Another week and another round of layoffs in the Valley. Yahoo drops nearly 300 people. Toshiba says goodbye to about 50. 70 disappeared from the ranks of Autodesk. These all add to the growing number of over 3000 layoffs in the first four months of 2016 in the Valley – and that doesn’t even include startups with less than 50 people. Beyond this, we can look at the fading employee perks, struggling stock prices, and lackluster product lines, and dare to utter that frightening little word that’s in the back of every mind, but sheepishly avoiding the tips of our tongues: Bubble.
Heresy and slander! Who could ever call down the mighty force of Silicon Valley? Yet, like so many aspects of our economy, even our precious tech-haven is subject to these rollercoaster ups and downs – likely due to the fickle nature of those pesky consumers and their changing habits, sharing economies, digital rejection, and lack of desire to become cyborgs. How dare they.
However, maybe we shouldn’t look to market forces for once. Maybe we shouldn’t try to pin this one on the enigmatic consumer. Instead, it’s time we look within. For anyone who’s spent any time in the Valley, you quickly see how strong and focused the cultures of tech companies are. And while these cultures breed passion and challenge traditional norms, they do come with a dark side.
Valley groupthink is a real thing, as are the trappings of any strong-willed, tightly knit community of people who are banded together by a set of common objectives and a pact of mutually-assured self-destruction. Simply put, nearly the whole of the Valley is bought into the same system and everyone has too much to lose if it all goes Pete Tong. And while these technology companies pride themselves on bringing in diverse top talent, the moment they grab hold, that diverse talent is quickly thrown into the corporate melting pot to mix another brilliant mind into the melange that is the Valley. It’s not enough to simply hire diversity; we must promote and encourage it.
So, as the Valley begins to cut their laundry services, move out the ping pong tables, and end the lunchtime Pilates, we must ask ourselves: what could be done differently? The synergies and practicalities of pulling groups of people together into a hotbed of innovative thought are too great to deny, so how can we avoid groupthink? How can we save the Valley?
The answer is simple, though really hard. The key to denying groupthink is to foster individual-think. Your culture should not dictate a corporate mantra or rally around a techno-demigod as its North Star, but instead create a culture of the individual. Build a company full of skeptics and curious outsiders. Encourage the strange within your culture and, from the top down, show that everyone and anyone has a voice. Actively deny your culture instead of designing it. Push those around you to push themselves.
And when you’re really stuck, find more weirdos to help bail you out.