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Name: Tyler
Location: Mountain View, California, United States

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Company ToDo: Something New

Let’s imagine: tomorrow your employer dissolves. All corporate assets are split evenly among all employees, and everyone is told to work for themself, or in a group of former co-workers. Would the innovation in your sector get better or worse?

Let’s call this hypothetical post-employer innovation your company’s creative baseline.

A lot of companies follow goals that look like this: make money by solving problems we can get paid to solve. Often, they think this way because it’s just a job to most employees -- including executives.

Without any serious experience or business degrees to justify my claims (well, beyond some raw rationalization below), I’m going to propose the following business paradigm:
1. Do one thing very well
2. Keep your creative baseline high
3. Exceed your baseline

Of course, these ideas go together. You could always claim 1 as your ultimate goal, and argue that money and innovation are just subgoals to keep doing that one thing really well, for more customers, over a longer timespan.

But it seems as if a lot of companies aren’t thinking about 2 and 3.

Keeping your baseline high means working with people who think for themselves - and are good at it. If you’re hiring people you couldn’t imagine as worthy competitors, why are you expecting anything more from them at your company?

Exceeding your baseline is even trickier. But this is the fundamental idea of growing a company in the first place - you can do better together than you could apart. The problem is that an employee, as opposed to a founder, inherently has less freedom and less accountability for their contributions. At the same time, you can offer them access to invaluable resources they’d probably miss on their own: capital, an existing corporate reputation, and each other.

Why should these goals, among the plethora of proffered principles, be singled out?

Because stagnant and errant businesses die, but sectors keep on going. Company Old doesn’t disappear because customers stop caring about a general problem they need solved -- it gets replaced by Company New that offers a better approach. The golden ticket for Company Old to avoid replacement is to employ the creative minds that can create the new - and to enable them to build Company New from within.


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