As many of you know, at hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, every aspect of life is guided by Principles, an unofficial company handbook written by founder Ray Dalio. The hundreds of principles contained in Principles inform "a way of being" that everyone at the firm is expected to adopt, the overarching theme being truth and "radical transparency" at all costs. A good example of the bunch, and our personal favorite, reads as follows:
"...when a pack of hyenas takes down a young wildebeest, is this good or bad? At face value, this seems terrible; the poor wildebeest suffers and dies. Some people might even say that the hyenas are evil. Yet this type of apparently evil behavior exists throughout nature through all species and was created by nature, which is much smarter than I am, so before I jump to pronouncing it evil, I need to try to see if it might be good. When I think about it, like death itself, this behavior is integral to the enormously complex and efficient system that has worked for as long as there has been life. And when I think of the second- and third-order consequences, it becomes obvious that this behavior is good for both the hyenas, who are operating in their self-interest, and in the interests of the greater system, which includes the wildebeest, because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution, i.e., the natural process of improvement. In fact, if I changed anything about the way that dynamic works, the overall outcome would be worse."
So, sure, that makes sense when we're talking about the animal kingdom but if that wildebeest just took a job as an analyst at a hedge fund and a pack of hyneas/executives decides to publicly take him down because they thought his "logic" on a particular argument was flawed, they're kind of just being unnecessarily dick-ish hyneas, especially if, when confronted with their meanness, are all "We're operating in the interests of the greater system!"
And don't forget that at Bridgewater, the savaging of that wildebeest would've been videotaped, archived, and made available for others to view as a learning tool. And that the wildebeest's colleagues would subsequently use the event as a data point to input when ranking his strengths and weaknesses.
When Principleswere first made public in 2010, Dalio and the firm seemed utterly perplexed that the outside world didn't immediately laud them as a breakthrough way of conducting the workplace and that some even found them weird and cult-like. Under the impression that people just didn't get it, Dalio embarked on a press tour attempting to explain him self and the way of life at the Westport-based hedge fund. But a lot of the reaction was along the lines of "Yeah, that's just really weird" and, surprisingly, Ray saying things like "it's a little bit like entering the Navy SEALs" and "There’s a period—usually about 18 months—of sort of adaptation to this" and "...some make it and some don’t make it. And so we call it ‘getting to the other side'" and "[We're] the opposite of a cult" didn't help. Nor did stories about Bridgewater's co-CEO supervising "subordinates stripping off articles of clothing and setting them on fire during a team-building exercise at an official company retreat." And Dalio et. al. were sad but they'd sort of done everything they could to make outsiders see just how damn wrong they were/are about the land of radical transparency, where you have to "ask yourself if you've earned the right to have an opinion" and "firing people is not a big deal."
And then the New York Timesreported that a Bridgwater employee alleged sexual harassment by his male supervisor -- a claim that has since been rescinded-- and that the "top managers confronted him and sought to pressure him" to walk back his claims, with one allegedly accusing him of "blowing this whole thing out of proportion." And a lot of people were like, wow that's really terrible and Bridgewater was like, "NO! F*CK THE NYT AND ITS REALITY DISTORTIONS AND BY THE WAY, WE ARE SO NOT A CAULDRON OF FEAR AND INTIMIDATION."
But clearly things were not sitting right up in Fairfield County where the notion that Bridgewater's way of doing things can sometimes be creepy and weird was REALLY saucing management. So now we have this: an amazing series of videos in which, again, Bridgewater tries to explain itself and in doing so has employees:
- Explaining that "At some point you're going to be faced with something really painful and uncomfortable here and it's up to you to decide if you want that experience"
- The origins of The Scrum, in which a bunch of the staff dons bathing suits and races through the-- in their words-- nasty, dirty water surrounding the building (the origin of The Scrum is that a bunch of guys were daring each other to a race one day and then some of them backed out so the others went to Ray and he said that they had to do it and they could'n't back out)
- B-roll of Greg Jensen (the supervisor of the bonfire strip-show) being driven to work
- Jensen saying "The series of videos we've prepared for you are to give you a window into what it's like to be here, to scare you away if you're not the right kind of person or to potentially attract you if these ideas, if this way of being is attractive to you."
Related: Bridgewater Associates’ Culture Of ‘Radical Transparency’ Includes Videotaping A Sexual Harassment Complaint And Pressuring The Victim To Recant The Whole Thing; Bridgewater’s Co-CEO Once “Supervised Subordinates Stripping Off Articles Of Clothing And Setting Them On Fire During A Team-Building Exercise”; Ray Dalio Not Sure Why Recording People Talking About A Colleague’s Mistakes And Weaknesses And Then Playing Back The Tape For Said Colleague Would Be Viewed As Anything Other Than Positive