August 10th, 2006 by Team Member

For my first post I wanted to jump into the blog with my own experience of this unique work culture.

One of my first steps has been to interview folks around the office to gather up views on and ideas about the audiences and purposes for our site. Technically I’d call these stakeholder interviews, but one of the things I like best about working at Exbiblio is that we really are “folks” more than we are “stakeholders,” even though I’d say we’re all deeply engaged in our work.

The term “stakeholder” differentiates those in a company who have a vested interest in something from those who don’t. It separates those who have a say from those who don’t. Those polarizations don’t exist here at Exbiblio, and so I don’t like to use the term when I’m conducting my interviews. When I approach my coworkers it’s with a great amount of respect for their knowledge and experience, but not with a sense that they have more or less of a stake in the Exbiblio project and process. We all have a stake in this project… so perhaps what I’m doing are more like “folkserviews”.

By Ariel van Spronsen


  1. Francisco Soto Says:

    Let me first congratulate you for the great blog ExBiblio has. You have won a curious mind that follows your business-adventure like a soap opera in daytime radio.

    I agree with you about relating to ‘folksers’ instead of stakeholders, although I cannot help but reflect about the underlying differences, about what different incentives each folk have. I mean, even if there is no ‘polarization’ among coworkers, from what I read, it seems you portray a workforce conformed by a narrow bounded range of values and interests. Even if all of them have vested interests in the venture, can we equalize their expectations about its future? I cannot help but wonder where the equilibrium lies between diversity and homogeneity of purpose.

    Put another way and related to another post that points to a survey that states that half of US employees say they would work for a firm for less pay. Seems beautifully simple. On the other hand, money in itself may be a dry endpoint, but security, family supporting, uncertainty hedging, etc. are relevant factors considered by many employees when looking ahead. Saint Matthew advised us in the Bible to “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them”, and I cannot deny that birds don’t practice risk management techniques, but when cold spell come, they fall from the branches in hordes. I know, most of them fall with beatific smiles, and probably their little souls populate the branches of Heaven, but nevertheless in this land of ours they still fall with a ‘thud’.

    So I suppose the question is, for each person, for each family, how much is enough. And there we get back to individuals preferences in all its variety: values, circumstances and priorities. Not all of them easily translatable into money terms, and neither easy to compare among different individuals. As it relates to EB flat organizational structure, from my own experience, and from a narrow purely managerial point of view – not creative which I understand is a different beast – the best performing colleagues have tended to be the most hungry, the most in need, even the most ambitious. And this is precisely the beauty of ExBiblio’s team, that it is formed by colleagues that think alike, whose values are aligned, whose priorities are in tune, with a dedication to excellence and hard work. None above other, like the communities of the Early Christian Church.

    Another way to approach this is through another post that proclaims the goal of ‘wanting to make “meaning”, not just money’, although it doesn’t explain why the search for meaning through a visionary end-point should be confounded and/or confronted with the nitty-gritty un-arousing realities of management organization.

    If invention is 99% sweat and 1% inspiration, I would imagine that start-uping would at least be 90% perseverance + adaptation to reality – like a well trained army-, and 10% enraptured envisioning amid lattes and bagels. That would imply that to survive in such a competitive landscape you would have to use to your advantage the ‘best practices’ – I hate that phrase – of business organization, or find a philosopher’s stone as Martin did with T9 through his creative genius, that allows you to dictate the rules.

    And this is why I find ExBiblio fascinating, as a visionary, living-the-dream, start up company. As you say: “values set in place by design not default”.

    I suppose one differentiating aspect is the CEO, inventor cum founder of the company, Martin King, who has the courage to try to prove the world wrong, steering a course to be followed by future ventures. And so, I look forward to keep tagging your blog to see if, as Ian says, it is better to have “a good story to tell: either a massive success or a massive failure, or to putt, putt putt putt…..”