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« What happens to privacy? | Main | Will they switch for cheaper? »

Entropy, bureaucracy and the fight for great

Here are some laws rarely broken:

As an organization succeeds, it gets bigger.

As it gets bigger, the average amount of passion and initiative of the organization goes down (more people gets you closer to averge, which is another word for mediocre).

More people requires more formal communication, simple instructions to ensure consistent execution. It gets more and more difficult to say, "use your best judgment" and be able to count on the outcome.

Larger still means more bureaucracy, more people who manage and push for comformity, as opposed to do something new.

Success brings with it the fear of blowing it. With more to lose, there's more pressure not to lose it.

Mix all these things together and you discover that going forward, each decision pushes the organization toward do-ability, reliability, risk-proofing and safety.

And, worst of all, like a game of telephone, there will be transcription errors, mistakes in interpreting instructions and general random noise. And most of the time, these mutations don't make things wonderful, they lead to breakage.

Even really good people, really well-intentioned people, then, end up in organizations that plod toward mediocre, interrupted by random errors and dropped balls.

This can be fixed. It can be addressed, but only by a never-ending fight for greatness.

Greatness can't be a policy, and it's hard to delegate to bureaucrats. But yes, greatness is something that people can work for, create an insurgency around and once in a while, actually achieve. It's a commitment, not an event.

It's not easy, which is why it's rare, but it's worth it.

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