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Laszlo Bock, Google’s work guru, starts new company that may be a ‘LinkedIn killer’

Laszlo Bock is the innovative man behind Google’s company culture of free meals and shuttle buses. Now he’s planning something new.

As Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations, Bock made the company’s culture more cooperative and wrote a bestselling book about how, titled Work Rules!

After Bock announced he was leaving Google in 2016, reports of his new startup emerged. In an email to family and friends, he said his new pursuit would be built around the principle that “every job can have meaning, that if you give people freedom they will amaze you, that applied science (which I dubbed ‘people analytics’ a decade back) can illuminate the truth about what really makes people happy and productive.”

On Monday, Bock elaborated what that meant in his first public announcement that he was starting a new company called humu to “make work better.”

Citing U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, Bock said he was alarmed to find out we spend eight times as much time working as we do caring for others. Worse for Bock was finding out that two-thirds of Americans only see their work as “just a job.”

He wants to change that. He believes “work should be better than that. It needs to be better than that. If we’re devoting most of our lives to work, that experience should be meaningful, impactful, productive.”

Work Rules

This is not the first time Bock has talked about making work meaningful.

In fact, improving the culture of work was the thesis to his bestselling book. He used Google as a positive case study on how leaders can make work meaningful for their employees through three principles: “finding a compelling mission, being transparent, and giving their people a voice.”

The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a of the animal work world

Making work better sounds great, we can all agree, but there’s not much detail on how humu is planning to do this.

Is humu going to be a LinkedIn jobs board site, or the Goop lifestyle publication of the workforce, or a Lean-In circle for job seekers and advisers to share wisdom and talk shop, or a combination of all of the above?

All we have are mysterious clues from Bock himself.

When a person on Twitter noted that “somebody has to be building a LinkedIn killer,” Bock replied archly, “Yes…..someone.”

Humu’s website is currently sparse. There’s only the caption, “making work better through science, machine learning, and a little bit of love” with a photo of a fish.

A reverse Google image search tell us this fish is a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (pronounced who-moo-who-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-ah-pooah-ah), the State Fish of Hawaii.

Ok, now the name of the company makes more sense as way to shorten that fish’s name — but what does a reef triggerfish have to do with work?

We took a look at the fish’s characteristics for clues, and it does sound like someone we might have worked with. This reef triggerfish has a pretty face and razor-sharp teeth. It’s known for its aggressive, solitary nature. Its color is most vivid when it is healthy and feels unthreatened.

Is Bock telling us that we’re all lonely, competitive fish trying to find environments where our coats can shine?

Ladders has reached out to Bock and his humu co-founder Wayne Crosby to find out more about humu’s mission, so we can stop projecting work anxieties onto a Hawaiian fish. We will update when we get a response.