Josh: Cool. I love the whole the people that do interesting things and whatnot. I recently, well not recently it was almost a year ago now, I got to go to India and speak on a panel with Sir Tim Berner’s-Lee, the guy who actually invented the internet.
Josh: Yes. I mean really for a guy that’s been hardcore into the internet since I was 11. This was sort of like saying “Hey why don’t you and Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi get all together and have a chat about social reform”, and you represent people that are trying to break it. So it was like pee in your pants time. And I got there and he was just the nicest guy. And we ended up going out for wine and chilling out. His wife and my wife went out on the town. And the thing that I got out of it was at the end of it was that he’s just a normal guy who’s trying to make things better. And it was just such a huge moment for me to be like okay he’s sharp. I mean no doubt about it the guy’s gifted right.
Josh: But it’s not as though he’s got a halo floating above his head. He just works really hard to make things better. It was one of the most encouraging things in my career in the longest time to be like okay yeah. I don’t have to wander around in his shadow. He wants to chat. He wants to talk about stuff. He wants to know what you think. It was super encouraging.
SPP: That is really cool. And you know I guess that will be a lead-in right now the first official question I have, is just one of the things that really struck me is you seemed like, I don’t know, I drew so many parallels between myself and you and just that you know you’re curious. You’re just an intellectually curious guy. You would talk about how your friends were out drinking and you were in your dorm room figuring out how to graduate college quicker and do it on a budget, and things like that. And you’re always trying to figure out the best way to get things done. So I guess I wanted to ask you, have you always been like that? And what do you think motivates you to constantly question the norm and try to make things better?
Josh: Man that’s a good question. It sounds like I should be lying on a couch to answer that one.
SPP: Yes sometimes we do that.
Josh: I guess part of it is when you mentioned that story I told about being in the university and trying to figure out how to graduate on time and whatnot, like that wasn’t necessarily an instance of me thinking hey that will be a clever way to expedite university education. That was me freaking out that I wouldn’t be able to have a university education. So in a way I think the answer to your question is to a certain degree that desperation drives some of it. You get stuck in a hard spot and you’ve got to figure your way out of it. And I know that certainly in my career early on, particularly there are a number of times where I went to my manager, or better yet, I skipped my manager and went to the CEO and convinced him to let me something that I wanted to try that I thought I could pull off. And when he said “Yes I’ll give you a chance”, then you had no option but to work your tail off to try and make it happen. And there was a certain beautiful desperation to that.
When you’re working until 4:00 in the morning and getting up at 6:00 so you can run into the office and see what the results were. And if you do that day after day and suddenly there’s a breakthrough, and you manage to fulfill the expectations that you thrust so far ahead of yourself, that for me is a load of fun. Not because I like the failing part of it, although failings certainly a big part of it, but just being able to do that impossible thing is so beautiful. It’s just so much fun.
SPP: What’s interesting about that is like you were saying, I mean I find that, I always say in terms of sports because I grew up playing a lot of sports, the people who go on to be professional athletes, most of them honestly the reason they do it, the drive is something external in my opinion. I mean of course you have to like it but they either came from poverty or something where they could just lose themselves in the sport and it drives them to be better. So like you’re saying desperation or external forces oftentimes I think do play a really important factor in driving you past just what you would do normally you know.
Josh: Yes. It’s funny actually because I know that a lot of things that I’ve done have been, that I’m very proud of having managed to do hasn’t been necessarily that I expected myself to do them, or that I intrinsically believed that it needed to be done more than anything else on the planet that only I can do or anything like that. But I promised someone that I would do it or that someone had believed in me enough to let me try. And all of a sudden the fact that there was expectation from outside kind of upped the ante. Right like even if it’s your mom, or maybe especially if it’s your mom, all of a sudden that means that it really matters.
Like I remember the first time my mom had seen some of my speeches online, and this is when I had first started public speaking, and she wrote me just a quick email. Basically said “Hey Josh woke up early this morning. Couldn’t sleep and ended up on your Web site and watched a couple of your speeches. I really liked the one you talked about how we can do anything. I found it really inspiring.”
