I’ve always believed that talent attracts capital far more effectively than capital attracts talent – and that’s why I’m in San Francisco today to help Bloomberg LP, the tech company I founded 33 years ago, open a new R&D office for software developers.
The Bay Area is home to the world’s largest concentration of digital talent, creativity, and expertise. Bloomberg has offices in 192 locations around the world, including San Francisco. But the vast majority of our developers work in New York City. We’re proud of our New York roots, and during my years as the city’s mayor, our administration helped spur major growth in the tech industry. In fact, our growth rate was about twice as large as it was in Silicon Valley and Boston.
But Bloomberg is a global company, and as we have grown over the past decade and expanded our ambitions, our tech needs have grown, too. To remain on the cutting-edge, we need to be able to hire the most talented developers from Silicon Valley and its surroundings – and be part of the R&D conversation happening in the community there. The new office we’re opening, which shares a building with Yelp, will eventually employ nearly 100 developers who will help further our core mission: providing the most reliable up-to-the-second news and information on markets and the people and events that move them.
We have always been a company that values developers, and they have been critical to our most disruptive innovations. Before the internet existed, we were connecting people to vast quantities of digital financial data. And before email had become common, we created the world’s first social network, an instant-messaging system that allowed our clients to communicate with one-another in real time.
Our instant-messaging system is a great example of what LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman, calls “network intelligence,” in an insightful new book he’s written with Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh called, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age. The book is a quick read – at only 155 pages, it’s faster than watching The Wolf of Wall Street, and only slightly more expensive. (I’m sure Leonardo DiCaprio is angling to play Reid in the movie version.)
The book contains stories and lessons that can benefit organizations of every stripe, not only private companies but also nonprofits and governments. In fact, a number of stories mirror Bloomberg LP’s experience, like the story of John Lasseter. In the mid-1980s, Lasseter was fired by Disney for proposing that the company move into computer-generated animation. Two decades later, Disney purchased the company Lasseter helped build – Pixar – for $7 billion. Firing Lasseter was an expensive mistake, but it’s the kind of mistake that companies make all too often. And some never recover.
The Wall Street firm where I spent the first 15 years of my career wasn’t too interested in my idea for computerizing financial data. Getting fired in 1981 not only gave me the opportunity to start my own company, it taught me an invaluable lesson that remains a vital part of Bloomberg’s culture: Great ideas can come from within organizations, and it’s up to managers to encourage them – and take them seriously. Too often senior managers think they know best, especially in organizations that are riding high. It’s a common organizational flaw that can be costly or even deadly.
The Alliance offers useful strategies for combatting this kind of complacency and creating environments where innovation flourishes. As the authors explain, it all comes down to people. The implied social contract that once existed between large companies and their workers has been replaced by something that – though less secure – can be more rewarding and fulfilling. But that’s true only if employers understand how to maximize their most valuable asset – people – by building a culture where trust and teamwork are prized, where empowerment and innovation go hand-in-hand, and where opportunities for professional growth are everyday occurrences.
Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and managers in Silicon Valley and New York City understand these dynamics, but none have made them as easy to grasp as Reid and his co-authors. Their book deserves a big audience – just don’t wait for the movie version. And if you are a developer in the Bay Area who wants to work for a company that embraces the lessons in their book, send us your resume – we’re hiring.