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How Stripe operates like a civilization

  1. 7

    yes: it's a very long article. here's the part i find most noteworthy:

    Everyone within Stripe is encouraged to think deeply, strategically, and bring their best, most ambitious ideas to the fore, no matter where in the company they come from.

    That is aided by the purposefully fuzzy titling schema Stripe uses for employees. Peruse LinkedIn and you’ll find few “Directors” or “Heads.” As Claire notes, titles are “used to keep score.” Maintaining a degree of fluidity and vagueness is useful in thwarting internal empire-building, and emboldening employees to speak up.

    in other words, stripe is run like a series of tiny startups. my official position is "indie hacker at stripe." and i've spoken publicly about the unusual levels of autonomy we've
    been able to keep after being acquired.

    1. 2

      Thanks for sharing, @channingallen!

      Everyone within Stripe is encouraged to think deeply, strategically, and bring their best, most ambitious ideas to the fore, no matter where in the company they come from.

      Does Stripe have a system in place for this? An area for people to post/discuss ideas to validate them internally? A decision-making structure for when an idea is validated enough to turn into an experiment? Who decides when an experiment is worth making a real financial bet on?

      The idea that Stripe is run, "like a series of tiny startups" is a cool one. But this sounds like it could easily devolve into chaos. What factors make it a controlled chaos? Controlled chaos isn't necessarily a bad thing. Civilizations are messy and defined by controlled chaos in a lot of ways so this parallel makes sense.

      I've personally found that as a big idea generator at my company, I can easily overwhelm my own team members with ideas, experiments, and bets we should make without the proper systems in place to vet information and prioritize these ideas. So I guess what I'm wondering is...how does Stripe streamline 1,000 ideas from 100 employees into 5 successful bets made?

      Thanks :)

      1. 2

        yo @joeheadbuff — long time no talk!

        Does Stripe have a system in place for this? An area for people to post/discuss ideas to validate them internally? A decision-making structure for when an idea is validated enough to turn into an experiment? Who decides when an experiment is worth making a real financial bet on?

        for sure, stripe has a bunch of cultural norms that amount to a system for turning employees into small entrepreneurial teams. but it's difficult to point to any one or two norms in a way that does them justice.

        so rather than thinking of it from a bottom-up perspective, i like thinking of the system from the top down. henrik kniberg, a consultant for spotify, hit the nail on the head in this presentation about agile development:

        alignment enables autonomy

        the top-down goal is to make sure each team knows the org's destination, but allow them the autonomy to figure out how to get there.

        now, given these very specific constraints, certain conventions become virtually unavoidable:

        • you have to hire incredibly talented people (perhaps at great expense)
        • you have to create an "open" workplace — whether physical or digital — that makes collaboration not just convenient, but inevitable (at stripe, almost nothing is private, not even emails)
        • you have to encourage small, frequent, and internally public releases. "small" in order to give people the psychological safety to take risks. "frequent" in order to allow people to learn from their own mistakes. and "internally public" in order to allow people to learn from everyone else's mistakes.
        • it makes sense for certain teams/people in the org to bounce around from team to team giving support. in stripe's case, this applies to the design team, the marketing team, some people in leadership, etc. you can almost think of them like freelancers within the organization that show up whenever needed.
        • etc.
        1. 3

          Hey, dude! Definitely been too long. Hope the last year hasn't been too hard on you. Thanks for the reply :)

          you have to hire incredibly talented people (perhaps at great expense)

          This is definitely easier for funded companies like Stripe, Spotify, etc. Need a team leader for $200k/yr salary? No problem.

          Much harder for revenue-funded IHers who are trying to scale to $10-20k MRR and pay themselves a living salary. When that's a challenge, hiring the very best team leaders at great expense seems like a huge mountain to climb.

          I think a lot of IHers defer to hiring a B team and try to rely on A execution than hiring an A team. Per usual, there's a lot of naunce in how much success you can have with this approach, especially long-term, but it seems like the norm for a lot of IHers (for better or worse).

          it makes sense for certain teams/people in the org to bounce around from team to team giving support.

          I LOVE this idea. I'm a bigger soccer guy and there's this concept of a team having a number 9. This player is kindof a floating danger man/woman with an attacking mentality. The location they inherit on the field isn't usually set in stone, but being wherever they're needed (or their intuition tells them to be) in order to help their team create the best opportunities to score.

          If more teams had access to a helpful, super well-rounded, incredibly smart, X-factor individual jumping into team projects giving solid advice, asking key questions and keeping projects organized and moving forward, I think you'd see a higher rate of success for IHers. Sweet!

          1. 2

            P.S. Thanks for the graphic and YT vid! Added to my watch list :)

  2. 1

    Very insightful article! I personally retained 3 key lessons:

    • Transparency
    • A detailed hiring process
    • Genuinely caring about customers

    I believe transparency is crucial to build trust and help employees to elevate their standards as well. I loved their approach regarding the hiring process they value taking the time to hire the right people to enable self-reliance and maximize the growth of each individual. Their ability to "really, really care" by engaging with customers and having Patrick rotate around different departments to better approach and support strategic decisions. Very inspiring!

  3. 1

    I've been on Indie Hackers for just over a year now, I couldn't believe (when I googled) that the Stripe acquisition was four years ago!

    Can you speak to how IH has changed in those four years, both internally to IH's own motives and decisions and from above, or well, - I should say - outside? From Stripe?

    Thanks Channing.

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