When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.Every company goes through stages in its life. These stages are dominated by three types of business people. I like to equate them to different kinds of soldiers.
In the first wave are the commandos. In military parlance, these are the guys that operate behind enemy lines and sow the first seeds of the enemy's destruction. Their primary advantages are speed and agility: they strike quickly and hard. Commandos in the business sense are the entrepreneurs. These are the guys that have a new idea, establish a new business, and develop the idea for a product. Being a commando is exciting, and process and procedure are not as important as quick thinking and quick decision-making. It's important for most of a commando's decisions to be right, the first time. In business, these people might or might not have formal training. This really isn't as important, though, as the willingness to risk and the drive to establish a new market. Entrepreneurs make the success of a company possible.
In the second wave are the marines. Again in military terms, these are the guys that storm the beaches, establish the first beach-heads, and start to conquer enemy territory. Their primary advantage is resiliency: they can strike into new territory and realign their strength to fight offensively where the enemy is weak, and defensively where the enemy is strong. Marines in the business sense are the innovators. These are the people that take the entrepreneur's ideas and turn them into products. They do the development and the bug-fixing that make the product supportable. Innovators are technical leaders and often self-trained. Still, process is important and the innovators will push the new-born company into its first flirtations with standard procedures and methodologies because those save time in the long run. Innovators make the success of a company happen.
In the third wave are the foot-soldiers. Once the ground is taken, these are the guys that hold it. They occupy the territory, ensure the tributes are paid, and put down uprisings. Their primary advantage is repeatable process: once they find the tactics that succeed, they can repeat those tactics. Foot-soldiers in the business sense are the long-term employees drawn to a stable, successful company. I think of them as "doers". They take the finalized products and sell them using proven methods, apply upgrades, provide repairs. They use metrics to ensure their methods are successful, or change strategies if the metrics show that they aren't. They develop the customer base and position the products to fill the needs of that base. Doers are generally professionally trained, and carry a lot of certifications. Doers make the success of a company sustainable.
The funny thing about watching companies grow and mature is watching the migration of these three types into and out of the company.
Over time, a successful company will quickly lose its entrepreneurs. They become bored with stagnation, frustrated with process. They want to be out there developing new ideas. A stable company wants to ensure the solidity of its key existing products, but entrepreneurs are born to break existing product lines in favor of new ideas. Steve Jobs was a model entrepreneur. Once a product is out the door, an entrepreneur is looking toward the next product that's going to make this product pointless and obsolete. If he's not allowed to do that, he'll go somewhere where he is able to do that. Entrepreneurs that leave will be replaced by innovators, excited to take the ideas of the entrepreneurs and build them into products. The entrepreneurs, meanwhile, will start the cycle again, usually at a new company.
As the company becomes a long-term success, the innovators will head for the door as well. With fewer entrepreneurs developing new ideas, there's less call for their skill in turning those ideas into products. A few innovators will stick with you, but they'll slowly turn their attention to evolving the existing products instead of revolutionizing them. Ironically, these long-term innovators will often become resistant to the very change they were at one time instrumental in guiding. However, a company will lose most of their innovators, who will be drawn to first-wave companies driven by ideas, not by process. Innovators are not happy if they're not turning idea into product. Steve Wozniak is a model innovator. Innovators will be replaced by doers attracted to a successful company.
Doers will stick with you and will make the success of your company long-term and sustainable. Doers bring in professional training, process, and methodology. However, while usually extremely successful, a company full of doers usually isn't all that interesting a place to work. ;-)
This is a long introduction, but hopefully you see by now where I'm going with it. CCP is, even as we watch, turning from a "second wave" company into a "third wave" company.
This speaks to a larger point. We need to revise how we showcase the culture of EVE. It was clear in some comments from attendees and internet observers that while Fanfest was a massive success there are aspects of it that we can improve upon even more.Time for us to grow up a bit, as the first response to the Alliance Panel said. And this is no bad thing. Certainly, there will continue to be "second wave" activities at CCP, particularly around the World of Darkness product. And I have no doubt that there's still an entrepreneur or two hiding among CCP's ranks, even now. But there's also a new Chief Marketing Officer and apparently a "VP of Customer Relationship Management" as well. These, needless to say, are third wave job titles. ;-)
This solemn effort has already begun. Time for us to grow up a bit.
"Internet spaceships" are often called "serious business", but increasingly they actually are serious business.
A little professionalism goes a long way. Professional third wave companies catch most embarrassing mistakes before they happen. A third wave company would not have been struck by the summer of rage last year, for instance, because the silly communications issues and blatant mistakes that caused it would not have happened. Third wave companies are allergic to drama and go to a lot of trouble to prevent it, or when it does happen, to manage it. But often, they don't make these mistakes in the first place. There's a remarkable stability of performance and lack of drama when doing business with a third wave company. You don't expect problems with your ten-year-old refrigerator. You just expect it to work, and you are not surprised when it does.
How refreshing would it be to think of EVE that way? A game that... you know... just works how you expect it to, every single time? This is the biggest benefit to a third wave company.
Being a third wave company has its downsides as well, though. Early in my career working with a second wave company, one of the managers of that company regaled us with a story about how he had hired a professional football team's cheerleaders to entertain the top sales people at a large company function. This is the sort of thing that does not happen at a third wave company. ;-) Third wave companies that try to act like second wave companies often come out looking quite ridiculous.
Know what else doesn't happen at a third wave company? This doesn't happen at a third wave company. Nor does this. Those are things that tend to draw complaints. Time to grow up a bit.
Here's the real question, though. As CCP grows and matures as a company, and particularly if DUST 514 succeeds as I suspect it will, the company is going to have be very careful about alienating an existing customer base that has grown used to a certain CCP culture. "EVE Online has grown to a maturation point where such behavior and such a forum are not appropriate," the first statement about the Alliance Panel said. "A 'frat house' type presentation style may have been well-matched for a younger EVE Online, when there was a smaller community roaming the stars." The implication is clear: we're about to be joined by a much larger community. They might not be able to handle our 'frat house' culture. ;-)
That's the challenge facing CCP as spring 2012 becomes summer 2012. And the first test of this is 25 days away. But that's my next post. For now,