I don’t believe bigger is better.
I’ve done no scientific research on this, but my general observations tell me the opposite is true. The bigger any group or organization becomes, the less effective, efficient and visionary it will be.
Individuals or small groups are the true creative, innovative, and passionate forces in the world.
There is no art by committee. Great ideas, and game changing approaches come to life through one determined mind or a focused and passionate few who see things in the same way. They do not come from boards, bureaucracies or executive committees
Hollywood is a perfect example of this. Art comes out of Hollywood, but Hollywood does not create art. Artists do. When art survives the studio process, it survives in spite of it.
If literature went through the same process most screenplays and movies go through, there’d be a lot fewer great books.
Leo Tolstoy would submit his latest novel. It would be passed around to fifteen or twenty suits at the publishing house. (These are people, by the way, who couldn’t write a good grocery list, but they stand ready to pick apart Tolstoy.) After they all add their two cents and change the parts of the book they don’t like, they bring in three or four hired hacks to do some rewrites. By the time the book gets printed (if it even does), it won’t look much like what the good Count originally wrote.
Hollywood turns Tolstoy into Grisham. It starts with Rembrandt and ends up with Thomas Kinkade. They could give us Prime Rib; instead we get Spam.
The great filmmakers who manage to get their stories on the screen either figure out how to beat the system, or they bypass it all together.
Politics provides another great example. Politicians promise big things. Sometimes we even believe them. Occasionally they really mean what they say, but the system is designed to make them liars.
The idealistic politician’s big ideas will either run into a brick wall, or get sucked down into a swamp of bureaucracy. When one politician joins together with other politicians, forget about it. The mind of the individual is swallowed up by the collective mind of the group and that’s it. Suddenly the smartest guys in the room can’t figure out how to get anything done. This means the truly dedicated politicians don’t last long. They learn to go along to get along , or they pack it in and go back home.
We can find the same principle in the business world. An innovative entrepreneur or a small tight-knit group of visionaries creates something new and fresh that raises the bar and changes paradigms. It gains momentum, and it grows. Soon more people come on board. The innovative little start-up begins to morph into a “real” business, then a bigger business, and, before long, it becomes a full-blown corporation.
Suddenly there are layers of people overseeing, advising and administrating. The original clear and creative vision becomes diluted into a vague “mission statement” that has to please everybody and offend no one., and so becomes meaningless.
The idea that made this new business a winner in the first place all but disappears, and the new growing company takes on a life of it’s own. The company becomes the most important thing, more important than the original idea, more important than the people that work for it, more important that the people it serves.
Where there was once a dedicated person or a small brain trust calling the shots and making decisions, there are now offices full of executives passing the buck and trying to protect their jobs by not taking any chances or accepting any responsibility.
You get the point, I hope. The same phenomenon happens everywhere you look; but the bizarre thing is that it happens at all, because it seems to be fundamentally out of synch with our deepest ideals. Our inner values are not reflected in the outer reality of the world around us.
We love the underdog, the dreamer, the idealist, the cowboy, the rebel, the crusader, the hero who stands his ground against all odds. We love the rag-tag team united in a common cause, striving towards a common good – “all for one and one for all.” Just look at our fictional heroes: Shane, Rocky, Cool Hand Luke, John McClane, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the Knights of the Round Table, the Three Musketeers, the Seven Samurai and the Avengers, to name just a few.
We don’t make movies and write adventure novels where the heroes are Corporations or Oversight Committees or Homeowners Associations, but that’s what seems to dominate our everyday lives.
And that’s the big disconnect: those are the characters we admire. They’re the archetypes we’ve established as our standard bearers. But they’re not the norm in our everyday lives. We give the real power in our world to the biggest groups. The ones without souls or visions or ideas, and then we pay the price. But why?
We love the idea of the lone wolf and the wolf pack, but we always seem to end up with the United Association of Wolves.