"We've essentially crowd-sourced supervision of a lot of [our] decisions to our customers and it works way better than almost any other system we could design. They're rabid, they're passionate, and there are a lot of them."
- Valve CEO Gabe Newell shares his thoughts on the best way to build a company in a new interview
published today by the Washington Post.
It's a good read, the first in a two-part series of interviews Newell conducted with Post reporter Andrea Peterson.
In this first one Newell explains why Valve works the way it does, fleshing out some of the logic behind much-publicized idiosyncrasies like the low frequency of game releases or the tendency for employees to move between teams by simply unplugging their workstations and wheeling them around the office.
There's also a good bit of speculation about how the hallmarks of a traditional corporation -- job titles, assigned teams, direct reports -- can actually hamper a video game company's ability to move quickly to address the needs of its fans.
"I think our structure will work better than most of the older command-and-control type hierarchical systems that require a huge amount of shared state between everybody, and move very ponderously, and have to throw away huge amounts of data because otherwise the person at the top can't possibly know what every single person at the organization is doing," said Newell, shortly after confessing that his background in computer science strongly affects the way he approaches designing an effective organization.
It's worth noting that the company's Steam platform has experienced remarkable growth
since its launch in 2003. Keep that in mind when you read Newell's anecdote near the end of the interview about the internal debates surrounding Steam's development.
The full first half of the interview, full of interesting examples and explanations from Newell, is available at the Washington Post website