Org Charts and Innovation Tokens

Kwindla Hultman Kramer
2 min readApr 21, 2023

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Pretty often, at Daily, we talk about spending “innovation tokens” or, relatedly, our general rule of thumb that whenever possible we want to “use boring technology.”

Both of these phrases come from a blog post by Dan McKinley that provides some really helpful language to use in talking about engineering decision making.

Very briefly, as a company, you only get a limited number of tokens you can spend on technology innovation. Save these precious tokens for the things that are core to your business. For everything that doesn’t give your company unique leverage use, well understood, good, but relatively boring technology.

I think the innovation token idea is a useful way of thinking about everything a company does not just core technology choices.

For example, a bunch of years ago, I spent some time trying to convince everyone that we should draw our org charts upside down from the way org charts are normally drawn. The little box in the org chart for a manager should be underneath the little boxes that represent the people on that manager’s team.

Now, I had some good reasons for this. I do think org charts are upside down. Good management, at least at a tech startup, is about supporting and unblocking your team, not telling people what to do.

Also, in engineering orgs, it’s very important to try to decouple people management from the general idea of promotions and recognition and responsibility.

But I never got much buy-in about drawing our org charts upside down. It was just too unfamiliar. Eventually, I realized I was spending precious time and political and social capital on this thing that was an uphill battle and probably wasn’t going to have the impact I wanted it to anyway.

I was spending one of our innovation tokens on the wrong thing.

I still think org charts are drawn the wrong way up.

But these days I let sleeping org charts lie.

Today’s music is “Long As You’re Living” from the 1959 album, “Tommy Turrentine.” This is a great record and it’s the only Tommy Turrentine record as a band leader. But what a band. Stanley Turrentine, Julian Priester, Horace Parlan, Bob Boswell, Max Roach.

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