Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Silicon Valley logic has seemingly ruled the economy for many years now. The culture of casual clothing, distributed work, and relentless downward pressure on some costs such as some software and of course storage (the "too cheap to meter" phenomena discussed by Chris Anderson in Free) are very familiar to some of us because we work close to or in that culture.
But the fact is, many don't work that close to that culture and some actively resist the folkways of high tech, especially high tech startups. So many of the "old ways" have persisted. Some people bravely predict a "return to traditional corporate culture."
Lately, though, I run across an increasing number of people who have taken more decisive shifts towards the informal, low-overhead culture. Not for cultural reasons, but for straightforward cost reasons. Customers want costs to make sense, so they hire vendors that avoid unnecessary overhead. Down with ceremony, up with efficiency. (To a point!)
That doesn't mean everything gets outsourced to India.
But it does mean, people don't act like they used to. And they don't spend on the same things.
In Silicon Valley (or just contemporary nimble wired company) terms, "bad overhead" means:
The low cost version of this is:
- Too much office space
- Too few contractors, and too many ill fitting in house people trying to cover all the bases
- Typical business wardrobes for all seasons. The right weight coat to wear over your various flavors of business attire, and nice shoes for all seasons too.
- Long commutes to ensure full face time, even if you moved to the suburbs
It's not everyone's idea of a good corporate culture, or of the perfect life, but the marketplace is asking for it, because it affects people's bottom lines. It started happening a long time ago. The trend isn't about to reverse itself just because office building groups or the makers of corporate business attire wish it would.
- Make-do office space, with more sharing, or in a cheaper location
- Contract stuff out when you can't do it
- Hoodies and sneakers: no problem
- Work from home more. Face time can be for business development, key meetings, or partying - not day to day distraction or routinized meetings.
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