Kayfabe

How much of the world of business is the suit-and-tie equivalent of bulky, spray-tanned grown-ass men doing athletic kayfabe while wearing tights?

Anytime we consider creating something for others to buy into, we need — like the AI ethicists — to consider the routes that would lead to a world where our creation has run amok. We need to imagine that we pushed things 5% too far once, got an amazing reaction from our audience, pushed things 10% then 25% too far and are now inhabiting and seeking to sustain a world of more-or-less unhinged kayfabe. We are shackled by kayfabe handcuffs of our own creation.

Is a “kayfabe ratchet” the best explanation for Gary Vaynerchuk?

I’m fundamentally suspicious of kayfabe — I see it as a force that draws us away from truth and self-respect.

But there might be a positive side to kayfabe. It is a sort of ticket to a place we do want to spend some time. It does give us permission to inhabit the imaginary place where good and evil manifest as humanoid titans giving voice and fist to our primal feelings and desires. It’s morality play and fight to the death in the arena, without the death. (If you think I’m speaking only about professional wrestling here, you haven’t spent much time in startup or crpyto Twitter. 🙂 )

Can business-kayfabe do the same, maybe even elevate us somehow? Or does business-kayfabe inevitably arc towards the out-of-touch meaningless company values poster that no actual employee or manager thinks extends beyond the paper it’s printed on?

Disney and WWE have, at their center, the same mission: the creation of a delightful, unconstrained world of fantasy. I think many businesses do as well: a world where our culture (our kayfabe, really) could possibly eat a halfway decent strategy for breakfast[1]; a world where the inspirational posters on our office walls matter and aren’t visually /dev/nulled like so many banner ads; a world where we’re doing something other than monetizing some early lucky breaks.

What’s at the center of a brand colosseum should be real. It can be real. But I do think that sometimes it will be more kayfabe than real if we aren’t thoughtful and courageous.

-P


Notes:

1: If culture supposedly eats strategy for breakfast, and if 8% of employees are actively engaged and 19% are actively disengaged (UK numbers, but still…), maybe a strategy that makes the best use of a disengaged employee pool would eat culture for breakfast?

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