The motivation behind Tempus Dictum, Inc.

Written by  on December 6, 2007

The techdirt entry:  Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital gave me a great opportunity for an appropriate first post to the Tempus Dictum (TDI) web log. The entry talks about how non-compete agreements, limiting the extent to which employees can work for their employers’ competitors, dampen the collective innovation of a geographical region or legal jurisdiction. This seems rather obvious; but the nonintuitive conclusion is that non-compete agreements hurt each employer in the long-run because it means each employer, like all the others in the jurisdiction, cannot exploit the unused resources of its competitors.

In other words, every organization is, by definition and good reason, a bureaucracy. And in every bureaucracy, there are some individuals who cannot realize their full potential because their methods or ideas are incommensurate with the infrastructure (a.k.a. mis-fits). In those cases, the bureaucracy is not only dampening the individual, it is the source of inertia to the evolution of the organization.  It’s often best to set the individual free so that they might develop their ideas into a usable invention that more readily will fit into the bureaucracy.  I.e. set the misfit free and be ready to use their  invention to good effect.

Typically, setting the individual free means they quit and either go to work for another organization, usually in the same domain, or they start their own venture. [1] And this is where non-compete agreements come in.

With this background, it is easier to understand the foundations of TDI. Ostensibly, TDI is a custom software contracting firm. We take clients’ needs and codify solutions into software. But, this is just the banal projection of what TDI really is. What we really are is a collection of (habitual) misfits who love to work on interesting and difficult problems, regardless of where those problems arise. When one or more solutions to a problem percolates up and shows itself to be worthy of a new bureaucracy, one of us will “jump ship” and help start a new venture around that solution. Then, because we’re focussed on interesting and difficult problems, when that new venture stabilizes (or … [ahem] … dies), we hop back aboard TDI to continue the hunt.

At least that’s the vision, anyway. Ideally, by articulating such a structure and providing a supportive infrastructure for misfits, we not only facilitate our own development as the collective TDI and the individuals within, but we facilitate the creativity and progression of the groups [2] with which we engage.

[1] Intelligent organizations are finding many ways to patronize such misfits without cutting the ties entirely. I don’t really give career advice; but were I to give such advice, it would consist solely of “Don’t work for an organization that’s obviously dumber than you are.”

[2] Although the techdirt article talks specifically about the legal and regional application of non-competes, it seems clear to me that the conclusions would extrapolate to any group or domain wherein a standard set of [im|ex]plicit rules obtain, regardless of geographical proximity or legal jurisdiction. Groups that enforce within-group non-compete rules will be less innovative than groups that do not enforce such rules.


Written by  on December 4, 2007

Testing, testing, 1 … 2 … 3.  Is this thing on?

Messier 74