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On Pioneers, Settlers, Town Planners and Theft - Simon Wardley

The concept of Pioneers, Settlers, and Town Planners is something that I share with many people in thinking about their organizations. I learned it from Simon Wardley @swardley in the linked article, and have been sharing it ever since.

I find it a really useful way to think about the role of people within an organization, and what a person is best suited for. I am a Pioneer-to-Settler kind of guy.

Simon has written about the concept much earlier than the linked 2015 post (circa 2005 - 2006), including this article where he sources it back to Robert X. Cringely’s book, where it is called Commandos, Infantry, and Police:

And one more with all the mapping and diagrams laid out:

Jeff Atwood aka Coding Horror / Stack Overflow / Discourse wrote about that way back in 2004:

As I was driving home, I found myself thinking about a favorite section of the book Accidental Empires, by longtime computer journalist Robert X. Cringely. Originally published in 1993, it’s getting a little long in the tooth, but it still contains a lot of great insights about the personalities that drove innovation in silicon valley – from a guy who personally knew many of the players.

In the chapter “On The Beach”, Cringely talks about the three distinct groups of people that define the lifetime of a company: Commandos, Infantry, and Police:

In your estimation, where did Steve Jobs fall on this spectrum?

Good question! I don’t know that swardley ever applied this framework to CEOs / founders.

I think that Steve Jobs had to integrate thinking across those concepts and constantly cycle back to pioneer mode to be able to both scale businesses globally as well as come up with the thing that would disrupt that scaling business.

I think Apple as a company truly understands the underlying framework of different areas going from bespoke/custom to commodity over 5 - 10 year cycles.

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