And that day I had scheduled two hours to write a speech and I ended up spending eight hours. I mean I canceled dinner. I worked on it for eight hours because all of a sudden I was like dude, this speech okay the client it’s important to please the client. You want to make sure the people see it, think it’s good. But my mom might see this and she might think it’s inspirational. I’m a grown man it’s not like I’m sitting up every night worrying about what my mom thinks, but suddenly this expectation made a big difference.
SPP: Wow that’s awesome. Hey Josh I just wanted to jump back real quick because earlier when we were talking you mentioned how you’re in an 11-year-old boy obsessed with the internet. Were you also into the whole hacking culture back then too? Is that what got you into this whole process of hacking work and just hacking everything that you do?
Josh: I guess so, although I didn’t really know what that was at the time. I mean and maybe this ties into your initial question. I guess you can say I was one of those odd kids with more creativity than sense. l remember at one point I convinced my mom that what I really wanted to wear to grade school was cowboy boots and MC Hammer pants.
SPP: I mean that’s completely normal to me.
Josh: Well okay for you that’s good but wait I think to top it off, remember those like cotton mesh sleeveless shirts that were big at one point.
SPP: Yes I do. Sometimes I wear them to the gym.
Josh: There you go. Yeah. Well somehow I convinced my mom this was thing. Anyway I got the snot beat out of me but that was not typical. But yeah so I was always trying to do things different and when I got online somewhere I found that there were a lot of people that were doing things differently and they were helping each other do things differently. And they didn’t really care that you were 11 years old.
So if you really wanted to get the latest Commander King video game or whatever it was, and in fact this is how I got started on the internet was a friend of mine showed me how to download this video game, this simple plat former game and we played it for a couple of hours, and I was totally hooked on it. This was like one of the first real big video game experiences and I was completely buzzing playing this video game. So he said “Okay hold on, wait.” And he deleted the game and he deleted all the notes and he said “Now I’ve shown you how to go get it you’ve got to go get it yourself.” And then mind you that may be kind of a jerk move but in the hacker culture this is a guy atypical teaching mechanism. And so that got me started it was like well what the hell?
And so I went and figured out how to get it and all of a sudden there’s all these other people who are like oh you want to get more video games? Well there’s this university and I know there’s a repository there, but you have to figure out how to get through the proxy system. Well how do you do that? Well I can’t tell you exactly but you ought to go look up what the TCPI Stack is or whatever it is. And then you go look that up and ask them questions, and people help you out. And when you’re an 11- year-old boy it used to be that 11-year-old boys had other 11-year-old boys to talk to and everybody else kind of patted them on the head or gave them a baseball and shoved them out the door. So all of a sudden there was all this opportunity to do stuff that maybe weren’t even supposed to be doing but you could pull it off.
SPP: Yeah and it’s funny I might as well just stay out of this conversation and let you and Jon talk. That’s what he does. Like every problem I have with almost anything for years I just said “Hey Jon can you figure this out”, whether it be TVs, internet, computers.” And then I figured out. It’s not that he knew all of it he just knew how to find it. Like that is it. That is how you become smart. You just know where to look on the internet basically.
Josh: Or don’t even know where to look but believe it’s out there right.
Josh: And you’re confident that you’re going to find it that’s the best part. Like again my wife will accuse me of this all the time. Someone will say “Is it possible so and so?” And I’ll say “Yes.” And they’ll say “Oh that’s excellent.” And then I’ll go home and Google the heck out of it and be like oh my God how do you do that, dah, dah, dah? Call people and everything else, and come back later and say “And here’s how you do it.” And they’re like wow, that Josh guy’s really sharp. He just knows lots of stuff. My wife’s like you’re full of it. You just have some sort of miracle magically manufactured faith that anything’s possible. And you believe that so hard that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make so. And so people bring us stuff out and you just figure it out. And figuring it out is the fun part.
SPP: I agree. I see the look on Chris’ face right now and he’s just like oh God what are you guys getting into? But know I completely agree with that. That’s the same thing somebody will email or call me and ask how to do something. I’ll be like oh yeah I’ll get right back to you on that. I know how to do it I just got to write it down for you. And I’ll instantly go look it up.
