Hacking the system
These days everyone has their own take on what `hacking’ is all about. Paul Graham’s seminal essay `Hackers and Painters‘ tries to pin it down, as does Eric Raymond’s `How to Become a Hacker‘. I have even taken a crack at figuring out what it means to me. More recently, Paul Buchheit of Gmail fame posted some thoughts on his blog that I found interesting. The post starts out echoing some ideas on computer and reality hacking that aren’t completely unique, but the following passage I thought was especially interesting:
Important new businesses are usually some kind of hack. The established businesses think they understand the system and have setup rules to guard their profits and prevent real competition. New businesses must find a gap in the rules — something that the established powers either don’t see, or don’t perceive as important. That was certainly the case with Google: the existing search engines (which thought of themselves as portals) believed that search quality wasn’t very important (regular people can’t tell the difference), and that search wasn’t very valuable anyway, since it sends people away from your site. Google’s success came in large part from recognizing that others were wrong on both points.
Thinking about business opportunities in the context of reality hacks offers new insight into why disruptive innovation can be so effective at shaking up entrenched markets.