The Smash Company aims to promote 6 ideas in business:
Self-respect is a moral obligation. Each of us must respect ourselves. And we must demand that others respect us. But then, if we are to demand this of others, we must also offer this to others. And this too is a moral obligation.
What does that mean in practical terms? It means we must give credit where credit is a due. For any announcement of success, a good faith effort must be made to list the implied antecedents whose precursors allowed that success. If a worker invents a new technology, and the new technology was only possible because of a discovery made by someone else, that other person, whether within the company or without, should be named as part of the process whereby provenance is announced.
An organization that obeys the dictates of provenance is both a well-run organization, and a moral one. Respect for each person’s contribution establishes a healthy framework for human interactions.
Provenance is the main idea here. Below I list a few other ideas, but they are all secondary to Provenance, and in many ways they simply repeat the idea.
2.) Acknowledgement by name.
We feel this kind of praise is unacceptable: “We thank our brave, intelligent and hard working team for this success.”
We feel this kind of praise is acceptable: “We thank Avanti Suh and Meghan Smith whose bravery, intelligence and hard work created this success.”
People have a fundamental human right to be given credit for their work. Their names should be invoked publicly, save where issues of their privacy or their security make acknowledgement impossible.
3.) Peer evaluation.
Obviously the leadership has a right to judge the workers at a firm, but the workers also have the same right. One person might be hated by their co-workers, but loved by the leadership. If the leadership hired a particular worker, then the irrational ego of the leadership might keep it from admitting its mistake. The workers have the right to override the leadership in such cases.
As a practical matter, in large firms, every worker should be allowed to upvote 3 co-workers each month, and downvote 3 co-workers each month. Those who are consistently upvoted, month after month, should be considered for some kind of reward. Those who are consistently downvoted, month after month, should be considered for some kind of punishment.
It is true that any system of voting can lead to illiberal results, and the leadership should be on guard against this. A worker might get downvoted because they are a Jew, and they are working on a team rife with anti-Semitism. Or a worker might be gay, and working on a team full of homophobes. In such cases the leadership should ignore the downvotes. The downvotes should attract the attention of the leadership, but the leadership needs to evaluate the downvotes to be sure they are valid.
One advantage to downvotes is they should allow the leadership to be aware of problems that can not be captured by more formal methods. Consider a scenario where a man engages in minor acts of sexual harassment: standing too close to women, staring at women for too long, blocking their exit from elevators — behavior which is certainly creepy, yet not overt enough for a woman to file a formal complaint. Downvotes are a useful way of making a record of such behavior. If everyone is allowed to cast a few downvotes each month, then downvotes become a minor demerit, which can indicate a need for action, if they are valid and if there are enough of them.
The goal here is to challenge the notion that the leadership should have a monopoly on evaluating the workers. The workers also have that right.
4.) Leaders as trusted stewards.
The expectation of greatness helps to call forth greatness. At the same time, no leader can be great unless they are trusted to take risks. Therefore, for elected positions, the terms should be long enough that leaders will not face an immediate backlash from voters, should those leaders chose a course that is unpopular. Peer review, among the leadership, is the only immediate backlash that leaders should face. And so, terms on a Leadership Council should be long, and the Council should elect one of their own as President, but the term of being President should be short.
As an example, perhaps one person is appointed a year, to the Leadership Council. Perhaps they serve a term of 15 years. That would mean there are 15 people on the Council. 15 years is a long enough that the members can focus on long-term issues. It also means they are protected from any immediate backlash if they need to take an unpopular course. The Council should chose one of their own as President. The President should only be appointed for one year. If the President does something unpopular with the Council, then the Council can appoint someone else the next year.
We oppose threats of physical harm, but we encourage all other types of criticism, especially criticism that is aimed at the leadership. No matter how well the leadership is doing, it can and should be pressured to do even better. (As a practical matter, the leadership does not need to fight for the right to voice, for voice and leadership are nearly synonymous. But the workers have a right to speak, and we believe listening does great good for the organization.)
Even as a farmer turns over the soil to make it ready for a new season of growth, we stand ready to fearlessly overturn our beliefs, economies, products, religions, relations (of gender, of race, of class), commitments and investments, so as to prepare for a new season of growth.
We realize these are more ideals to be aspired to than a reality that can ever be achieved, but we aspire to this with all our hearts.