For those of you out there fortunate enough to have been in a committed relationship for a while, you’ve either had or asked your better half for some feedback. The rest of us have undoubtedly seen this situation unfold through friends or television shows. You’re good to go, all dressed up and suddenly there it is: “Honey, do these jeans make my butt look big?”
What happens next is usually comparable to what happens when a waiter presents you your wine at a restaurant. They do their little wine dance and ask who’s going to evaluate this exquisite drink of the gods. I’ve happily taken part in this charade, put on my most grown-up looking face and tasted like there was no tomorrow to reply with what was set in stone before our little wine-tasting-tango: Yes, it’s the best wine in the universe.
When faced with this fashion evaluation, most men go into the same kind of autopilot, stick to protocol and preserve the potential for a good night. You can never be sure with women, or at least I can never be sure, but generally accepted answers in this scenario are: “No”, “No, you look beautiful” or “Of course not!”. I assume women are mostly fishing for a little compliment, and if you have the opportunity to make a woman a little bit happier you should jump at the chance to do so.
But, and it’s a big but, what if her butt did look bigger?
Ray Dalio is not most men. Despite mister Dalio’s (very) impressive resumé, I had never heard of him until my colleague Arne gave me a brief introduction to his out of the ordinary way of managing and perspective on how to run a successful business/life. Not your average run of the mill person to say the least. He’s the founder of one of the world’s largest investment firms (Bridgewater Associates), and has been named in numerous “most influential”-lists. He credits a large part of his success to his management policy, which lead me to write this piece.
Described by the man himself as “the secret sauce” to success, he uses radical transparency and radical truth to create an idea meritocracy. An idea is evaluated based on its merit, a merit that has to be earned and will be tested through rigorous discussion and disagreements. Independent thinkers are encouraged to disagree, and it’s this thoughtful disagreement that leads to the power of understanding. This allows for the best ideas to surface. Now, this all sounds good but how does this translate to the floor?
Bridgewater’s company culture is controversial: All meetings and conversations get recorded and can be reviewed internally by everyone. Employees are assessed during and after interactions, and group assessments of everyone are visible. People are given ratings and are analyzed using algorithms to learn the why and the how of people’s perspective. Individual strengths and weaknesses are identified and teams are put together based on the best possible collaboration. This kind of workplace harnesses the power of group decision-making, which only lets the best solutions and approaches prevail.
At a recent TED-talk we were pulled behind the curtain by Dalio, who shared an email he received from an employee after a meeting to showcase his radical transparency policy.
Director of portfolio strategy Jim Haskel doesn’t mince his words in this post-meeting email, but instead, he speaks his mind and doesn’t filter. Now, this email truly turns into something valuably because of what’s said after the feedback. The gray part focuses on improvement and possible ways to prevent this from happening again in the future and opens the door for a dialogue.
In an idea meritocracy, the best idea(s) is what matters. So how do they judge an idea’s merit? An internal feedback tool, called “the Dot Collector”, helps assess the workforce. Feedback is given based on certain attributes, and get a rating on a 1-10 scale. An algorithm behind this tool then collects the data around a person.
And this is where it really gets interesting. Decisions are not made through a simple majority. Depending on the matter at hand certain attributes are considered more important than others. For instance, a filter for “believability” is added. The tool allows to see which people have high scores on attributes such as high-level thinking or common sense, and points them out as the most-believable employees. Their opinions are weighted higher than others, and if the minority consists out of a lot of this kind of employees their answer can still win out.
Or in Dalio’s words:
This process allows us to make decisions not based on democracy, not based on autocracy but based on algorithms that take people’s believability into consideration.
At INTUO we encourage a feedback culture, as long as it’s constructive and focuses on personal development which as a result betters the company. Meaningful work and meaningful relationships, through radical truth and radical transparency sounds great and Bridgewater’s reaping the benefits as we speak. However, I’m not sure how I would feel in this kind of culture, and Dalio himself has admitted not everyone makes it through the initial 18 months, the time it takes to get used to this company culture.
On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being no transparency and 10 being full disclosure I’d rate Bridgewater a solid 9,99. Getting back to our main question, Dalio did mention that this policy pertains to the important stuff. In his words: “You don’t have to tell someone their baby is ugly, or that their bald spot is growing.” In my opinion, Dalio’s household would become jeans-free and a more flattering dress would be going on Ray’s date. Because isn’t that better in the long run?
Either way, it’s obvious that being a 1 on our scale isn’t helping anyone. That doesn’t mean we should all strive towards being a 10. No two companies are the same and I firmly believe each of them has a unique sweet spot. Identifying that sweet spot might require some help, and we’d love to help get you there.
Any ideas, pointers or feedback? Let’s try this whole radical transparency thing on for size, get in touch and don’t pull any punches!
(Oh, and it’s blatantly clear that when it comes to women I’m completely clueless and that they remain the world’s greatest mystery. Any assumptions that were made are just that, assumptions. Feel free to provide me with some new insights!)