A SAP whitepaper earlier this year claimed that the average business loses around $25,000 per employee because of communication barriers, whilst a McKinsey report claimed that a successful implementation of an enterprise social network could deliver productivity gains of 25%.
For my son’s fifth birthday, my wife and I bought him 10 pounds of LEGOs from eBay. It turns out, when kids move out of the house and leave behind a drawer full of LEGOs, some parents box them up, weigh them, and sell them. This works great for a 5-year-old with an imagination, but not if he or she wants to build a particular thing. LEGO is about imagination, but it is also about instructions and putting together sets around particular themes (space, Star Wars, etc.). Simply buying LEGOs by the pound doesn’t serve this purpose. The situation is the same with books or databases in a library. You need to invest in people who can organize these purchased (or more often these days, licensed) materials.
As a big believer in why LEGOs are a perfect metaphor for how our networked knowledge and combinatorial creativity work, I was especially moved by the above passage from R. David Lankes’s altogether excellent book-length essay on building better libraries for today’s complex world.
(In 1945, Vannevar Bush made a similar argument in his remarkably prescient essay on the future of information, predicting “a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record.”)
The marketing is something that most startups realize is important but can’t afford it. That’s where you get phrases like growth hacking. I worked in advertising but the best work we did wasn’t buying media, it was designing aspects of companies so they could market themselves. Growth hacking is a way to say the same thing. It’s building customer acquisition into the business.
The only way to grow really large is to build and control proprietary distribution channels. It’s a huge strategic imperative for startups reaching scale.
—Tom Tunguz “How To Grow Huge: Proprietary Distribution Channels”
For me, that means servant leadership. It’s really the only sane way to run an organization. See, the pointy-haired boss? Bill Lumbergh? He’s the default. He’s what you get if you don’t take management and leadership seriously and skeptically. He’s what you get when your managers are eager, rather than reluctant, to manage. And you can implement all the holacracy you want, but Lumbergh is always out there. A flat organization is a hundred-dollar bill laying on the sidewalk to these people. To a charismatic sociopath, or a good old-fashioned schemer, an organization without good servant leaders is like a field of wheat to a locust. Good management culture is your immune system against douchebags. (There, I said it.)
When I think about art and design, I think about the difference between push vs pull. Art is traditionally about pushing an idea or a message. Design is a pull practice. It’s about solving a dilemma, creating something that will change the way someone interacts with things.
Next Jump used to see a 40 percent turnover among their engineers, a number on par with the industry. With a greater focus on building their people, Next Jump now has a turnover rate of just 1 percent. It turns out, even when offered big titles and bigger salaries, people would rather work at a place in which they feel like they belong. People would rather feel safe among their colleagues, have the opportunity to grow and feel a part of something bigger than themselves than work in a place that simply makes them rich.
Schumpeterians distinguish between “replicative” entrepreneurs (who set up small businesses much like other small businesses) and “innovative” entrepreneurs (who upset and disorganise the existing way of doing things). They also distinguish between “small businesses” and “high-growth businesses” (most small businesses stay small). Both sorts have an important role in a successful economy. But they are nevertheless very different sorts of organisations.