Put down the Malcolm Gladwell

Matthew Reeves takes on the "growth hackers"

A friend recently asked me to look over an advertisement for a role at a startup, and the realisation clattered into my skull that the world is in worse shape than even the most fervent climate change scientists believe.

The title of the job it was advertising was more wince-inducing than a lemon and nettle salad: "Growth Hacker".

If you've come across this word, it's probably time to put down the Malcolm Gladwell and stop following TED on Pinterest.

If you haven't, growth hacking is mutual onanism (look it up) within a community of privileged youths who are aiming to see their company expand exponentially and to be hailed as the next business prodigies.

It's steeped in the idea that all big companies are broken, and everything they do is just a repetition of the past with slight modifications. The dusty, archeological, "You're flitting away with a toothbrush at some bones in a carpark, Grandad" past.

Growth hackers look for "holes in the matrix" and get things done at all costs, assessing what "resonates best" and "striving forth" on that basis. Yes, it's basically just about looking at what happened in the past and repeating it with slight modifications, but it all happens at hackathons around student-discount funded MacBook Airs so it's, like, totally better than what those big, broken companies do.

Growth hackers ask each other: "What was the first tweet you sent when you heard Steve Jobs had died?". Growth hackers spend 10,000 hours reading business books and are then expert in...err, business books.

Growth hackers are the type of people who believe a small fib on a CV will be all forgotten when we see their marvellously laid out, Helvetica Neue Light-typefaced document. They're the kind of folks who add quirky lines to their "skills" section - in my book, today's "airpress coffee aficionado" is just tomorrow's wacky tie wearer.

So this is my message to growth hackers or wannabe growth hackers: if you really are "the best competing with the best" in business, have some way of proving it. Maybe start selling things as well as hacking them. Make sure you get some real experience.