Tuesday, July 24, 2012
What is dynamism? Off to the dictionary.
... great energy, force, or power; vigor: the dynamism of the new governor.
No, this won't do. All the examples in the dictionary mention a politician.
Dynamism is what happens when politicians aren't paying attention.
There, that's my definition. Take that, Sam Johnson.
I don't know of an example of dynamism that sprung from political action. All politicians try to control everything, and in advance. They generally suck at seeing even ten minutes down the road with any accuracy. Then they glom onto whatever's worth taking credit for.
Hewlett Packard. Apple. Google. Disney. Amazon. Mattel. Harley-Davison. What do these companies have in common? They were all started in a garage. In Harley's case, it was really just a shed. Why do people start the most successful businesses in the world in a shed?
Because everything they're doing is illegal. No, really. Everyone tries to spin it as frugality, or spontaneity, or whatever -- but it's just a way to dodge all the roadblocks the political class has put in the dynamic person's way. There are no OSHA inspections of garages. No wheelchair ramps. Hell, there are no demands to hire a state senator's brother-in-law in a garage.
Pretty much all the examples I gave you turned into raging fans of the government after they were well established. Apple was next to nothing until they did a dirty deal to make their computers the only thing ever used in public schools. Harley got bailed out. Google spends all day using the government as a proxy to keep out competition. They all know there are bright people and garages everywhere, and give campaign donations to politicians that promise garage inspections daily.
Remember that Netflix "internal" PowerPoint cultural statement that made the rounds of the Intertunnel a few years back? Lots of people, deep thinkers, said it sounded like how every business should be run. To me, it sounded like what you'd do if you had a business in your garage.
Well, you don't have a business in your garage anymore, and garage strategies don't cut a lot of ice at the SEC or the EEOC or the EIEIO or whatever bureau run by basilisks you'd care to mention. You can't talk about only having people that have those wonderful x characteristics on your team. Someone from the government wants to know how many of them are brown or have ovaries or roll around in wheelchairs and lots of other things you may or may not care about. Strategies like a devil-may-care attitude towards a dress code sound great in theory, but the first time a presentable woman wears a unitard and gets a somewhat longer longing glance from the fellows in the mail room than she'd like, you'll figure out why pasties or speedos aren't allowed at IBM. It will be explained to you in some detail by her lawyer. Hey, Woz, they don't let you throw things away in the household trash that smell vaguely like Chernobyl once there's a logo on the building. And promising people stock options instead of wages will only get you so far out in the exogarage sunshine when the government wonders aloud where their FICA money is.
So everyone wants dynamism, but no one wants to allow it as soon as they don't need it any more. Politicians never need dynamism. Dynamism can build institutions they can't control. Institutions that might oppose them. Dynamism gives regular people ideas.
In every case I can think of, dynamism is regular people unleashed. I don't find the founders of most of those businesses I mentioned earlier to be that dynamic. They're usually a certain kind of inspired drudge. They barely understand the forces they let loose. But by hook or by crook, they unleash things. Not just among their own employees. In most cases, it's the customers that get unleashed, and love it. Google sounds like a cushioned gulag to work at. But its customers use it to find things, including finding me, thank goodness. Who cares why?
The industrial revolution in England happened because the landed gentry wasn't paying attention. They scoffed at the importance of guys with grease under their fingernails right up until the greasy guys' clout --political, monetary, cultural-- eclipsed their own, and there was nothing they could do to put the genie back in the bottle. It was the same in America. When we just paved the roads and didn't worry too much about what was going on in all the sheds, America ran wild economically. It wasn't until we fixed everything in advance that it all got broken. You can't micromanage dynamism. Look at the explosion of commerce that happened in China when they took the communist boot off the average person's face, and improved it to an autocratic slipper on their neck. Russia may be a gangster state now, but a gangster is better than a commissar.
Until regular people are allowed to swing their elbows again in the US instead of listening to the national intercom's continual funds for this worthy project are soon to be released message, nothing much is going to happen.
I run a business out of my house and we teach our children at desks in their bedrooms. We make music instead of buying it. We write books. Food comes from recipes, not reservations. We make our own heat and our own fun. You can kill us, but you can't make us stop trying. Dare I call it dynamism?