May 31, 2005
I believe innovation has been squandered and suppressed as long as humans have been coming up with good ideas. People truly focused on the solution—solving problems in new and imaginative ways—usually don’t bother to figure out the “success factor”.
These innovators are inevitably snatched by shrewd businesspeople who work with (or exploit) them for their own advancement. I admire accidental businesspeople for whom success came from solid ideas and luck: being in the right place at the right time. This sort of good luck is a rare thing: thus, partnership with skilled business professionals is inevitable. Any profitable discipline is invaded by the professionals armed with MBAs and buzzwords.
This invasion is not always a bad thing, as good ideas need good business sense to enjoy success. However, if the relationship is unbalanced the innovators suffer. Ideas are thrown away for political reasons. Higher-ups forget about the reason they are there in favor of elevating themselves and covering their asses. In short, much time is spent on oiling business-political machinery and not on delivering product (read: meetings full of pointless grandstanding).
All is not lost; I have experienced collaborative, supportive work environments where everyone shares common goals. I’ve also seen the direct opposite. What I call “cubicle rot” is not exclusive to large companies. Smaller companies can have infighting and jockeying just as bitter and useless as in a larger corporate entity. A company is and always will be defined by its employees. That alone gives me faith. Good people do exist, people who are engaged in their field, supportive of their co-workers, and excited about what they are doing.
Unfortunately, supply and demand is at work here; it is virtually impossible to staff a large company with nothing but top-notch people. Despite this, good environments push everyone to their best performance. Strong teams “power up” their members. Conversely, a poor corporate culture will actively discourage good performance. The potential stars will realize their efforts won’t receive the attention they deserve. As a result, no one pushes their boundaries. Otherwise excellent employees will turn out average-quality work. This is the essence of cubicle rot.
Unsuprisingly, people are the most important part of any company. Therefore, in order to effect positive change within a company, one must focus on the employees first. You cannot impose change upon a company; you must first excite its people with the concept of change.
On the plus side, there’s only four days of corptacular activity this week… hooray for three-day weekends!