Josh: Oh yeah.
SPP: Try to figure it out, try it out for myself and then get back to them, and be like oh here you go. So yeah I 100% agree with that.
Josh: Well it’s kind of funny how like that joy of discovery or the joy of creating capability. I mean for me I’ve learned so many things that I know how to do that I’m now not doing. Like I took a welding class because I wanted to learn how to weld and it turns out doing a good seam weld is really hard. So I spent a lot of time doing it and I got a decent seam weld.
Well how often do I do, I mean come on really? I’m not a welder right. It’s not like you get off the bus and say like hey buddy, can you give me a good seam weld? It’s not going to happen right. But going and getting that skill and mastering it. And now being like, you know, I see a good seam weld and I’m like I can do that. I don’t know maybe it’s an ego thing but it’s just fun to learn it.
SPP: I mean that’s why, again why I wanted to have you on this show, because you just say stuff and I’m like yeah you took the words out of my mouth. I mean even the reason we started a podcast, nothing other than just to learn random shit that we wouldn’t normally learn. And I think that that is the most exciting part about really my day and probably life in general. And along those lines you said something when you spoke at living social that stuck in my mind.
You said “Constantly have ideas”, like the more ideas the better because the more you have maybe the more chance you have of one of them being a great idea. And then in that same token you said “Dream big”, which I might be paraphrasing or something, but just if you aim really high and then you kind of fall short you still did something good. So without putting words into your mouth could kind of expand on that subject, that topic. Things you’ve learned through the people you’ve met and the things you’ve done that kind of lead you to believe these type things.
Josh: Well let’s see. The first one I have lots of ideas. I mean that’s one of the great mythologies of the modern knowledge era is that ideas are worth something right. Like I have an idea for a startup company, therefore I should not tell anyone what my idea is because they might steal it. Well there’s a couple of problems with that, the first being that someone’s already had your idea somewhere and if they haven’t acted on it then someone is probably about to act on it right now and not talking about it is preventing you from meeting them or competing with them or anything else. So that’s the other thing.
The other thing the idea that ideas are worth something is wrong because until you do something with them they’re actually worth nothing. Like ideas are free, everyone has to have them. It’s great. But until you act on them they’re not a thing. And then the last thing is unless you share them with other people the idea is never going to reach reality. It’s kind of like talking to your wife about having a baby and never getting in the sack. For one you’re missing out on all the fun bit and you’re not going to get a baby, so you’re just doing it wrong. You got to talk with people and they’re going to tell you what’s wrong with the idea, how to fix the idea, who you should talk to about the idea, etc.
So the more you have of them, and the more you share them, the more likely they are to actually occur. I mean there’s loads of ideas that I put out there. Just the other day I was at a cocktail party talking to some woman about whether high heeled shoes were inherently misogynistic, which is mind you I don’t recommend this as a cocktail party, particularly not if you’re a man because there’s really no good way to have that conversation, even though for some reason I persist in trying. But anyway somehow the conversation veered from that to civil rights in India. And I said “Oh I’ve got this idea for doing dynamic phone pools.” And she’s like really. I run a consortium of companies that work with mobile technologies and we’re trying to find ways to spread education. I’m like oh well let me send you the whitepaper.
Josh: And so now she’s potentially interested in that. Well why do I have a whitepaper for dynamic phone pools in India as a mechanism? Because at some point I thought that was a good idea. And I talked to a bunch of people about it and I wrote a whitepaper, and everyone said “Yeah no, that’s not going to happen.” And it’s a foolish idea and we’re not returning your phone calls anymore. But I kicked it around and the mobile technology field advanced for awhile and all of a sudden voila there it is.
SPP: That’s awesome. I don’t mean to cut you off here, but I had a conversation with a buddy of mine. He called me up and said “Hey I’ve got this great idea but I want to learn how to do web development and mobile development before moving forward and actually educating it.” And I told him he was crazy in that he needed to go out and just talk to people about his idea, find other people with similar interest. And his whole thing was well then I’ll have to lower my stake in the company. And my response was there is no company.
SPP: Without those people that share the idea in the similar vision nothing’s going to get off the ground. So you might as well tell people who are interested in the same thing about your idea and start to work with them.
Josh: Yes I mean I’d rather have 10% of a $1 million dollars than 100% of none.
Josh: So yes I’m totally with you on that. In fact honestly if you meet the one guy out there, the person that’s really interested in the idea enough to turn to you and say “I’m going to be the farm, or I’m going to invest huge amounts of the time, or even I’ll introduce them to my rich uncle”, whatever it is that you need. If you meet that person isn’t that more fun than just sitting in your room by yourself telling yourself how great your idea will be someday.
SPP: Right. Absolutely.
SPP: You know and this kind of goes along with another thing you say in some of your talks and everything is, give stuff away for free. I mean I know you did it. You wrote a book early on, struggled with getting it to basically make you any money or be in anybody’s hand. And you figured out a way through and man am I not technologically savvy, but through free stuff iPhone readers, hacking, or blocking or breaking, whatever it’s called.
Josh: Jail breaking.
SPP: Yes. But you gave it away for free and it took off and then in the end it was a good thing for you. And so I think this kind of goes along with what you’re saying. I don’t want to glaze over the thought you just made about how introduce others to your ideas, even if they’re your competitors they might add something. That’s such a great thought open sourcing. When did it strike you, you know what things can be given away for free and it might be beneficial?
Josh: Oh man I guess when I was 11 and I started downloading cracking tools that were freely available on BBS’. And I was like dude, some guy wrote this. As an 11-year-old this is sort of the epiphany that you can have and the people won’t laugh at you right. Like some human being made this automobile, that’s sort of an epiphany, it’s kind of a big deal right.
Well at one point I needed a tool to do something and I found that some person had made this tool and he’d given it away. And I wanted to write him and be like man this is the most awesome – I don’t know it was some simple thing right. It was like a screen reader for HDP streams or something, I’m not sure exactly what, but anyways like this is the coolest thing ever that you just actually wrote this and you gave it away. And if you hadn’t given it away I’d never be able to do this cool thing, this impossible thing that I imagined I’d be able to do. I wanted to write to them and say “Thanks.”
Well it turns out that that’s exactly the bargain that was being struck is the person who’d written it knew that people weren’t going to pay him for it, knew that someone would find it useful. He wasn’t using it anymore, and even if he wasn’t using it anymore making a digital copy is free and effortless, and now he’s got his name on a piece of software. There’s recognition there. When I say give it away for free for one there’s the philanthropic benefit, which is if you’ve got something and other people don’t have it the more people that have it the better off, unless you’re talking syphilis or something. So you’re talking useful tools here.
And then beyond that there’s a reputational economic in effect which is my publisher’s after me to write another book. And this is the concept I’m kicking around now, which is that right now we’re at a point in history where I can look up your reputational value the same that I can look up any human beings reputational value, and that was never true before. It used to be that my ability to look up your ability to influence others was limited to the number of people that I knew in my village. Well now it’s globally available and there’s lots of tools that are going to remain increasingly sophisticated and is going to be able to do so. Well if that’s the case then it’s not too great a stretch for the imagination to say that at some point I should be able to look up how much good you’re doing in the world and to do good by you based on that. Because the more good you’re doing the better the world is for me, just strictly from a mercenary perspective, so kind of that inverse tragedy of the common.
SPP: That’s an awesome thought. Normally I kind of prepare a question but I just got kind of lost in that theory I don’t even know. That’s crazy.
Josh: Yes kind of went off there on you. But yes just been kicking that one around. Like are we now at a time where I don’t need necessarily to give you $10 dollars for this shiny bit of plastic that has information on it because that’s the only way I can get it. I mean I can get that data in dozens of other ways, including paying someone I know a $1000 dollars to replicate it for me if that’s the only option that I’ve got. But instead I can give you $5 dollars if I think that’s all it’s worth, or I can give you $10 dollars, or I can give you $100 dollars, because I think you’re an awesome guy.
