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I work in a big tech company which has lots of money and it spends them on experimental startup-like projects to get an edge over other startups doing innovation in this space.

Just like startups having 5% success rate, these projects also have 95% failure rate. I feel like this project is going to be one of the 95% that fail, but nobody on my team speak out about this. I feel like they are pretending that all is well because they need money for rent.

I feel guilty wasting companies money on this project, but I need money for rent too, so I keep quiet. Even if I choose to speak up I am not sure what to say. Something like "Hey team, including the boss, I feel like we are wasting company money, because this project doesn't go anywhere, which is actually what is expected, because 95% of startups fail, and this project is like a startup. Can we ask higher ups to give us another experimental project to work on or something?"

I'm torn between continuing this acting game and waiting for the higher ups of the company to catch up to this scam or either speaking up about it to my team or finding a new job. Looking back in my work experience I've realized that this scam was happening in my previous jobs, but I didn't notice it. Is there a way to avoid such scam jobs/teams?

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    Hi John, are you the manager of this team, responsible for managing timeframes? If the answer is no, it's not your responsibility to keep the team on track. – Jane S Jan 10 at 2:25
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    @Jane no, not boss. So, I guess I'll coast while looking for another job. – John Jan 10 at 2:42
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    There is no reason why you can't speak to your boss in private about it; you might find that they have everything in hand already. – Jane S Jan 10 at 2:55
  • Why look for another job? – Mawg Jan 10 at 8:00
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    Before "startups" such things were called R&D departments. Startups offer better taxable options for company. Your job is to think and speak about ways to not become that 95%. Or what from your project can be used/sell. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 10 at 10:37
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[...] I feel like this project is going to be one of the 95% that fail[...]

Find the reason why and suggest a better approach. (don't whine about how you feel "this is not working")

[...]I feel guilty wasting companies money on this project[...]

Unless you're the project manager or on the board of directors, this is NOT YOUR DECISION, NOR RESPONSIBILITY.

[...] waiting for the higher ups of the company to catch up to this scam[...]

It's not a scam, it's a necessity.

That's how business ideas are tested and developed into a success or proven to be dead ends.

[...]Is there a way to avoid such scam jobs/teams?[...]

Why don't you see them for what they really are?

Opportunities for you to be creatively and practically involved in creation of cutting edge technology and new products / services in addition to the excellent ways for you to learn and grow experience.

  • DB, have you ever (1) spent a year of your life (2) got a huge amount of money (3) did fascinating/challenging/first-time-existing tech for the year but (4) the project or technology utterly flopped and is now non-existent? I don't think one can really speak to this question unless it has happened to one. – Fattie Jan 10 at 13:00
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    @Fattie I actually have,in a way.For a large company we set-up an in-house department developing and using new technology.In the end corporate felt it was too expensive to maintain the department the way it was planned,churning out product in the quality and quantity they deemed profitable.Sad to see all wasted.It was a blast nonetheles.And oh was the pay good.Though I don't think one needs to have experienced it to answer here.I understand frustration too.I've got colleagues who worked for 4-10 years on one project or IP and they get sometimes rejected due to "lack of diverse experience".smh – DigitalBlade969 Jan 10 at 13:26
  • It's certainly a huge issue if "what you do for a living" is cutting edge crap. Three years, three projects, might go by with "nothing in the app store" or "no product on the shelves" or "no game being played" - or whatever your field is. – Fattie Jan 10 at 13:31
  • @Fattie amen to that. In my case I can't even put it anywhere thanks to an NDA prohibiting mentioning of all the key aspects and words...hence the giant paycheck (; mind you, the professionals in any business do know and understand that the cutting edge is also at a steep cliff where one side descends into oblivion.it is always nicer to have something to show though... – DigitalBlade969 Jan 10 at 13:59
  • "In my case I can't even put it anywhere thanks to an NDA ........" SO correct. Another huge problem. "it is always nicer to have something to show tho" moreover, just for your average Joe making "apps". the first thing, obviously, someone asks is "well what do you have in the app store"? Your answer hjas to be something like "Well ! For the last 19 months I made this absolutely incredible app - here look at the code! please look at it! - but it was a total flop commercially so it's not in the app store" unhappiness! – Fattie Jan 10 at 14:01
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Your duty is to try, with your team, to push your project into the 5% which succeed. If you think something needs to change to do that, figure out what needs doing and present a plan to your boss.

However, your ideas may not completely align with the strategic view of the project. Don't be disheartened if some of your suggestions are knocked back. Just become more determined to succeed.

There's a huge number of failed projects throughout history that big companies have put resources into before dropping the project - Google and Microsoft, and even Apple, probably have some of the biggest whoppers. It's not that companies launch projects that are intended to fail - it's just that some don't stick or the times move on. That's not to say that time is wasted - lessons are learned, technologies are developed, and this knowledge and the team members who build it are transferred into other projects, helping them to become more successful.

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    "Your duty is to try, with your team, to push your project into the 5% which succeed." Nah, if the commercial idea is simply not a successful idea, it does not matter how well it is executed. – Fattie Jan 10 at 13:44
  • Well, let me clarify: sure, obviously that is your "duty". i.e., you are being paid well to make some technology, X, work, so that is obviously what you do for the money. the issue though is how this affects your career when the year is finished and (A) the technology is absolutely fabulous but (B) the product, library, game, startup, engine or whatever is ............ a total flop and non-existent. – Fattie Jan 10 at 13:48
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You are making many assumptions and presumptions.

It is not your job to determine whether company resources are allocated properly or not. You need to be more focused on your job and less on the company's executive level steering.

95% failure rate is pretty much the standard for startups, skunkworks, drug research, and pretty much every innovation.

Thomas Edison, one of the most prolific inventors of all time failed most of the time.

You need to re-frame your thinking. If your company is any good, they have a "lesson's learned" phase at a project wrap-up. These lessons learned are added to the company's knowledge. Don't underestimate the value of failure to a company, or yourself.

If your company is happy with a 5% success rate, then there's no problem.

I'm torn between continuing this acting game and waiting for the higher ups of the company to catch up to this scam or either speaking up about it to my team or finding a new job.

  1. It's not a scam, it's research, development, and testing
  2. The higher ups know what's going on already and they know it's not a scam.

We learn by failure, and it's good for us. I was on a year-long project that ended in failure.... BUT:

  • We developed new methodologies and techniques that we have used on subsequent projects
  • The business customer realized what he needed and found better solutions.
  • We archived the code and are using most of it in other projects.

Just because something fails does not mean it's a waste of time.

  • "Just because something fails does not mean it's a waste of time." A straightforward example is, say you're in the world of apps: you spend a year on a startup app which is never launched. You are then unable to point to "the app in the app store" which is death for app folks. – Fattie Jan 10 at 18:05
  • @Fattie you may not have the proof of a work in production, but you have the skill and experience nonetheless. – Retired Codger Jan 10 at 18:11
  • @Fattie you can guess at as many things as you like. Naive? Pollyanna? That's new. I usually get called a jaded, cynical old ..... well, that last word won't pass the "be nice" test. – Retired Codger Jan 10 at 21:08

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