Innovation orgs need to be aligned with their money factory

Aligned incentives are the only thing that will enable the innovation org to not have crushing oversight and be able to work on long-term projects. Playing the same game is the only way people can align for extremely long time scales so if the innovation org is going to survive long term, it needs to be playing the same game as the money factory. It can get away with diverging for some time, but it’s always finite. Alignment between people playing different games can happen on finite time scales. The alignment also needs to be clear to the people who control the money and be on a timescale that’s acceptable to them. So while fundamental research might be in the long-term interest of the United States Government, the timescale that matters to most politicians is their term in office.

Bell Labs is one of the few examples of an innovation org that was aligned with its money factory.

The more fund-strapped the money factory is, the tighter the alignment needs to be. When AT&T, Microsoft, or Google are flush with Monopoly money they’re happy to let people dick around on whatever. When stocks dip, the first programs to be cut are the ones that have the least plausible ties to the core product. Expensive research needs to address an existential threat eventually at an organizational level to maintain support. Similarly ARPA became DARPA in 1972 because of the increased scrutiny on military spending both in the government and outside of it.



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