Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

 

There's so little justice in the world.

You really shouldn't hope for it. Instead, aim for poetry in your life and at least you'll have stories to tell.

But, wait, I hear you cry. There's Silicon Valley. Isn't that the one place on earth where all you need to succeed is talent, drive, and an ability to stay up all night drinking beer and coding?

The Valley would like you to think so, certainly.

However one former Facebook product manager, Antonio García Martinez, would like you to think: "Meritocracy? Are you bloody kidding me?"

His recently published book, Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure In Silicon Valley, suggests that meritocracy might not be quite as prevalent as you might imagine.

Indeed, in an interview with Inc's Salvador Rodriguez, Martinez snorts at the very notion that only the best prosper in the Valley's bowels.

"Meritocracy is a propaganda that anoints the charade," he said.

He added: "The only way you can defend the winner-take-all, tooth-and-nail nature of this sort of extreme capitalism is to say, 'Well, the smart guy won or the hard-working guy won.'"

You mean all the Valley's CEOs aren't the smartest people in the room? You mean they didn't work their way up with their sheer genius and willpower?

Martinez believes that "luck, happenstance, just doing lots of things at once and one happening to win," far more often sort the winners from those who wish they'd won big and end up writing fine books about why they didn't.

It's hard not to imagine, though, that Facebook and the rest of the Valley of the Tears, Fears and Beers are just as prone to the vicissitudes of humanity as the rest of business.

Did Mark Zuckerberg truly invent anything spectacular? Hardly.

No, he was one of many who leaped onto the notion that the Internet could connect people very quickly.

But he must have daily delighted in his good fortune, as he watched the likes of MySpace falter like a texting teen that walks straight into a mall fountain.

He must have bathed in astonishment that Google understood humans about as well as a squirrel understands fish and chips.

Indeed, in his book, Martinez describes how Zuckerberg panicked when Google  launched its slightly risible Facebook competitor, Google +. He put Facebook on lockdown, says Martinez.

And then Google's attempt at forcing everyone to suddenly switch their status-updating allegiance away from Facebook face-planted.

Zuckerberg rode a wave by not making too many mortal mistakes, hiring people to do what he didn't want to do and realizing at some point that, if he remained steady, he was heading for monopoly.

Still, says Martinez, if you think Facebook is a model organization please smoke no more fragrant leaves.

He says people might be surprised at "the level of flailing or general disorganization that happens, even in large, relatively well-run companies like Facebook."

When Facebook went public in 2012, it suddenly realized it had to find new ways to make money.

"We were all making it up as we went along," he told Inc's Rodriguez.

There again, talk to people at Facebook and they'll tell you that Martinez wasn't the most popular of characters in his two-year stint there.

Yes, he was fired.

Perhaps he just wasn't lucky enough to enjoy Mark Zuckerberg's stare, which he believes "borders on the psychopathic."

Perhaps, too, he just didn't feel entirely comfortable in a place that he says "felt very North Korean."

You mean you don't associate North Korea with meritocracy? You mean Kim Kong-Un got to where he is by being lucky?

What a spittle-mouthed world this truly is.

Published on: Jul 19, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.