Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pondering The Gates Effect

Bill Gates recently announced that he'll be leaving Microsoft to spend more time saving the world. I love that he's doing that I applaud him for it big time. But I really wish he would have had a little heart-to-heart chat about his "change of heart" (in other words, the decision to finally have one) with the 70,000 employees he's leaving behind. The prevailing philosophy at Microsoft seems to be a very NON-altruistic one -- and really, BillG couldn't have taken over his competitors and gobbled up the world with any other approach. Lord knows, it's worked for him and for his company thus far. It permeates everything at Microsoft and I feel it seeping into everything -- from formal to casual meetings to electronic communication to face-to-face communication -- even to lunchtime interactions in the cafeteria.

For the first 30 years of Microsoft's existence, it seems that the employee evaluation structure was similar to that of a college class: employees are graded on a bell curve, ensuring that some direct reports fail, some excel, and the rest fall somewhere in-between. What this does is breed and encourage back-stabbing and a very NON-cooperative, NON-collaborative spirit. No matter how "collaborative" one's team is touted as being, you can be sure that the desire to NOT be one of the failures becomes more important than the desire to share creative ideas and collaborate on the development of products. Oh no -- in an environment like that, the smartest thing you can do is keep creative, progressive and ground-breaking ideas to yourself!

That's completely different than the non-profit world I came to Microsoft from... and from the non-profit world BillG has will now devote almost all his time to. The reason why I was able to produce FUEL and CHILL as I did was because we had an incredibly collaborative, cooperative team full of people whose main goal was to work together to produce the greatest, most impactful product possible -- TOGETHER. That would never have been possible in an atosphere of fear, distrust and greed! No way!

And that, I think, is why I feel completely like the odd man (woman) out at Microsoft. At first, I thought it was the fact that I'm nowhere near as technical as most people there... that I'm right-brained in a sea of left-brainedness. But really, I think it's just the fact that I have a completely different philosophy and approach than BillG instilled in his employees right from the beginning.

Maybe he couldn't have gotten where he has without his "kill 'em all" approach... but my hope is that he's softened and opened up his heart (not just his wallet) as he now works to save the world instead of monopolize it. I just wish he'd bring some of that back to Microsoft; we could sure use some of it about now.

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