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The Big Disruption

Bonfire of the Absurdities | The Big Disruption

The physical version of 'The Big Disruption' is available now.

The daily management meeting was an exercise in yogic patience and discipline, with all five members of the team doing a generally poor job of tolerating each other.

Although they were a small group, the men spread themselves out around the table, allowing spaces of two or three chairs between them. In addition to Gregor, there was Old Al, the company's only gray-haired engineer, occasionally useful for his fifty-four years of wisdom. A few seats down sat Greg Fischer, the chief financial and corporate affairs officer (CFCAO), who ran all the departments — legal, finance, marketing, and PR — that were seen as necessary evils in helping run a large company. Equal in irrelevance was HR Paul, the head of the human resources department, who was generally regarded as a nincompoop psychology PhD with a flatulence problem. And then there was Niels, a.k.a. The Salesman.

The master engineer and the master salesman did not like each other, but today Niels seemed to be paying Gregor no attention. Gregor grimaced as Niels bent his gel-slicked head over the small notepad that he carried around in his front pocket. He found the mere existence of Niels' notepad an insult to the advances of technology and word processing software.

Gregor had disliked Anahata's new head of advertising from the instant he spotted him on campus, a plastic smile fixed on his face, fancy designer suit falling from his shoulders like a second skin. With his wingtips pointed sharply in the direction of his target, Niels had approached Gregor to suggest the engineering team fix the advertising system interface so that Anahata's advertisers could more easily place their ads online. Gregor quickly informed Niels that Anahata was about its users first and foremost, and that its users — and just as important, Anahata's engineers — did not care about an improved advertising system. Implicit in his explanation was the unwritten philosophical hierarchy of Anahata: Engineers at the top, then users, and then, long after that, cheerleaders, janitors, creationists, and, finally, the Anahata sales team.

But Niels was slow on the uptake. He kept pushing for the change, eventually escalating the issue to Bobby. Bobby, in turn, sent Gregor and Niels an email asking them to speak to each other and not bother him with such small problems. Six years later, the two men still had not managed to do so. They only met in Bobby's management meetings, where they sat on opposite ends of the table and took opposing stances in almost any argument.

"Haaaaaaaaaa...Haaaaaaaaaa...Haaaaaaa...Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Suddenly, Bobby was on his feet, arms outstretched.

"Our minds are clear," he said, opening his eyes and bowing to his management team. Bobby sat down on top of the table, crossing his legs in the lotus position. "Let us begin."

Just then, the door opened and a man entered, wearing an enormous grin.

Gregor thought he recognized this short, swarthy man, but he could not place him. The intruder also seemed confused: He scanned the room, past Gregor, past Niels, and landed on Bobby. His eyes bulged, the grin vanished, and he took a step back. His hand fiddled with the doorknob.

"Wait," said Bobby, looking him over. "Clearly you must be smart to have found me like this. I am elusive, you know. A bit like a panther — if panthers were also progressive Buddhists." Bobby pawed the air with his claws.

The man nodded vigorously.

Gregor's tongue roamed his mouth, searching for particles of stray food. He always brushed his teeth after lunch, but today he had lost track of time while troubleshooting a server issue with the infrastructure team. The lack of order in his mouth was mildly distressing — just like this intruder, who he wished would leave. Where had he seen him before?

"I suppose you have joined us because you know of our open-door meeting policy," said Bobby, referring to a core Anahata principle that Gregor and the rest of the management team all actually hated.

"What is your name?" Bobby asked.

"Arsyen Aimo," the man said.

"Join us, Arsyen."

"But, Bobby, " said Fischer, the CFCAO, "we have confidential things to discuss."

"Trust is the cornerstone of truth. If we cannot trust our employees, our house will fall upon itself." Bobby turned to Arsyen and gestured at a seat at the table.

Arsyen took the chair closest to the door, gripping its arms oddly, rigidly, as if he were sitting on a throne. Suddenly Gregor recalled where he had seen him. This was the product manager candidate Roni had pointed out, the one from Galt. They had decided to hire him just to bleed Galt of some of its top talent. Over the past month, Anahata had lost several of its best engineers to the startup.

Gregor gave Arsyen another look. He was still panting a bit; dark hairs peeked out from a very wet collar. He did not seem like an exceptional human being. Still...

"What's up first?" asked Bobby, turning to his assistant. She was in attendance that day as part of what Bobby called "radical transparency," a philosophy that, while often cited by Bobby, seemed to be in effect only every third Thursday. His assistant leaned over and showed him a list — and some generous cleavage.

"Okay, everyone," said Bobby, nodding at her breasts. "Let's show Arsyen what innovation looks like!"

Bobby's assistant opened the door, and a product manager and his engineering team shuffled toward the table in an awkward, heaving lump. They kept their heads down, shooting furtive glances at Bobby as they prepared to present their work.

The product manager coughed. "When, um, we set out to design the new interface for Rovix, we had, uh, three goals in mind."

"Why do you need a presentation to tell me your goals?" Old Al barked. "Keep things simple. You don't need two hundred slides to tell me what you're going to do."

"It's just a few slides," the product manager mumbled.

"Al's right," Fischer said. "If you can't tell us your idea in thirty seconds, it's not an idea. It's a presentation."

The product manager closed his computer.

"Let me tell you something," said Old Al, shaking his finger at the team. "Bobby invented the concept of cloud computing on a high school cafeteria napkin twenty years ago. Big ideas should be simple. Napkinable."

Excerpted from 'The Big Disruption' by Jessica Powell, the first physical book published by Medium.