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Mark Pincus’s Clowns Are Still Haunting Zynga


Around this week last year, more than a half-dozen clowns invaded Zynga headquarters in San Francisco, and began terrorizing some of its employees. This wasn’t research for some carnival game the company was working on; no, a herd of clowns—in full makeup, red- and green-haired, the ones who haunt children’s dreams—had swarmed the social-game developer’s offices, and, by some accounts, made employee lives miserable, for days on end.

"He means well, but just doesn’t realize the downstream effects of his decisions."
Another former developer lead agrees with the assessment. “It’s almost a mechanistic thing like, ‘Morale is low, so let’s do something that makes people happy.’ 
It was very typical of Zynga to address the symptoms rather than the root causes.”


Here are some of the managerial lessons learned from that episode.
[Illustrations by Joel Arbaje]

Mark Pincus’s Clowns Are Still Haunting Zynga

Around this week last year, more than a half-dozen clowns invaded Zynga headquarters in San Francisco, and began terrorizing some of its employees. This wasn’t research for some carnival game the company was working on; no, a herd of clowns—in full makeup, red- and green-haired, the ones who haunt children’s dreams—had swarmed the social-game developer’s offices, and, by some accounts, made employee lives miserable, for days on end.

"He means well, but just doesn’t realize the downstream effects of his decisions."

Another former developer lead agrees with the assessment. “It’s almost a mechanistic thing like, ‘Morale is low, so let’s do something that makes people happy.’

It was very typical of Zynga to address the symptoms rather than the root causes.”

Here are some of the managerial lessons learned from that episode.

[Illustrations by Joel Arbaje]

Photo Issue 2011: Mark Pincus, Zynga’s founder and CEO, leads visitors through the San Francisco company’s colorful, dog-friendly Potrero Hill headquarters at a brisk trot, showing off the huddles of engineers and designers who self-assemble into the “studios” that run Zynga’s insanely popular online games. "Most Innovative Companies: Zynga"  (March 2011) Photo By: Art Streiber

Photo Issue 2011: Mark Pincus, Zynga’s founder and CEO, leads visitors through the San Francisco company’s colorful, dog-friendly Potrero Hill headquarters at a brisk trot, showing off the huddles of engineers and designers who self-assemble into the “studios” that run Zynga’s insanely popular online games.

"Most Innovative Companies: Zynga"
(March 2011)

Photo By: Art Streiber