CS183c Assignment #3

On organizational structure (~20min mark)

I found Patrick’s slight resentment of new organizational structure ideas refreshing and amusing. We hear a lot about disruption, thinking from first principles, being contrarian, etc. Patrick was trying to make the point that the mean organizational structure of a company that we’ve converged on (e.g. hierarchies etc.), and the way things are done is actually quite alright. That in fact we know a lot about how to organize groups of people towards a common goal, and that one must resist the temptation to be too clever with it. He also conceded that a lot of things have changed over the last several years (especially with respect to technology), but made the point that human psychology has in comparison stayed nearly constant, which means we can more confidently draw on past knowledge in these areas.

On hiring (~28 min mark)

Several interesting points — first, it has become meaningless to regurgitate the fact that hiring is very important. What that actually means when you want to translate it to a statement with actual bits of information, Patrick argues, is to rephrase it as “you have to be very very persistent” in recruiting the best people, and willing to to do it very slowly over time (e.g. they took 6 months to hire 2 employees early on).

Company communication

I also really liked the idea that as the company grows more, the communication channels should tend toward writing more than talking. The comparison to the printing press was interesting, and the notion that what made writing so powerful was not only the dissemination, but also the concreteness and rigidity of written text. The fact that writing encourages the full serialization a concept, much more than a speech. The idea that you can point to paragraph 2, sentence 5 and say “no, that’s wrong”.

The misc

The entire conversation was peppered with interesting mental models for thinking about different facets of companies: The idea that an optimal 1-year plan can be very distinct from the optimal 5-year plan. The idea of Stripe as a blob in a philosophical space, and that different people within the organization are in different angles/distances with respect to its center of mass, and have to be actively pulled towards it. The 3 jobs of a CEO. etcetc.

Misc misc

There were also several other interesting insights from the other guests, which I will dump here in an unsorted form.

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I like to train deep neural nets on large datasets.

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