Today’s post is just a thought, nothing actionable here, more philosophical, so if it’s not your style, please feel free to skip it.
You’re going to find the title rather elitist until I explain what I mean — money and the value in companies doesn’t come from a majority of people, it’s from a few.
A whole bunch of people talking in a room, creates a whole bunch of talking and hot air, but only a few ideas worth using.
It’s productive (-ish), to have meetings where you hash out ideas, but eventually you need a head honcho somewhere saying:
Hey, that idea you just came up with.
I like it.
Run with that.
Forget the rest.
Someone needs to be there to filter and sift through all the half-ideas to glom in on the one that will be put into action.
WE’VE ALL BEEN THROUGH THIS: GROUP WORK IN SCHOOL
I cannot think of a better example of this than group work in school.
We’ve all been forced to do group work in school, and most of us groaned inwardly at having to corral people to work together and share the load.
I can tell you that for every single group project I’ve been in, I’ve always been the designated nanny-of-the-others. I have to do my share, but also organize everyone else around me, reminding them when stuff is due, hassling them for pieces they missed, and doing quality control checks on their work.
I don’t volunteer for this spot at the start, but it always inevitably falls onto my lap because no one else wants to (or can do) it.
(Hmm.. this is all making sense as to how and why I became a consultant – it’s putting my natural bossiness to good use.)
As a result, the money made in companies is not necessarily from work of people stapling papers, shipping, receiving, doing data entry, checking books, and loading trucks.
They’re important, but they aren’t the ones leading, because they’ve been assigned (as I am on every project), to execute follow-on tasks and actions that roll up to the main vision of a few people at the top.
It’s all about whether or not a company can put in a proper organization and distribution of work and workflow processes among its people that is fair, and efficient.
It also takes vision of someone or someones to see the end and goal of the company, and here are some that pop in my mind:
- Ray Kroc – McDonald’s pusher, who basically took the Kroc brothers idea and made it into one of the longest lasting, most recognizable brands in the world.
- Richard Branson – Of Virgin Group fame: Trains, Airlines, Banking, Cellphones, Fuels, Space.
- Phil Knight – Took an simple invention of a waffle sole and turned it into a marketing sportswear machine.
- Steve Jobs – Apple iPod, then iTunes, then iPhone, then iPad.
- Lou V. Gerstner Jr. – IBM switching from hardware to software and services totally changed the company around, although if you’ve used Lotus Notes, you have said his name in vain many times, as I have.
- Bill Gates — Microsoft as an operating system that made the user experience friendlier and easier at the time (now it’s just a bloated system that needs a walker and a respiratory machine to get up and open a program).
The real value in a company is people who are able to corral the efforts and ideas of others to create a cohesive team of thousands-strong, that are able to produce the most efficient and/or best results possible.
BUT YOU NEED TO BE ORGANIZED
Without organization, you get companies (even countries) that are grossly inefficient because they think 2 screwups making $40,000 a year each are better than 1 screwup who can only create half of the problems at $40,000 a year.
Or maybe these companies are cheap.
Why pay for 1 single person at $80,000 a year to do the best job possible (they don’t deserve that money!), when you can have 2 mediocre (at best) folks at $40,000 a year each?
They think the more people you throw at the problem, the faster it’ll get solved.
The problem is that you don’t need more screwups stirring the pot and making it worse, you need ONE person who can go in there, corral them into their corners, use their brains to get the best out of them, and organize the entire process to run smoothly and as efficiently as possible.
STOCKS GO UP AND DOWN BASED ON MEDIA REPORTS AS WELL
The best personal finance example of this is the stock market or stock-buying.
If you observe stocks that are talked about, they go up or down based on how much (and what) analysts and people write about them.
Blackberry in late November 2012 and up until end of January 2013 had lots of discussion floating around how the stock bottomed out and then regained value, and then dropped again.
Apple is another hot one. People just like to follow what they think everyone else is doing, which is why when the lead lemmings led everyone to the edge of the fiscal cliff and jumped, everyone followed.
HOW ABOUT THE GROUP ‘ANONYMOUS’?
Want a less corporate example?
Look at riots, socially-conscious hackers like Anonymous, or the “We are the 99%” group.
The leaders change every time a new cause comes up in Anonymous, they group together, work hard, then disband, only to follow another leader (or become one themselves) for another cause.
There is always someone (or a few someones) at the top who first thought of the idea, and then organized and motivated a group to follow along and believe in the same principles, and collectively, the brainpower has been enhanced because more people, means more hands, as long as you’re able to boss them around to a certain extent.
It is never a group of a thousand people without those initial leaders, that will get anything done.
I read somewhere (can’t remember which book now), that they did experiments where they threw everyone into a group, and inevitably, leaders (the bossiest) who will be alpha leaders, stand up in the pack and say:
Let’s do it like this, like that, and this way. Sound good? Vamos!
We in turn, are the willing and relieved sheep for the most part, who will gladly follow on once they see everyone else is following the alpha sheep.
(Then if anything goes wrong, we turn around and they turn from alpha sheep to a scapegoat, but that’s another story for another day.)
WE ARE ALL PART SHEEP BECAUSE WE WANT TO FIT IN TO SOME EXTENT
If you’re balking (baaing?) at this likely description of yourself, don’t take it as an insult.
It’s just human nature.
(Goats, not sheep but you get the idea.)
I’m part-sheep too and fashion is a good example of this.
I was on the train the other day watching and observing what girls wore. I like getting ideas from them, and then I go home and try it out with what I have.
Just the other day, I started warming up to the trend of leather sleeves on cargo military green jackets because I saw quite a few people wearing it and thought it looked nice/cool.
I certainly didn’t come up with the idea on my own, and fashion seems to recycle itself.
For instance in winter, I noticed that most girls followed types of uniforms (roughly):
- The ‘tights-as-pants’ crowd with UGG boots and usually a short (Canada Goose) jacket
- The equestrian group with knee-high boots (Hunter or leather boots), tights or skinny jeans, and a (branded or not) leather or Longchamp Pliage bag
- The “alternative” group with their short leather boots, super tight skinny jeans, and/or looser-cut tops
- The super-bundled group with heavy boots (Sorel, mostly), heavy Canada Goose jackets, hats, mitts.. the whole deal
I do things that other people I admire, do, because I like them to want to emulate them in some way, and other people feel and act the same way as well.
It’s the same in companies, countries, and any group of folks you will come across in your life.