February 18, 2012

It doesn't scale in a linear fashion...

Richard Fernandez, The Life of Ants:

...The costs of running a society by detailed regulation do not scale in a linear fashion. Adding a single little thing requires committees to coordinate between committees; oversight and review functions; evaluation units and managers to manage everything. And that doesn't even count the cost of politically selling and defending each and every new mandate...

There's another thing that amplifies this. Running anything by "detailed regulation" is Industrial Age practice. We are now deep in the Information Age, and those who are hip to it can use much more effective management techniques. We are the Dinosaurs, they are the Thecodonts. They will be out-competed!

One of the earliest examples of the emergence of a new age was the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War, in 1967. We tend to take this sort of Israeli (and American) prowess for granted, but it was something that had never been seen before in history. Israel defeated three nations, with three armies, ten times her numbers, and with weapons of equal quality, in less than a week!

How did they do it? Israel had developed a new way of managing war. If division commander gave a task to one of his brigades, it was not accompanied with any sort of plan. The brigade was free to do the job however he thought best. The only proviso was that he had to keep headquarters informed about what was going on. Likewise, the Brigade would give its battalion commanders only general objectives, and they would make their own detailed plans. And so on down the line.

So they were harnessing the brainpower of far more people, and particularly, people who were much more motivated to succeed than staff drones. We see this kind of thing often now in successful young firms. (If you are hired by Dropbox, here in SF, YOU get to decide what you will work on! Wouldn't you give your best in such a situation?)

Israeli Dodge Power Wagon, during Six Day War period
(I have no special reason for putting this picture in, except for a love of the old Dodge Power Wagons. This one is Israeli, about the time of the Six-Day War. I think I got the pic here.)

Posted by John Weidner at February 18, 2012 6:51 PM
Weblog by John Weidner