How to think about what it means to be big
December 10, 2018
So much has changed in the last half-century – humanity has made strides forward that were simply inconceivable to previous eras. This dizzying whirlwind of progress is largely due to one breakthrough advancement – technology. Some of the most impressive events in recent history have been the rise and fall of the largest organizational ventures ever seen – namely, the international corporation. Taken in context, there really is nothing that holds a candle to these monoliths, excepting perhaps the great empires of the past. The key component to this comparison lies in the definition: empire is largely considered to be a result of lands held and the size of one’s army; now, we have international corporations that hold more economic power than many countries.
The question stands: what causes giants to fall? Sometimes all it takes is unexpected circumstances and an inability to adapt. This distinction, while seemingly nebulous at first glance, presents a fascinating take on looking forward to the future of the Telecommunications and UC industries. Point of fact, the biggest companies are not always the most innovative. The capacity to endure the test of time and sheer power – military or economic – is not always a measure of longevity. Indeed, it more often comes down to the strategic fluidity of the enterprise in question.
If you take a moment to draw a comparison in light of “biggest” vs “innovative”, several names come to mind:
Biggest Companies (by profits):
What about innovative? Let’s have a look at a few that stand out:
The most notable distinction here is obvious: the easily understood metric in play allows for the first list to be categorically numbered, while the second does not. This isn’t just a stylistic choice, it’s a reflection of a bigger issue: profits are easily ranked – innovation is not. Anyone can decide to make such a list, but what it comes down to is how you prefer to define “innovation”. The interesting thing here is that in most cases, whatever metrics you end up using to achieve your definition, odds are many of the same companies will still come up.
Bringing it into focus
We now have enough groundwork laid to bring these ideas into focus and discuss a directly relevant example: the Cloud. The cloud may be the most revolutionary advancement of the last few decades. Amazon came forward with this amazing new concept: let’s offer a series of services to the world’s businesses, but entirely online. The true selling point was, again, revolutionary: that these businesses wouldn’t have to have their own hardware. With a reliable internet connection and a decent computer, the world’s businesses now had access to nearly – and certainly comparatively – unlimited processing power that would previously have required floors of private servers.
This advent completely rocked the tech monoliths of their day. Naturally, as they now found competition across the board where previously they need only be concerned with others on their massive level of operations and capabilities. Unsurprisingly, there was a slue of ‘concerns’ that hit the public arena about the cloud’s potential drawbacks. Claims of unreliability, security issues, outright scepticism, even “it will destroy the economy!” arguments were all over the airwaves. Today, we can be gratified to see that the majority of this nonsense is fully laid to rest.
The final takeaway lesson here is plain: companies that can embrace the inevitable evolution of technology sit in a position to benefit from the change. Those that scramble to maintain adherence to tradition for tradition’s sake will find themselves fighting a losing battle, every time.
In our modern times, and looking ahead, these are good lessons to bear in mind.
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