Today, most tech companies try and solve problems in 12-14 months, boast their success, then try and exit.
How did this happen?
To better understand why tech companies stopped trying to solve big problems and opted for easier, faster payouts, look at the human capital -- most are run by young engineers.
This is best understood when looking at other industries, particularly sports and entertainment. We know these stories well from the tabloids: the young athlete, the quick rise to fame of adolescent celebrities and their quick descent as these stars turn, seduced by the dark side of power, fame and money often losing sight of their early ambition.
There is that famous quote from Spider Man, "With great power comes great responsibility."
There is an imbalance in tech companies and therein lies the problem. Power without responsibility corrupts.
Engineers are powerful. They are arguably the most powerful form of human capital today, creating life-changing products that can touch the lives of many, quickly. And they are often young. The younger and less experienced professionals are more easily corruptible and seduced by the dark side. Starting in universities, these promising engineers are trained and given more POWER. Guided by their drive and smarts they start a job, sometimes a company, where they are given more POWER. They are constantly learning and creating new technologies.
But nobody is focused on teaching these rising leaders responsibility. A famous 19th century historian, Lord Acton, said, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
At Next Jump, we have invested in teaching responsibility since the beginning. What we mean by responsibility is to be "responsible for others." We've balanced the importance of continued personal growth with emphasis on learning to prioritize helping others. How do you help people care for others? We teach listening and communication skills, help to cultivate humility for the arrogant and strengthen confidence for the insecure. We invest in programs to grow empathy, overcome fear and build grit, then we train leaders to coach others to pass along their learned skills.
We faced immense push back, but our outcome five years later is profound.
The process of investing in leadership had an outcome that showed up five years later. Recently, I sat at a lunch with some of our best engineers as they hit their five-year anniversary with the company. I listened to them talking to each other, discussing products, strategy and even how to help the newly-appointed leadership team. Kalyan said, "They have a lot of questions, we should hold a training session to help onboard them." Right then, I had a profound "aha" moment... these kids are now leaders. They have both great power and great responsibility.
We put a name to this process: "Better ME + Better YOU = Better Us." Great Power + Great Responsibility = A Better World.
We are still learning and experimenting and we would love to hear what others are doing.
Follow Charlie Kim on Twitter: www.twitter.com/charlieykim