And I’m super stoked that you took the time to make it and make it available for other people. And the effort for me to do that is negligible it’s just a matter of what I assume the value to be. And that’s based on your reputation, like on my perception of what you’re doing. Not just in terms of what’s on that shiny bit of plastic but in the world at large.
SPP: It’s so crazy that you’re saying this just because actually Jon and I are both working on this new startup company it’s a nonprofit, and the CEO is this I mean he’s just a serial entrepreneur, awesome guy. And I was sitting down yesterday for like four hours we were trying to work on the Web site. And I just pulled up the podcast and I was talking to him about it. And I’m like I don’t really know why we do it. It’s just fun and it’s cool and we enjoy it. And he went into this whole thing, this tirade about your personal brand.
And it’s basically kind of what you’re saying. It’s just that all this information is available now and it’s just building your brand. As long as it’s something you believe in. I mean this is completely free and honestly the best things we get are the emails from listeners and the phone calls and stuff that are just like I listen to you every morning and it makes my commute better. That’s totally awesome. And if that’s associated with my brand I am pumped to put in however many hours a week it takes. So I love your concept with all this.
Josh: Yes and I mean this is the thing. You don’t go down to Starbucks and get a latte and having someone say “Dude, I listen to your podcast every morning” right.
Josh: You don’t go to someone and give them a $5 dollar bill in order to have that feeling, because it would be ingenious, it would bullshit. And we’re going to increase in the good in detecting when people are making stuff up. So the concept of personal brand as much as I use the term a lot, particularly when consulting and speaking and whatnot, I think it’s kind of missing the point. Because it’s not just your brand the way that Kmart is a brand or like Velveeta Cheese is a brand, because I don’t feel like I have a personal relationship with Velveeta Cheese.
Josh: But I feel like I have a personal relationship with – God what can I say here that won’t be embarrassing – like Steve Jobs rest his soul. Because I’ve watched him enough times that I believe about who he was. Maybe I’m completely smoking the crack pipe here.
SPP: I don’t think so.
Josh: But I kind of believe. Well okay, but you know what I mean. SPP: Yes.
Josh: I believe that there’s a human being there and that he has some characteristics that are respected, not all of them but some of them, and they’re important ones and I feel like it is an important step. So given that I’m willing to invest time, resources, attention, whatever it is in some of his stuff or stuff that’s associated with him. And I think that that’s something that you don’t just go to a marketing firm and say “Run some commercials that will improve my personal brand” without them talking to you figuring out who you are, and figuring out how to express something that’s authentic about you.
Josh: And that’s where the value is.
SPP: Yes that’s awesome. And I appreciate you talking to us about all this stuff. Now I do want to dive into your book “Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results”. It’s an awesome read. Thank you for sending it over so we could check it out prior to. I heard this in actually a YouTube video that you did and then after reading through your book it’s just a common theme. This quick phrase work is broken and I loved it.
SPP: Because I hate work more than anyone you will ever meet on this planet. I love doing things. I love creating. I hate working. And it’s because it’s broken in my opinion. So can you please tell me what you mean and what you think about work is broken?
Josh: Yes. Well the main thing that’s in my mind is that the concept of work is that you need to go and suffer a certain amount in order to get cash. And the amount of your suffering is proportionate to amount of cash that you are worth getting. So if you go work in a law firm and you have to put 16 hour days in for the first five years or however long it is until you get a shot at being partner and people debase you and you have to do humiliating things, then it’s worth it because there’s lots of money right.
Well it turns out that that’s a complete fallacy because I’ve met people with much worse jobs that are much happier that are making much less money. So there’s a garbage guy that I see around my neighborhood that sings. This is kind of weird but I live in Queens so I guess this is normal out here. Anyway he sings as he goes. It’s not like he’s really good at it but it gives you the impression that he’s not having a bad time. But he’s also making no money at all. Well I mean he’s making some money but not much.
Josh: And one would assume that that’s because he’s not suffering enough. Well no. that’s not true. So clearly that’s a problem. The other thing that’s interesting about this is that particularly in a knowledge labor economy. Everything that you see in terms of evaluating people’s work is that the more they enjoy it the better the work is. And this is a curious conundrum that it has somehow escaped our transition from a manufacturing error.
