San Francisco's Culture War With Corporate Life

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The protests over the giant corporate buses that cruise menacingly around San Francisco’s streets is not really about the buses.

It’s a culture war: SF culture clashing with corporate culture.

The conformity of Silicon Valley’s corporate culture is polar opposite to the non-conformist traditions of San Francisco.

The corporate culture demands isolation in guarded enclaves.

The tech workers think it’s cool to be company men and women, to only use the company store, to eat company food, to only know each other.

– They think it’s cool to be picked up early morning and spend all day at work and get a ride home late evening.

– They think it’s cool that their employer mediate 90% of their experiences during their waking hours.

– They think it’s cool to live in San Francisco and be strangers in their own neighborhoods.

– The company cubicle is now a lot larger than it once was, it is campus-sized. And it picks you up in the morning.

Cubicle cults are not cool and SF locals will tell them so — if they know any.

– They’ll tell them that they are being manipulated by their employer; an employer that organized with other Silicon Valley employers (Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Adobe, Pixar) to keep their wages down, and feed them free food so that they think they are ahead. Not cool.

– Their employer likes community conflict over the buses and the vocal persecution of its workers because it reinforces an us-and-them division. Nothing builds a passionate culture faster than persecution. Christianity became unstoppable when it discovered the vitality of its martyrs.

– Being a company man or woman is not cool. They’ll tell them that conformity is a dull way to live a young life.

Conformity breeds contempt in San Francisco. And it does nothing to help stem the massive number of failures in Silicon Valley

Successful startups challenge the way things are. Breeding conformity into tech workers is a very bad strategy. (Maybe their employers are keeping themselves safe from being disrupted by their own workers?)

Google has said that telecommuting works and remote teams perform as well as those in the Googleplex. But if Google allowed telecommuting, its workers might start a Google-killer in their spare time, maybe with other company  telecommuters. Best to keep them isolated and strangers in their own neighborhoods.

Photo: Digitaltrends.com.

Tom Foremski
Tom Foremski is the Editor and Founder of the popular and top-ranked news site Silicon Valley Watcher, reporting on business and culture of innovation. He is a former journalist at the Financial Times and in 2004, became the first journalist from a leading newspaper to resign and become a full-time journalist blogger.

Tom has been reporting on Silicon Valley and the US tech industry since 1984 and has been named as one of the top 50 (#28) most influential bloggers in Silicon Valley. His current focus is on the convergence of media and technology — the making of a new era for Silicon Valley. He also writes a column at ZDNET.

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