White House Echoes Tech: ‘Move Fast and Break Things’
Last summer, not long after Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination for president, his recently installed campaign manager, Stephen K. Bannon, met with top officials from the Republican National Committee to discuss management of the general election.
去年夏天，唐纳德·特朗普获得共和党总统候选人提名不久后，他刚刚任命的竞选经理史蒂芬·K·班农(Stephen K. Bannon)会见了共和党全国委员会的高层官员，讨论大选阶段的管理问题。
Trump’s staff had remained unusually small throughout the grueling primaries — a compactness, his advisers believed, that had given them a nimble edge. Now most Republican officials expected the Trump team to expand as it began to oversee the thousands of Republican staff members, state officials and consultants who would be ground troops in the coming political war.
But when Bannon met with RNC officials, he informed them that a major expansion was not going to happen.
The Trump campaign, he said, intended to remain sparse and decentralized. Borrowing a Silicon Valley mantra from Facebook, he told his shocked listeners that “your job is to move fast and break things,” according to a person who was present. “Figure out what needs doing, and then just do it. Don’t wait for permission.”
His audience was surprised. Conventional political wisdom advocated a robust and elaborate campaign hierarchy.
But Bannon demanded the opposite. Winning, he said, required tactics and ideas — like distributed decision-making; quick experimentation and execution rather than thoughtful deliberation; learning from left-leaning advocacy groups and video game companies — that were drawn from the management playbooks of Silicon Valley startups.
After that meeting, many thought Bannon’s strategy was crazy, the person who was present said. Then Trump won the election. And now we can argue that Trump is, in many ways, the first genuine Silicon Valley startup candidate and president.
President Barack Obama may have embraced technology, weaponized social media and sought advice from the co-founders of Facebook and LinkedIn. But he was ultimately a traditional campaigner and manager. It is Trump’s team who, surprisingly, have embraced the philosophy of disruption and the management styles of Silicon Valley, and who have sought to imitate the tactics that have powered companies like Uber and Amazon.
“Trump is the Silicon Valley candidate in every way except that the ideology is flipped,” said Sam Altman, a prominent technology leader, chief executive of Y Combinator and a major Hillary Clinton donor. “He’s an outsider. He took on a system he thought was broken and then disregarded the rules; he got to know his users well and tested his product early and iterated rapidly. That’s the startup playbook. That’s exactly what we tell our startups to do.”
“特朗普在各个方面都是一个硅谷候选人，除了意识形态截然相反，”Y Combinator首席执行官萨姆·奥特曼(Sam Altman)说，他也是希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)的重要捐赠者。“他是一个局外人，在挑战一个他认为出了问题的体制，然后他无视规则；他渐渐了解了自己的用户，对自己的产品进行早期测试和快速迭代。这是初创公司的战术手册。这正是我们告诉我们的初创公司应当做的事情。”
It remains to be seen, however, whether Trump will successfully transition from a startup to a mature commander-in-chief. Just as Uber and other young tech firms have stumbled while growing, so Trump seems, right now, in over his head at the White House.
But understanding these early missteps — and how startup thinking vaulted Trump into power — is important, because it gives us a lens into the strengths and weaknesses of management techniques that are increasingly being imitated by other industries around the world.
Put differently, the president’s success has demonstrated the strength of the startup philosophy. But is it a good or a bad thing if Trump becomes the first political unicorn?
The irony is that many technologists abhor Trump and his beliefs. Silicon Valley overwhelmingly voted and raised funds for Clinton, and tech workers have angrily protested his immigration ban. At the New Work Summit, a gathering of top technology executives hosted by The New York Times this week, participants strongly complained that their industry should not be associated with, or held accountable for, Trump’s victory.
讽刺的是，许多技术专家憎恶特朗普和他的主张。硅谷绝大多数人为克林顿投票和筹款，技术工人愤怒地抗议他的移民禁令。在本周《纽约时报》为顶尖科技公司高管们举办的聚会“新工作峰会”(New Work Summit)上，与会者表达了强烈不满，认为他们的产业不应该与特朗普的胜利产生联系或为之负责。
But the fact remains that he is a prime example of the disruptive forces that the tech industry celebrates. At the most basic level, Trump’s embrace of technology — the millions of dollars he has raised through online donations, and his capacity to mobilize huge crowds through email and drive news through Twitter blasts — is crucial to his unexpected political success.
