitten's postings. This morning when I fired up my Google Reader I noticed there was a new post waiting from him titled, "My Sycophants," I was excited to read more.
Setting the stage, Steve has been as AOL for many more years than me more than me, 10 times to put it in perspective. He's seen AOL's culture change over the years and he's written about it and the drivers of the change. I've only heard stories about the famous and infamous people at AOL back in the day. Some are uplifting, others are downright disturbing.
The catalyst for his post is an article forwarded by his sister, also a fellow AOLer. The Favoritism Test: Learn to Avoid the Pitfall of Rewarding Sycophants in the Workplace
This is a thought provoking article, Steve's thinking about it, now I am as well. This will be on my mind when I participate in my 360 feedback sessions with my rater groups.
Steve mentions that in the past the technologists were pushed to the back as the money people took over. I don't know the details, I'll have to follow-up with Steve, but as soon as you disconnect communcation and collaboration (if that's what happened) bad things start to happen.
At my previous company, Advertising.com, I knew many people in our technology department. If I had a crazy idea, I would normally find Jeff and ask him if it was possible. He was excellent at saying, "yes, if.." We go back and forth on the goals, features needed, etc and we'd get to something that was workable. Might not be scalable yet, but we could prove the value.
Why did I mention this? Not to infer Advertising.com was a better company, each has its pluses and minuses. It's because I need to build some of those relationships here at AOL. Everyone business person should have some tech buddies, just like tech people should have some business buddies.
I had the opportunity to present at one of our senior technology leader's all-hands meeting earlier this week. They wanted to know how money is made with online advertising. I spoke for about a half hour and then had a lively Q&A session. It was cool to see such enthusiasm. At the reception afterwards people still wanted to ask questions and debate effectiveness of online advertising. People told me about the technology they were working on and asking how it could be used to help monetization.
My take-away from this?
I need to make sure we get the teams mingling, even if there isn't an official business purpose, everybody need's to have their "insider" elsewhere in the company. The more of these connections that can be built the faster we can make the innovation flywheel spin. As new ideas incubate, the better they'll grow if from the beginning they get a balanced diet of different perspectives from across the company.
Hopefully as people from the reception start to ping me with questions, if I don't know the answer I can quickly point them to the right person and make a warm introduction. I have a personal connection, I'll make sure they find the right person. Much different then having a question and then having to find the right person in such a large company.
Steve, maybe we should organize something between our teams?