If your employees are happy and enjoy their work they will work harder, they’ll be more productive, they’ll produce more creative, more useful, more innovative and more competitive product and your money will be better spent. And that is why we force them to check in at 9:00 and leave at 5:00 and work in cubicles. Wait a minute what? Like there’s something missing there. And yet every company that we’re going to, particularly big companies, continue to manage their employees as though they are in manufacturing plants.
And I’m not sure, I haven’t spend enough time looking at manufacturing plants, but I bet it holds true here as well. If you have people in a manufacturing plant that enjoy the work I bet you’d produce better widgets or whatever it is.
SPP: And I can tell you just today, I work for one of the Big Four I guess consulting firms here in D.C. and I started getting neck pains because I use a notebook computer, and it sits on my desk and I have to stare down at it. So my neck is bent the entire day. I email people in the health and fitness department and within the technology department. It was like hey, listen this is like doing nothing good for my back and neck. I need to eliminate this problem. I want to get a laptop riser external keyboard, mouse, that kind of stuff.
And so I just started sending emails to the people that head up these departments. And they were like hey you need to take this assessment and then do this and then do this. And I was just like no I just want this so that my neck doesn’t hurt today. It’s not hard, I want my screen at eye level and that’s it. But I had to go through all this bureaucratic red tape just too even bring up the idea of hey my neck hurts, let’s fix this.
Josh: Yes. And that’s one of the other big things that we found was really broken, particularly around bureaucracy and that the solution seems to be the disillusion of large bureaucracies, but that’s a separate topic. But this one thing in particular is that companies and bureaucracies arise through a process of accretion. So for example, it may be that you are not allowed according to what’s on the books for the company to put waste paper baskets within 10 yards of the heaters. And that may be because 30 years ago there were furnace heaters and someone put a giant stack of newspapers, or maybe that bucket of coal, I don’t know what the deal was, but somehow something caught on fire and this rule got put on the books.
So now anyone that works within 10 feet of a heater can’t have a garbage can is the result. And these rules stack on each other and over time they accrete and accrete and accrete. Because whenever something goes wrong the company’s response is okay now we need to make sure that never goes wrong again because it was expensive for the company, and our job was to mitigate expense to the company. But the result is that you block out freedoms for the company eventually it becomes so ungainly and there’s so many middle managers whose job is to go around the company and make sure no one within 10 feet of a heater have a garbage can, that the company can’t operate anymore.
And by the way, there’re parables here to the way the countries often dissolve by virtue of spending more on their borders than they spend to maintain their countries inside. But that’s one problem that we kept seeing is exactly that. And that’s why startups are so fast when they start because if you’re two guys in a garage you don’t give a crap where the garbage can is you throw stuff on the floor.
Josh: You’re making shit happen. You haven’t had time to figure out that the stapler has to be no longer than four inches long, or whatever it is.
SPP: In that vein I guess, what is the solution to this problem? I mean and that’s a big question but in terms of you’ve done a lot of things. You’re a smart guy. After listening to you a couple of times and all this stuff the ideas you have towards these things are awesome. So I want to pull those out of you. What do you recommend to the companies of the world? Because I’ve seen both I worked for a Fortune 100 now I work at Living Social and we are, the company I currently work at, is I think on the end of the spectrum, that is the right way to operate. So I want to get your opinion, your advice to companies, to people working in companies, how do we solve these problems, innovate, keep things moving at the pace necessary to succeed.
Josh: There goes my next book man. I wish I had a pat answer. So I can tell you where my thinking is leaning now. The first thing is to make it cheaper to break rules. I can’t tell you how many times I went and gave talks, particularly about the book, where there was one talk in particular, it doesn’t matter where it was the administrators, department alliances, such and such start practicing, and we talk them through the whole idea of the book and explain where it was broken, and talk about breaking rules and why it was a good idea. And at the end someone raised their hand and said “Do you have a flowchart for determining when it’s appropriate to be creative?” And it was a serious question right.
SPP: It was a serious question.
