Would your organization accomodate an outer-space organigram zap?

James Gardner has just been putting in his latest post the case for an increased ability by organizations to nurture disruptive innovations. I’m not sure I share James’ optimism, furthermore I don’t think that a renewed agile strategic process will do any difference in that regard.

This made me think of an intellectual experiment. What if we witnessed the appearance of alien ships equipped with a new arm aimed at our business organization? In the vein of a neutron bomb – that leaves intact the building but destroy any life forms within it – this weapon would be more lenient and able to keep the occupants, their brains and skills intact- to the exception of any recall of what was the former organigram and the functions attached to anyone.

My first question would be: what do you think would be the instant drop in capitalization of your company on the market place after such an attack? My second question would be: do you think it will ever be able to recover?

With that in mind, I believe that the market has shown an amazing capacity at creating this sort of organizational value by quickly assembling different skills readily available to build on an innovation. I see an extreme difficulty in reshaping most organizations beyond acceptable adjustments.

We can take the Google and Microsoft example as a yardstick. I think that , if we were to investigate the composition of the two employees population, we should find statiscally a very comparable pool of talents, age distribution and so one. Nevertheless, I think that Microsoft’s pecking order makes excessively unlikely that they will ever be able to compete with Google on their turf.

If you are still sceptical in the leeway that the market has and that organizations have not: Can you imagine an organization accepting to replace most of their 50-something senior management staff by 30-something guys? This is what the market is putting ex nihilo in place regularly. Whenever a 40-something has acceded by chance to the upper position of a venerable organization, he/she has never tried to rejunevate the executive populations and usually stay on the chair for the next 20 years aggravating the excutive age problem all along.

2 Responses to “Would your organization accomodate an outer-space organigram zap?”

  1. 1 jawgardner July 22, 2008 at 5:07 am

    Your point is a good one: large organisations are definitely less able to disrupt themselves presently than smaller ones. And I agree that the age disparity between a startup and an entrenched organisation is significant.

    But did you know that larger organisations tend to be more innovative than smaller (when you look at a basket of innovations over time)? Innovation scholars aren’t sure why, but it is certainly backed up by the literature on this topic.

    I am hoping that innovation as a discipline is at a tipping point presently.

    But I love your thought experiment here. It is very revealing, and highlights the difference between what happens in a startup and elsewhere.

    THanks for the link back to my post.

  2. 2 Frederic Baud July 22, 2008 at 8:19 am

    @jawgardner, I don’t dispute the quantity of innovations that organizations produce, but their nature. Organizations are formidable engine to create, refine and enhance more of the same thing. It can sometimes lead its employees to “think out of the box”, but it can not usually implement ideas too alien to its own idiosyncrasy. The market on the contrary has no boxes, the limit is the imagination of people and the ability to catalyse resources and create a new organization – that will of course be subject to the same fate.

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