Stack Ranking

For the past year I have read Michael O. Church‘s blog about his Google experience with stack ranking: the employee performance management program that Silicon Valley firms have adapted from Jack Welch (GE), Andy Grove (Intel), and venture capitalist John Doerr.


Business Insider has just published an excerpt from Nicholas Carlson’s new book on Yahoo’s stack ranking experience under current chief executive officer Marissa Mayer. Carlson’s reportage includes in-fighting teams, stifled innovation, and performance review politics. It echoes Kurt Eichenwald’s indictment of stack ranking at Steve Ballmer era Microsoft.


This year, I will be revisiting the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Antifragile), Alan Fish (Knowledge Automation), and others, as I continue to see stack ranking being applied in many different organisations.

Analysing the Hajime Masutani Interview in Haruki Murakami’s Underground

I spent today analysing the Haruki Murakami Underground interview with former Aum Shinrikyo member Hajume Masutani. Some insights:


1. Masutani experienced early alienation from his family, initial career aspirations, and university studies.


2. Masutani encountered and joined Aum after seeing an Aum book and visiting a dojo. He spent seven years in Aum including working on animation about Aum’s leader Shoko Asahara which now enjoys an afterlife on YouTube.


3. Masutani engaged in cycles of work and meditation but did not really progress in Aum. He became suspicious of Asahara after meeting him. His experiences reflected parallel research that psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton did on Aum.


4. In 1993, Masutani noted that Aum adopted a more proto-militant outlook and a greater emphasis on Tibetan Vajrayana teachings.


5. Masutani grew more alienated from Aum after leaving and learning of the 20th March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. His views to Murakami were similar to United States cultic scholars like Margaret Thaler Singer.

Black Mirror Views

Venkatesh Rao and The New Yorker‘s Emily Nussbaum on the UK Channel 4 series Black Mirror.


In 2003, I was an intern at Swinburne University’s Strategic Foresight program. One of the internal documents I saw were plans for a postgraduate unit on digital continuity challenges and futures. The unit’s material anticipated Rao and Nussbaum’s concerns by a decade. But I’m yet to see Black Mirror in full.

Human Terrain System: New Book

Today’s PhD writing time focused on the Human Terrain System (HTS): the controversial United States military program to embed anthropologists and sociologists with counterinsurgency specialists in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s been a clear evolution of the sub-literature on HTS from initial advocacy of so-called cultural intelligence to critical post-mortems of the HTS program’s impact, results, and effectiveness.


Amongst the recent and new books on HTS is Montgomery McFate and Janice H. Laurence’s edited collection Social Science Goes to War: The Human Terrain System in Iraq and Afghanistan (London: Hurst & Company, 2015). I’ll be adding it to my PhD reading list – as HTS can be understood as one possible politico-military application of area studies and anthropological knowledge that also underpins the strategic culture framework I am using to examine terrorist organisations.