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Herding Cats

A guide to working with and herding cats

Working with cats can be the most frustrating experience of all, because they have adhd, does not like instructions, do not know what they want, refuse to listen to your valuable advice and spend half the time thinking about life instead of working on your important agenda.

But cats are also really fun, can solve really hard problems, and perfect for ambigious situations.

Thankfully, I am here, and I am a cat. So here’s your all in one guide to working with cats, including me.

Cats Rules:

  1. Unlike dogs, cats are intrinsically motivated. If you need to explicitly motivate them with high level motivational bullshit, it’s a lost cause.

  2. Nothing zaps the souls of cats more than being asked to be “productive”, “goal oriented” or “kpi driven”. Fuck that.

  3. In contrast, nothing fills the soul of cats more than curiousity, safety and fun.

  4. Make exploring curiousity, having a safe space to be themselves and having fun the absolute top priorities, yes, even over KPIs.

  5. Of course, even though cats hate being told what to do, they need to be focused too, and they deep down want to be focused (sometimes very deep)

  6. We have been deeply trained since very young to train focus using whips and rules and rewards, but cats can only be focused with catnips and lasers and insects.

  7. That means dogs are exponentially more straightforward to manage and motivate and align, but its exponentially more rewarding if you can get a groups of cats into alignment, cohesion and motivation.

  8. Re(3), these are also the most misused ideas in dog based institutions and corporations, like how every governemnt and big company have absolutely useless innovation arms.

  9. The most important cat herding skills center around letting them play and roam and be individuals while giving them
  10. After massive rounds of scientific research, the optimum way to give cats tough feedback is via CAT SMACKS.

  11. Everything else is 99.9% less effective in getting the message across or risk the manifestation of the often incurable grumpy cat syndrome.

  12. Cats dont know what they want, but they feel really really bad about that, so they will always give u some bullshit if you ask them what they want.

  13. Then when you try to give them what they say they want or push them towards what they said they want, you will be in a hell hole of pain because cats hate hate hate feeling being pushed into things they do not want.

  14. The key to understanding this apparent contradiction is very simple - cats do not know what they want.

  15. If a cat know what they want, they are already doing it. If they are not doing it, they are wrong about what they want, regardless what they might say.

  16. At this point, an earnest cat herder might sit up and protest. “If they dont know what they want, and i cannot tell them what they want, and they do not actually want what they say they want, what can we do then to help then????”

  17. And you will be exactly right! So there is only one right answer here - do not try to help cats with things like goals and objectives and purpose.

  18. Instead, just extend a paw and let them know you will always be around if they need a fellow paw to hold on to. Give them lots of ideas and inspirations without any expectation that they might adopt it or not. Suggest things to collaborate on together, and be happy regardless the outcome.

  19. But that’s so fuzzy you say, how the hell am i supposed to produce results and ship on time?

  20. And here’s the next very difficult worldview our earnest cat herder will do well to keep in mind - do not prioritize results or schedule when it comes to cats. If you want to do that, set up a dog centric system with canine focused processes and wolf like hierarchies.

  21. You gonna trust that as uncertain as it might be, good cats will get it done. It’s hard to have faith when the day to day looks like this, but have faith anyway.

  22. Good cats are intrinsically motivated, but that motivation can be very very very intrinsic. If so, digging it out could take a very long time, so prospective cat herders need to be prepared for a very long path.

  23. The core art of cat teamwork is NOT in figuring out roles and responsibilities (the core organizing principle for dogs), but rather figuring out what is fun and painful for individual cats.

  24. The perfect cat teamwork is when anything a cat finds painful, a different cat finds fun. And if there is something that no cat finds fun, try your best to not do it at all. But if it absolutely have to be fun, make it fun to do it together as a collective proud effort.

  25. But even that collective proud effort should be used carefully, cats are fundamentally hard to coordinate and can have very strong adverse effects if they feel like the coordination is un-neccessary.

  26. Cats are proud creatures who hate saying “i don’t know”. But a cat comfortable with meowing “i dont know” in supportive space is probably the most productive thing that can ever happen - for it creates a extremely healthy cascade of fellow “i dont knows” - solving the hardest problem in startups and new product development - the ambiguity problem.

  27. You cannot project what you want onto cats or personify cats or expect the cats to appreciate you.

  28. Avoid large group meetings at all cost, since those build the illusion of alignment, but are absolutely useless at uncovering the core uncertainties and issues people have.

  29. In contrast, informal one on ones are terrific!

More will come, whenever the catspirations hits!