Downsizing in a good way
March 2nd, 2009
A few decades ago, I worked at a very large electronics company. A good company, with good benefits and pay. My parents and relatives were proud. I was almost immediately distraught — stuck in a job with little chance of advancement, working for a boss who was miserable and wanted to share his plight with others.
In those times, you didn’t leave a company like this one. But, my mental survival almost depended on it. I got out and went to work for a little-known association, where I was given a huge amount of responsibility. I learned more than I ever had in my life. I was happy.
One of the things that is happening as a result of the recession is that people are realizing that multinational conglomerates are not the future. We’ve sacrificed too much to accommodate them. The future lies in small- to medium-sized companies with a big distribution arm enabled by digital technologies. Ping Fu of Geomagic calls this digitally enabled cottage industry.
One of the hopes we can cling to as we emerge from this recession is that the big dinosaurs will be replaced by small, agile companies that are driven by passion. Companies that make their employees their first priority, followed by their customers. Profits will be critical, but they will not be obscene. There will be a proliferation of what Bo Burlingham calls Small Giants.
I end with a hunch that is not an unhappy one. Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone’s garage, somebody’s kitchen, as it did in the case of Messrs. Jobs and Wozniak. The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation. No one trusts big anymore. In the future everything will be local. That’s where the magic will be. And no amount of pessimism will stop it once it starts.