Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Defying (organizational) gravity

Generally speaking, the more people that get added to a company, the harder it is to increase productivity. Put another way, as you add people there are diminishing returns to productivity. This feels like a law of physics, like it was gravity or something.

One of my favorite recent thought experiments is imagining what an organization would have to do to get increasing returns to productivity as company size increases instead.

How insanely different would that be? People would have to spend so much more of their energy improving and helping each other. And, there would have to be so much emphasis on customers and what they find valuable.

The biggest difference would have to be management. Individuals would have to have tremendously more autonomy to make decisions faster, which would probably require much up-front work to vividly articulate a vision that everyone understood well enough to be an agent of.

It would take recruitment that asks not what person fills the spec needed for a job, but rather what person does a job in a way that makes everybody better.

Literally everything would have to be different.  

To be clear, this is all within the realm of possibility, to at least try. But it requires not running companies the way we’ve always ran them, because we’ve always run them that way. It requires thinking of companies differently than org charts and hierarchies.

The traditional way of thinking about companies and management is so ingrained it seems impossible to do have anything different.

Defying gravity seems impossible until you do it.