And his team’s embrace of Silicon Valley philosophy goes much deeper. As Trump’s campaign gained steam, for instance, top officials began a dedicated effort to study the tactics of successful digital advocacy groups, particularly the left-leaning Moveon.org, as well as #BlackLivesMatter, to reverse engineer methods for rapidly mobilizing voters.
His campaign also reached out to video game companies to learn how to make addictive content. During the race, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Gabriel Leydon, founder of a company in Palo Alto, California, named MZ, previously known as Machine Zone, which created the highly popular games Mobile Strike and Game of War: Fire Age. Leydon, one of the biggest online advertisers, agreed to share insights about digital marketing tactics with the Trump campaign. (In a statement, MZ said it never formally worked for Trump.)
他的竞选团队还同电子游戏公司接触，学习如何制作令人上瘾的内容。在竞选中，特朗普的女婿贾里德·库什纳(Jared Kushner)会见了加利福尼亚州帕洛阿尔托一家公司的创始人加布里埃尔·莱登(Gabriel Leydon)，他的公司名叫MZ，以前被称为Machine Zone，推出了非常受欢迎的游戏《雷霆天下》(Mobile Strike)和《战争游戏：火力时代》(Game of War: Fire Age)。莱登是最大的在线广告商之一，他同意与特朗普的竞选团队分享有关数字营销策略的见解（在一份声明中，MZ称该公司从来没有正式为特朗普工作）。
The influence of startup philosophy on Trump’s team extends to day-to-day management. The campaign and the White House have looked to tech industry management techniques to empower staff members to start policy initiatives, to conduct rapid digital tests, and to push fundraising and advertising campaigns without seeking authorization from senior officials.
In contrast to the methodical Obama White House and the Clinton campaign, where tweets often needed approval from at least three officials before they were posted, members of the Trump team could dream up ads or email blasts almost without oversight. At its peak, his campaign was running 60,000 different online advertisements per day to see which phrases and images outperformed others.
However, the most significant connection between Trump and Silicon Valley thinking is how thoroughly he embodies the “disruption thesis” that has propelled so many emerging technology firms. Trump’s team has deliberately worked to remove the traditional gatekeepers — the big donors, the political parties, the advocacy groups and the news media — that have, in the past, often determined political viability.
Which all presents a question: If the playbook was so successful in electing Trump, why is he stumbling now? Why has the Silicon Valley mentality failed to thrive in Washington?
It might be that Trump simply needs to evolve to the next level of tech industry thinking. And, in fact, there is a ready playbook for how startups transition into mature firms. Google, for instance, began floundering when it reached about 200 employees. So the company’s founders brought in a more established leader, Eric Schmidt, to “be a bit of chaperone, providing adult supervision,” as Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, explained in 2001. When Facebook’s workforce hit 1,800 in 2008, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, hired Sheryl Sandberg, a seasoned manager, as chief operating officer to rein in the firm’s freewheeling, decentralized culture.
特朗普可能只需要进化到科技产业思维的下一个层次。而且，事实上已经有一份准备好的战术手册，讲的是如何让初创公司过渡到成熟的公司。例如，谷歌在公司规模达到约200名员工时就开始困难重重。因此，公司的创始人引入了一个更加成熟的领导者埃里克·施密特(Eric Schmidt)，让他“做一点监护人的工作，提供成年人的监督，”谷歌的联合创始人谢尔盖·布林(Sergey Brin)在2001年解释道。2008年，Facebook的员工达到1800人，其创始人马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)聘请了经验丰富的管理者谢丽尔·桑德伯格(Sheryl Sandberg)担任首席运营官，以控制公司放任自流、权力分散的文化。
We’re seeing a similar shift in the White House. After Trump’s immigration ban caused widespread confusion at airports and within federal agencies last month, his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, put in effect a formal process for rolling out executive orders. When the president was preparing for his address to Congress last week, his team used a formal process to review the script. Republican leaders are pushing the White House to bring on more aides with prior governing experience. As at Facebook and Google, a hierarchy is being built.
But for many within the technology industry, this new, more mature White House is cause for concern. “I think most people don’t want him to succeed at all,” said Laszlo Bock, who until last year was a senior vice president at Google. “No matter how Trump manages the White House, what he believes in is the opposite of Silicon Valley values. We don’t want him to learn from us.”