Josh: And the reason was these people had essentially grown up in a situation where their job was to mind the rules and the more they minded the rules the better they were rewarded. Mind you their reward was a 2% raise every year, whatever it is, which to my mind is not worth it but that was their choice. So I think that’s the first thing is to make it cheaper to break the rules. Like okay company policy is you don’t put the garbage cans next to the heater, you did that, it caught on fire and we lost a cubicle. God bless the cubicle we’ll get another one. Please don’t do that again. Essentially, it’s trusting your employees more but I call it making it easier to break the rules.
The second thing is to invest in meritocracies and to invest in iterating meritocracies. One of the things that I’ve seen be enormously successful in the open source movement, in creative enterprises of all kind, in successful companies, etc is giving people the freedom to pursue success. And it’s always a shocker to me how many barriers companies put in place to allowing their employees to do this.
So for example, at one company that I worked at I wrote a little application that basically sniffed for Bluetooth packets in the office. Everyone in the office had a Mac and every Mac was Bluetooth enabled. And at the time everyone in the company was working on mobile applications that involved Bluetooth so Bluetooth was on their phone. So basically it was polling to see where people were in the office. And I was told that I needed to work with the team to get them to spend some time, some of their free time, on a project that I needed to get done. So that was a challenge given to me.
So basically what I did was I found that every day before lunch they went to this one person’s office that turned out was a really cute growing rapid design. But anyway they went there every day for lunch and then they all went out to lunch together. So I showed up there every day and just having to be there when they turned up. And I would ask them questions about this project legitimate not bullshit questions. But like hey guys I’m working on this project. I know you’ve worked on such and such a thing before. Do you have any ideas about that because I don’t know what? Honestly ask them for their advice. And they’ll be like oh you know I’m not really sure where we’re going to lunch so anyway. And they take off.
Well after a couple of weeks a couple of them came to me and said “You know you keep talking about this project. It occurred to me have you ever thought about doing so and so?” I said “No but if you don’t mind looking into it I got a little bit of budget. If I squeeze some resources out of here do you mind trying that out?” Pretty soon they were working like three or four hours after work every day because they’d essentially invented the idea and they cared about it, and they produced this thing half the time necessary in their spare time. How many employees that you know have spare time at the office? I can essentially squeeze blood from a stone. Because I went to them and I got them interested.
Now I was sneaky and conniving about it, which I’m probably too proud of I shouldn’t be so pleased about having done that. But anyway, they went and did it. And I think that’s one of the things that big companies are missing is that if you reward that kind of behavior, that kind of hey you get invested and if you put in the extra mile it’s worth it. Essentially that’s what happened is this team I was able to really make the case for my superiors at the time, but this team had gone well out of their way.
And as a “reward” they were allowed to pick the next project and set the terms for how they would do it, which was a big win for them because they wanted more freedom. But allowing more stuff like that I think would make a huge difference in how companies are run. Now in order for that to work you have to give them the freedom to do it.
SPP Right and I was going to say if this is your next book I’m definitely reading it, so you should go ahead and do write that book.
SPP: Go ahead and write that yes.
SPP: Two preorders in the hopper. I had one last question for you. I wanted to see what you thought about the whole Anonymous phenomenon. Because it’s got a little bit of that hacking culture when they tried to do stuff that is good but didn’t go towards doing bad things and back to good and say “Here’s the reason why we did this.” But what are your whole thoughts on Anonymous as a collective and what’s going on with that in society now?
Josh: It reminds me a lot of antibiotic resistant bacteria or viruses. Yeah I’ve been thinking about this a lot for a long time. You remember when Napster came out?
Josh: So Napster came out and they gave away music for free. Awesome, and it was a centralized plays and your friends could make recommendations and you could find out about the artist, and you could look at cover art, and it’s essentially the iTunes store except that the RIA haven’t figured out that you can make money at it and we were too scared to let anyone try.
So Napster got shutdown and then we had BitTorent and BitTorent you download music faster, it let you download it in some cases cheaper because you’re downloading it from many places so you didn’t have to spend as much money on the bandwidth, and it allowed you to download them more anonymously. Well the RIA got really upset about this and they started closing a bunch of sites. And then we got Seedless BitTorent, which allowed you to download them even more anonymously.
