‘Only In It For the Money’ Doesn’t Work Any More


The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Pictures of Money | Flickr

Why do we do this thing called “work,” anyway? Is it just about putting cash in our pockets and food on the table? The narrow, strict-constructionist take of classical economics answers with a resounding “yes!” We work to minimize our pain.

A team at Facebook studying employee engagement there came to a different conclusion: They found that the most powerful motivator for Facebook workers is pride in the company they work for — a pride that encompasses optimism about the firm’s future, belief in its mission, and confidence that it’s making the world better (Fast Company).

This understanding of the point of business is fundamentally different from the one that has dominated American boardrooms since the 1980s. Take Walmart: It’s built on the assumption that if it drives prices down, everything good will follow (The Atlantic). Such an emphasis on “operational excellence” assumes that efficiency will keep customers, workers, and investors happy.

But we’re all human and can’t help yearning for meaning. That’s why the concept of the “purpose-driven company” is so popular right now. It’s not that we all woke up one morning and discovered we’re really altruists at heart. It’s that we woke up and realized that efficiency is not inspiring enough to get us out of bed.

It’s easy to tout the importance of pride when your company is expanding and dominating the world a la Facebook. It’s harder when you hit choppy waters. After companies suffer colossal public-relations disasters, as United and Uber recently have, the real danger isn’t that customers will stop buying; it’s that workers will stop caring.

Google Says It Has No Gender Pay Gap

The U.S. Department of Labor says Google underpays women, and it sued the company in January to release related documents and data. Tuesday, Google responded with a blog post that declared it was “taken aback” by the charges. According to Google, its salary-setting methodology is “blind” to gender, and the company’s own “extremely scientific and robust” internal analysis refutes the government’s claims.

The Labor Department does not wish to rely on that assertion alone. Methodologies are cool! But you really need to see the numbers. That’s what the lawsuit is about.

But on a deeper level, there’s surely something inherently problematic about the simple fact that Google’s workforce is 80 percent male. As Sidney Fussell asks in Gizmodo, “Wouldn’t that play out in performance ratings? How does Google audit performance ratings for gender bias? How do they know such heavily skewed environments don’t affect performance in the first place?”

The tech industry’s gender problem is way bigger (and older) than Google. But Google is an industry leader and trend-setter. It can afford to take some leaps and risks to try to begin to reverse tech’s long, sad history of failing to give women their due.

Hate to Fly? Blame Silicon Valley (In Part)

Tech’s “disruptions” have arguably improved many aspects of travel — including getting a ride, booking a room, and tracking traffic jams. But so far its impact on air travel has only made things worse (Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times). Of course, Silicon Valley didn’t drag that guy off a United plane last weekend. But its tool set — like price-minimizing booking sites and brand-agnostic flight finders — promoted the conditions of overbooking and understaffing which led up to the incident.

How might things change? For one, as Manjoo suggests, we could try to build and use online travel services that take customer-service ratings into account. But there are also alternative models within the airline industry that use simple, good-design principles to provide better performance. Southwest, for example, flies only one kind of plane; this standardization is one reason behind its great on-time record.

Invasion of the Space Unicorns

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ announcement that he’s putting a billion bucks a year into his Blue Origin rocketry startup is only the latest evidence: Private investment is transforming the business of space travel (Quartz). Once the exclusive domain of government agencies and publicly funded projects, space exploration — like the internet before it — is rapidly being privatized.

For decades, the U.S. government has shown little appetite for big spending on NASA, so it’s probably good that private industry is taking up the slack. Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are the biggest players, but there’s a newer tier of smaller startups, too, like Planet, Capella Space, and SkyBox.

Before we know it, we’ll be witnessing the first space-travel IPO. Here’s one question we might want to ask before outer space begins to get crowded with venture-backed startups: How exactly do we feel about taking the advertising-supported business model beyond the stratosphere? Are we ready for the old-school zodiac to be replaced with corporate logos?


Leave a Reply