Cyber & Technology

Policymakers are from Mars, Tech Company Engineers are from Venus

By Amy Zegart
Monday, June 6, 2016, 9:54 AM
This week, Herb Lin and I are giving a joint talk about the suit-hoodie divide, and whether relations between Washington and Silicon Valley are getting worse (I think the answer is yes). Part of the problem stems from conflicting interests and serious differences of opinion about policy. But a large part of the problem—and perhaps the hardest and most hidden part—stems from cultural differences. I don't want to overstate here. Culture is squishy. It's hard to see, hard to measure, hard to articulate, hard to change. And it often varies dramatically even within a single organization (just ask a CIA analyst about the culture in the CIA's clandestine service). But I'm struck by the yawning cultural divide between policymakers in Washington and engineers in Silicon Valley tech companies. The gap is more fundamental than "oh, those crazy kids have pingpong tables and volleyball courts at their headquarters." These cultural differences include radically different world views about the role of government, theories of change, and what makes a personal career meaningful.
I've laid them out in a chart: