As long-time Dealbreaker readers know, we have been writing about the slightly unorthodox culture at Bridgewater Associates since 2010, when we received a spiral-bound copy of Principles, the hedge fund's unofficial company handbook penned by founder Ray Dalio. At the time, it was surprising to learn of an asset management firm that explained its reasoning for why employees shouldn't hesitate to identify and eliminate weak colleagues via a discussion about "a pack of hyenas [taking] down a young wildebeest"; told them that failing to confront a person about their shortcomings to their face made you "a slimy weasel"; pushed them to ask themselves if they'd "earned the right to have an opinion"; insisted that "firing people is not a big deal"; and quizzed them on all of the above and more.
Amazingly, though, the Westport-based hedge fund continues to surprise us with the new and innovative ways it conducts its business, many of which are on display in a Wall Street Journal article today, examining life under the Tao of Dalio. Our favorites include:
Bridgewater's own proprietary Yelp for People: "At any given time, hundreds of Bridgewater employees are working on projects aimed at instilling the intense culture created by Mr. Dalio into every minute of the workday. Those employees also analyze data being collected constantly, including on iPads where workers use apps to rate each other on dozens of strengths and weaknesses."
Lifetime NDAs: "Only about 10 people have a full view of the hedge fund’s investment process. Mr. Dalio allows that group, which he calls a “circle of trust,” access to the information only if they agree to sign lifetime noncompete agreements, according to people familiar with the matter."
Public burn books: "Employees are encouraged to air any gripes and concerns about the hedge fund in a digital “issue log” that can be seen by anyone at Bridgewater. The comments usually are about bigger problems but also have included difficulties formatting email."
Archives of your every move: "At Bridgewater, most meetings and many common areas are audio- or video-recorded. Many of the recordings are placed in a “Transparency Library” available to employees."
Seal Team 6: Hedge Fund Edition: "Current Bridgewater executives describe successful employees as “intellectual Navy SEALs.” Mr. Dalio has called employees at the hedge fund budding “Dalai Lamas” because they have the ability to reflect intensely on themselves."
Trustfalls...ON STEROIDS: "Mr. Jensen also cut a distinctive path as a manager. About three years ago, he supervised subordinates stripping off articles of clothing and setting them on fire during a team-building exercise at an official company retreat. He was censured by Mr. Dalio afterward."