If Only We Were Bigger (I mean, Smaller)
This week I've made presentations to some very different audiences. One group was made up of managers at really huge companies, some of whom have 100,000 employees or more. I love it when they talk about "small" companies with 1,000 staff. The second group were association executives, some of whom work in regionally focused associations, so in that context a "very large" organization might have 40 or 50 staff people.
In both cases, I was talking about organizational culture. I gave examples from companies that are doing amazing things, including big retail companies like Zappos, small software companies like Menlo Innovations, and even some small nonprofit associations like Fitness Australia.
Some of the people in both audiences ended up with similar reactions: that won't work here. We can't be nimble like those small organizations. We don't have the resources to push change like those big companies. Our Board wouldn't let us do those things. We're too big to get access to the leaders who need to drive this change.
I know change is hard work--particularly culture change. And having an example from an external company (of any size) is always less than satisfying, because in the end it's them, not you. But I think we need to let go--even just a little bit--of our assumptions that we should learn primarily from organizations that are like ours. If that were true, innovation would happen a lot faster. By looking to learn only from the people who are like us, we actually end up with solutions that (amazingly) look a lot like what we already have.