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The Bozo Explosion

Date - 26 May 2017/ Category - Volume 2
Volume 2

I’m currently reading this great book about Hubspot by Dan Lyons, a former journalist who got a job working on their blog. In it he details a phenomenon called the bozo explosion; something hubspot is in particular guilty of.

Now anyone that works with knows that we’re great advocates of hubspot, but because we believe in understanding every angle I decided to read what’s publicly slated as a negative view of the company’s management.

It’s a pretty good read and while it in no way shatters the foundations of what I expect start-ups to be (poorly managed ideas that are so great they succeed in spite of their bozo management) it did serve to reassure me that you don’t need to be a genius to make a lot of money in this world.

If you’d like to read it the book is called Disrupted: My misadventure in a start-up bubble.

Have you ever had an idea that challenges the accepted norm and then dismissed it because it’s so ridiculous that it can’t be true? That’s basically me every day. I see things happen, I evaluate managers or processes and I think, hang on a minute this can’t be right; yet there’s a huge temptation to ignore that niggling feeling because it goes against the status quo.

Well this is one of those books about a guy that went into a bubble, a start up world where nothing is quite normal and questioned everything just like we would.

You’ll have to read his book to find out the odd bozo orientated goings on in hubspot, but that ability to question the norm is something referenced throughout. In particular the author Dan points to an effect coined by Steve Jobs at the “Bozo” explosion.

Jobs argued that great ideas succeed in spite of their management, and this means that the early management team of a start-up can actually be quite poor. Despite their lack of skill the business starts to thrive and in turn these poor managers (the bozos) garner attention and praise that isn’t really due to them.

As the business expands these managers recruit below them, staying at the top of the food chain and creating the bozo explosion. The problem is these bozos honestly believe the business is succeeding because of them, and they recruit more bozos below them (because they don’t want people better than them to dethrone them).

The net result is that if the first wave of bozos were bad then the next wave are worse, and they are brainwashed to believe their king bozo is almost demi-god and to make matters worse once they can’t recruit anyone more bozo like, the bozos start to put into place structures that reinforce their power; for example they will split up roles meaning that the number of staff needed starts to increase exponentially.

Bozos have a few traits, they wholeheartedly believe they are good at their job no matter the evidence, they won’t accept responsibility for their work, they recruit people worse than themselves to do the job, they fear and react negatively towards people who show promise (pushing pay down, refusing to promote them, managing them out of the business etc) and without doubt they will only promote other bozos.

Bozos aren’t only a curse on start-ups, they exist up and down the country. They might be the owner’s family, or worse they have great CVs because they worked at successful businesses but never actually contributed to that success! Nothing is more demotivating than a bozo at the top of a business.

That’s why I believe wholeheartedly that experience means nothing, experience is just the opportunity to succeed or fail, and it’s what people learn from that experience that counts.

If you’re recruiting, make sure you look at their collective wisdom, and not just what it says on their CV.

Read our next blog post “Think outside the office“.