David Karp: The Way I Work

Inc Magazine ran an interesting story regarding David Karp, the founder of Tumblr.

In this first person piece, David very openly and candidly describes his less than traditional approach to running a company, but what stands out is how often he refers to his team. Despite the title, (The Way I Work), more often than not, his narrative starts with “we” more than “me”.

We roll out changes to the site every day at 11 a.m. We stagger out small changes, so we can see what works and what doesn’t. We chose that time because we want engineers around if there’s an issue. Plus, it’s early enough that there’s not much traffic. Basically, everything that was finished the day before gets pushed the next morning. It could be a bug fix or a new language file—say, a feature that was translated into French. Or it could be a new feature that’s dark launched—the public can’t see it, but we have the ability to test it.

At the risk of sounding trite, this POV is so refreshing. The days of top heavy government-style management need to be over. Over extended hierarchies just weigh a company down. The structure of the office has changed. It’s not the big bosses who know everything and the cogs below to make it run. Now it’s about recruiting talent at every level and attributing the appropriate respect for each role. Now I’m not so naive to think that companies can run without leadership. Certain expertise is required in certain roles. It is, however, that sweet spot, where the lines of leadership and employees blur that the company can find its voice. And David seems to sense where that line is.

For every new feature we add, we take an old one out. A lot of big sites don’t do that, and it’s a problem. Twitter started as a beautifully simple product, but it’s now going the same route as Facebook. The drive to innovate can overencumber and destroy a product. My goal is to keep Tumblr very focused.

So there it is. Whether it’s developing technology or running a company, the principle is the same.

Keep it simple. And with simplicity comes success.