Eileen Murray, the co-chief executive officer of Bridgewater Associates, spoke at a hedge fund conference this week, and reiterated that what makes Bridgewater so successful is:
“Bridgewater Associates has been so successful, year after year, Murray said, because of its unique and intense culture.
Bridgewater’s ethos of “radical transparency” involves videotaping or tape-recording every conversation for review later, constant evaluations of peers across what elsewhere would be called a hierarchy in its “dot system” which aggregates into “baseball cards,” portraits of each employee which indicate that person’s strengths or weaknesses. That makes it hard to fly below the radar with mediocre performance and low accountability. And, given the volume of dots, the odds that your portrait is accurate are pretty high, Murray said.
“It’s kind of a family atmosphere,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but for me, my family tells me things I don’t want to hear. But they do it out of a sense of love and kindness…Some people think [the culture] sounds harsh and stressful. I think it’s very kind.”
The author of this article is however sceptical that this sort of self-obsession is actually useful. His scepticism is however laced with grudging admiration that maybe this degree of self-obsession is what the rest of us need if we want to be as successful as Bridgewater:
“Clearly some hedge-fund-like outputs are being produced, somehow, by someone. But from the outside, from what you read in the press and hear from its public statements, Bridgewater’s radical transparency seems to be a perfectly closed system, always and only about itself, never about investing.
Don’t get me wrong: That’s really cool! I mean it would be a lot less cool if they didn’t make any money, but they do, and the fact that they seem to make a lot of money mostly by sitting around and gossiping about each other is weirdly inspiring. It is an odd financial form of the paradox of hedonism, or rather an inversion of it: You might naively think something like “if we get together a team of smart people who all have a single-minded focus on making good investment decisions, then the interpersonal dynamics and managerial techniques will take care of themselves.” Many hedge funds — and tech startups for that matter — more or less consciously take exactly that approach, with mixed results. But in fact, at Bridgewater, it is precisely the opposite: If you get together a team of smart people who are willing to spend 100 percent of their time doing weird interpersonal exercises and subjecting themselves to managerial experiments, somehow they will make good investment decisions as a byproduct.
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