Sunday, November 09, 2008

swing between big and small

In his recent Harvard Business Publishing post titled "Obama's Seven Lessons For Radical Innovators", Umair Haque had a few insight on how the business might walk into the future.

yesterday, we built huge corporations to do tiny, incremental things - tomorrow, we must build small organizations that can do tremendously massive things.

In fact, the swing between big and small is a natural phenomenon that exists not only in the business sector but also in nearly any domain sector. A similar statement was claimed at least as early as 14th century in a great Chinese historical novel named "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" (Chinese: 三国演义; pinyin: sānguó yǎnyì). The novel is based upon events in the turbulent years during the Three Kingdoms era of China, starting in 169 AC and ending with the reunification of the land in 280 AC. The novel is one of the greatest oriental literature not only because of its living story and characters but also because of the war strategies described in the book. For many Japanese and Chinese businessmen, Romance of the Three Kingdoms along with The Art of War are in the short book list of must-read.

At the beginning of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the author had written the following:

话说天下大势,分久必合,合久必分。[Said the general trend of the world: when being separated lasts long time it would be united, while being united lasts long time it is going to be separated.]

In the other words, the swing between big and small are constant cycles.

After the long time period that corporations compete to be bigger to survive, being big starts to gradually lose its superiority in innovation. By contrast, being big becomes, again, the obstacle of technological advancement. On the Web, many times we have witnessed the fade of innovation once a small venturous startup is acquired by some big company.

This phenomenon is not new at all in history. Just about two to three centuries ago, our ancestors had witnessed how the big landlords tried to buy the small but aggressive industrial factories into their own territory, and they also had witnessed how some comparatively bigger factory owners tried to acquire smaller factories and then mechanically link the factories together with the lack of long-sight plans. The old-style landlords thought that by acquiring new innovations they could still maintain their old glory. The new-style capitalists thought that by purchasing the newer inventions they might strengthen the leadership. Unfortunately, however, neither of them was right.

When we are in an age of innovation (or an age of great transition), we'd better thinking less of acquiring innovation, but growing proactively with innovation!

This is how being big is swinging to the side of being small.


gregory said...

i am very happy you are bringing in this ancient chinese wisdom .. it is extremely important .. the modern mind is so distorted that it cannot see truth ...

please continue with these kind of articles, if you can ..

i love your conclusion in bold type ...

thanks, gregory

gregory said...

this video is made for you .. about the study of consciousness, but not from a neuroscientist ..

Yihong Ding said...

thank you very much for your kind words, Gregory. The video seems fantastic. I would find a time sitting down to watch the entire talk carefully.