Enough with the "hack"

Seriously, can we stop it with the life hacks, marketing hacks, startup hacks, diet hacks, code hacks, etc.

As a society, we're always looking for the shortcut. I get it, but when has a shortcut ever produced a lasting result that really mattered?

What really set me off about this was a question that was posed on Quora: What are the coolest startup culture hacks you've heard of?

You can read my answer here, but I've copy and pasted it in its entirety below. In summary, anything worth doing is worth doing right and while shortcuts might be worth taking, they're rarely long-lasting.

By definition, anything that takes planning and persistence isn't a hack. Anything that becomes part of a company's core identity can't be hacked. Company cultures can't be hacked. (And, would you REALLY want to work somewhere that hacked their company culture?)

Many of the previous answers aren't hacks as hacks are supposed to be easy to implement and is inferred as a "shortcut." As an example, Github's "flatness" isn't a hack. Running a flat organization is hard work.

Here's an example of how a seemingly simple hack could have disastrous consequences: unlimited vacation.

You set this new policy and everyone seems to like it on paper. HR loves it because now they don't have to pay out unused vacation. Employees are told "take as much as you need." A few are terrified of the seemingly negative consequence of people abusing it by going on vacation all the time.

This never happens.

At companies that implement it properly (which takes real work), you end up taking about as much vacation as you'd take if you had a standard vacation policy. It's just the "unlimited" aspect lets you be flexible about taking more during one period and much less than another. You stop worrying about the administration of your vacation time.

At companies that "hack" this, you end up taking much less. The CEO is a workaholic. He/she never goes on vacation. Every time someone takes one, there seems to be a general annoyance that that person isn't in the office. After a while, that annoyance turns into an unspoken understanding that vacation isn't looked upon favorably. People get burnt out. People leave.

So, if you care about your company, you won't "hack" its culture. At best case, you'll waste your time. At worst case, you'll destroy your company.