Aaron Swartz

Competing in Modern Business: Learning from the Hackers and Revolutionaries

Competing in Modern Business: Learning from the Hackers and Revolutionaries

The average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has declined from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today, and we can assume that a large part of this decline can be attributed to technological innovation outpacing corporate agility. Corporations that are designed for the industrial age, where you can turn a profit doing one (or a few) thing(s) relatively well, are having difficulty adjusting to the rapidly changing technological landscape.

So, how do we promote corporate agility?
 

Google made waves in the modern world of business by pioneering (or, probably more accurately, perfecting and publicizing) this small-team method of management.  By creating multiple small teams, on which a single person may reside in different capacities, you create a non traditional management hierarchy and a more robust meritocracy.  Plus, you have the added benefit of cutting back on mob mentality and bureaucracy, while also boosting your response time.

In hindsight, this should have been obvious to companies the world over.  Smaller teams means less effort for more coordination, more accountability and transparency, and less mob mentality taking over. The evidence and historic precedence is there to support small team leadership, the only question is, how am I - a middle manager on the Island of Obscure Project Management - going to implement these philosophies into my every day life?  So, I'm going to close with three concrete and actionable steps you can take to start your career, if not your company, down a more productive path:

  1. Break up large groups whenever possible.  If you have a team of fifteen people working on a project, focus on creating smaller group meetings based on specific specialties before holding a larger group meeting.  For example, if you're implementing a new software package, host a small group meeting with the application developers and a separate meeting with the system analysts, before hosting a town hall meeting.
  2. Diversify your (employees') skills.  No one (not you or your employees) are mindless drones capable of only doing one thing repeatedly.  Stretch yourself and your employees by placing them in tangential roles on multiple projects.
  3. Promote employee buy-in. Make sure that your projects are not being dominated by one or two self-assured individuals; ensure that all team members feel comfortable contributing and, most importantly, feel that their contributions are valued by the other members of the team.