One of the supposedly controversial aspects of self-organization is the lack of job titles. I want to explore this a bit more and will use two good friends and leaders at Zappos as examples of how titles cause all sorts of problems, and no titles have no problems in the world. This will require two posts, as my friends each deserve a post dedicated to them and this topic deserves the additional depth.
Fred came to Zappos from Nordstrom. He was a high flying senior buyer on his way to reaching legendary status there. We called him up in the very early days of Zappos and convinced him to join the little online shoe startup that could. Ever since then Fred has had no title. He’s simply Fred. Not Fred Flinstone, Right Said Fred, Fred Rogers, Freddy Cougar, Freddie Mercury, etc. Simply, Fred.
The best example I can provide about why not having titles is better than having them is a recent night out with Fred. Normally we’d hit up a bar downtown (that one of us happens to own), but on this particular night Fred was feeling frisky. We hopped into one of the many Teslas I now find in my possession and drove to the Cosmo to hit up the Chandelier. It’s at this point of the story where I need to state a well known fact about Fred. He’s often mistaken for Nicolas Cage.
It gets annoying when people come up to us, ignore me completely, and go up to Fred and say, “O! M! G! I loved you in The Wicker Man! You’re the BESSSSST!!!!” Fred plays it cool and occasionally signs an autograph depending on the age, gender, and hotness factor of the adoring fan. Meanwhile, I down a shot of jungle juice and we go about business as usual.
Anyway, we’re at the Chandelier. It’s a little different crowd than the bars downtown and Fred is bored. I can see it as he fidgets with an olive on a toothpick. He flicks the olive half way around the world and then says to me, “Leaving Las Vegas.” He has my full attention and before I can intervene, Fred is ordering up half a dozen Black Russians. I know what this means. Fred is going full-on Nic Cage mode. This time around he’s going to become the Cage character who attempts to drink himself to death in Vegas with Elisabeth Shue by his side. This means any inhibition Fred had prior to this moment is gone. He has that crazed Nic Cage look in his eyes. Instead of pulling Fred away from the bar into a padded room, I back away slowly; ensuring I don’t take my eyes off my titleless friend, yet also making sure I don’t make direct eye contact. The bartender brings the drinks over and Fred immediately goes beast mode on them. The bartender is astonished, as is anyone within a three mile radius.
The exact details of the antics that occurred five minutes after the Black Russians kicked into hyper drive aren’t important. Insults were hurled, women were frisked, glasses were smashed, tables were turned, fists were thrown. It all ended when Fred leaped over the bar to the liquor stash like a jaguar to a gazelle. He grabbed an unopened bottle of Macallan and leaped back over the counter like Walter Payton with the bottle of Macallan acting as Fred’s prized football, tucked snugly in his right arm. Fred yelled at an older Asian gentleman, “Come on Tony! Let’s get the hell out of here!” The old man was being dragged by Fred through a crowd of people who were busy doing what any person in this current age does – holding a phone out in hopes of catching madman Nic in a TMZ worthy moment. I sprinted through the gathering sea of bystanders, caught up to the old man and exchanged his hand for mine in Fred’s Incredible Hulk like grip. We made a mad dash through the casino, to the parking deck, into the Tesla and on our way to anywhere fast. I eventually got Fred home and crashed at his place while the dust settled.
At this point, it’s fair to wonder why you haven’t seen even a mention of this chain of events in the media up until this point. And that brings me back to titles. You see, Fred left his calling card all over the Chandelier that night.
No one could figure out if it was Nic Cage posing as a mysterious Zappos employee or Nic Cage being Nic Cage. One thing was for sure, it wasn’t a Zappos C-level team member, because that (stunning, new teal) business card would have a proper title on it. Nic’s people freaked out like they normally do on the occasions Fred pulls one of these stunts. Word on the Strip is they paid witnesses off with lifetime movie passes to all future flicks starring Cage. That’s a lot of movies.
And just like that…No titles, no problems.