So what’s the trend here guys? Well the trend is that if you punch a bear in the face you’re going to get hurt. The ecosystem doesn’t like it when we forbid it from doing what it wants to do. It’ a similar thing in the bloodstream, like I could cut off your arm and sew someone else’s arm on there and if I gave you enough immunosuppressant drugs it would probably work for a little while. Actually I don’t have any idea if that’s true or not. I don’t know anything about that. But you know what I’m saying right.
Josh: You can suppress a system for awhile and it will work, but eventually it’s going to bounce back. So I think that that’s exactly what Anonymous is. Like there’s a significant, or at least a significant enough, minority online that enjoys enough public attention and public opinion to feel justified in doing what it’s doing. And it’s getting a heck of a lot of press and it’s not getting a heck of a lot of press because its spokespeople are particularly charming and good looking.
And it’s not like Jessica Alba’s out there with the guy Foxmat saying “Hey come on guys these people are awesome.” And these are the pimply faced 14 year olds of the world saying Fuck You, I want my music and I want you t stop charging me $15 dollars for a five cent piece of plastic for one song that I want. That’s unreasonable. Your business model’s broken. We’re all telling you that. The public’s being telling you that, now Congress has told you that, stop wasting all of our time and money please.
And yes the government and everything else the corporations and the legal system, whatever boogie name you care to point your finger at hasn’t gotten the hit with the clue stick hard enough yet to change the system. And it just happens to be that right now Anonymous is the antibiotic resistant virus or whatever that’s giving us an itch.
SPP: It’s funny to me that sites like Mega Upload can be ceased and all their assets ceased. And this guy was worth over $140, $150 million dollars from giving away files for free. And it just blows my mind that these big organizations and then the other organizations that are trying to protect those organizations don’t see that the business model has changed and they need to adapt or really die. Every day I just see these people and they say “Oh piracy’s killing America”, and you just kind of laugh and you see how well digital downloads do. How well the movies still do and all that stuff it’s almost laughable.
Josh: But on the other hand it’s true, piracy is killing America because America refuses to pirate so everyone else is doing better than we are right.
Josh: Like piracy is killing America because no one in the United States can do math anymore because people in Israel are out there on Kahn Academy taking content for free.
Josh: Oh my God. And educating themselves and then doing amazing things like producing competitive software that’s half the price of our software. Well why do you think that happened guys? Well it’s because they got the chance.
Josh: And too bad the genie’s out of the bottle that’s not going away. The idea that that’s out there is not going to suddenly vanish. The concept that other people can improve their own lives through their own hard work, through no fault of our own using our content, like oh God forbid the world will improve without giving me my 5% right.
Josh: I mean its nuts.
SPP: I never thought of it like that but it’s crazy. That’s awesome. You’re kind of blowing my mind a little bit. Josh: So I’m totally ranting like a mad man over here. I’m kind of a little embarrassed sorry about that.
SPP: No I love it.
SPP: Yes this is great. All right well I know we definitely took up more time of yours than anticipated. So again really appreciate you being on the show. Awesome stuff. Your book “Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results” is fantastic and we’ll link to it on our Web site and all that good stuff. Also your Web site is www.josh.is which is interesting which is catchy, I like that. Where else would you like to kind of might drive our listeners? I know you’re on Twitter and all that stuff, what’s your Twitter handle and all that good stuff?
Josh: Twitter its @JoshuaKlein. There’s another Joshua Klein out there I think he’s Josh Klein or something like that. I’m Joshua Klein. Although the other guy he seems pretty sharp too. He wraps about like online equipment using. So I love that we share name space and he writes smart things. But yes thanks for having me out here – out here in virtual space where we’re talking in space.
SPP: Virtual world yes.
Josh: It’s nice talking with smart people that care. I mean I can’t really think of any better way to spend the time.
SPP: I totally agree that’s why we do it. So again thanks a bunch, best of luck, and we’ll be following now. So make sure next time you’re thinking about that speech I want you to be thinking I need to impress the host of Smart People Podcast.