Why Throwing People at Problems Doesn’t Scale

Is this the extent of your creativity to grow a business today? Fast forward to the creative economy. From cassieecarter’s Flickr photostream.

In the not too distant past I remember working at organizations where there truly was a paper trail. There were organized file cabinets and people to manage those files. The paper and the people were interconnected. For some it was a sort of job security.

We didn’t know it then but we were inefficient. We were as efficient as the time allotted us, but we were far from speed of what our connected, mobile world affords us today.

I still know people who will not move away from the old ways. They take comfort in having secretaries, managers and “yes” people that constitute their business system. Instead of building smarter systems, they slap down another $50K and hire another person that has a mere utilitarian role to manage data.

For some, this kind of business practice is habit. For others, it is comfort. They like to add people rather than smart systems.

For every person you add to a business, there are extra costs besides their salary. They have to be managed. They need direction and encouragement. They need benefits and a place to sit.

Now, I am not against having employees. However, I am trying to make the point that there are much smarter businesses with less overhead that use the advantages of the new economy. They are automated and they don’t have the friction associated with adding layers of people.

The Seats On Your Bus

If you think of your business as an empty school bus, then there are limited seats. If you pick up people on the way, the kind of people you want on that bus should make an impact that matters.

The best people to add to your bus are creative. They have ideas. They risk their reputations and want to innovate. Give them access to the powerful systems that will allow them to get information that matters and allow them to create.

Adding people with an industrial mindset is not a value add. They only maintain what you have going. They think in terms of the assembly line mentality where a repeatable, simplistic function is performed every day.

Leave the seats of your bus for those that push your business forward not merely maintain it. There’s a cost to the latter that can suck up your bandwidth and put your business on the slow lane or, even worse, the breakdown lane.

We Are Never Going Back

The fact is that the industrial age is gone. Making stuff in mass and creating big organizations is not the path that the connected economy is about.

Today, a single person can run a business from their iPad and work in New Zealand with clients around the world. They use systems to create leverage and do the work of five industrial age cubicle dwellers. There’s a ridiculous amount of proof of this and people are experiencing the freedom and happiness of building something with their own mini-factory.

If you keep testing this path – how big can I get depending on systems rather than people – you can go quite far and avoid the drag the unenlightened tolerate.

The world is indeed getting flatter. This applies to geography and size. Are you throwing people at your problems or are you building with leverage?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

One thought on “Why Throwing People at Problems Doesn’t Scale

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