We often associate company size with bureaucracy and lethargy. Living in Silicon Valley, it’s even more magnified as the startup world is viewed as the model for the ability to be agile and drive change. Yet I question this perspective. My view is that our company or organization’s cultures are what we as leaders decide they should be. It’s easy to place blame elsewhere.
I’ve personally worked at large, mid-size, and tiny companies. (At the smallest, I was employee number 4.) I have many friends that have started their own companies, or have joined other fledgling companies. Ironically, many of my peers that have successfully driven change are from quite different environments. The reason why some people can drive change, despite employee count, is they have a deep seated desire to make a difference and don’t see obstacles like company size as an impediment. Over the course of my career, I’ve realized that the ability to drive change is about leadership, vision and passion. It’s also about executives that support you and provide the runway to drive change. Let’s not forget that people play a critical role in defining the company culture too. If you want an agile, motivated workforce then hire people that are entrepreneurial, creative thinkers and action oriented.
With a growing employee base or company, there are elements that require additional work. This is true. More people can present additional process, approval and management requirements. To some, size stifles innovation or the ability to drive change. To others, it’s an opportunity to think out of the box and a challenge to identify new ways to work.
I work at Intel. Yes, it is a very large company. And yet I can point to many examples of innovation and creative thinking over the years:
- We hold regular Corporate Strategic Discussions. There are 2 different opportunities, one run by the executive team and one by the marketing team. These discussions are created when we recognize there is a need for a potential change in direction or analysis of a critical issue. Productive discussions are at the heart of Intel’s DNA and can lead to future growth, new paths and staying relevant.
- We have an Incubation Team in Marketing. This group is focused on areas that are newer to Intel. They pride themselves on being entrepreneurial, moving quickly, and adapting to the changing marketplace. They have a license to work internally and externally in whatever manner suits the needs of their business.
- A few years ago we created a “joint venture” called The Creators Project between Intel and Vice Publishing. The goal was to bring the love of the arts and technology together. Through a series of physical events, an online community, content development and sharing, this project celebrates and encourages the development of people’s passions and role of technology. Check out the site at www.thecreatorsproject.com
- In addition to creating a well-respected social media team from scratch, we merged our Social Media and Global Media Teams together. This was done in recognition of the growing synergy between these two worlds and the fact that treating these capabilities in an integrated fashion is the best way to drive impact. I wrote a blog post that further explains my thinking on this topic: The Blending of Media .
- Our Geo Marketing Teams drive innovation at the local level. Grounded in a global strategy, and amplified with local, and sometimes global, programs we continue to see fresh ideas and thinking. The support and encouragement across organizations and teams have given birth to many programs which have garnered worldwide recognition. One great example of this is the Museum of Me, an application that aggregates a user’s Facebook information and puts it on display in a virtual museum in the form of a video.
In summary, to truly be an agile and innovative company the formula is not a secret. Marketing organizations can, and should, role model this behavior. The most successful marketing departments are not comprised of a homogeneous group but rather layers of multi-faceted personalities with different passions, goals and capabilities. If you can develop the right mix in your organization, and get the executives rallied around the possibilities, you can be a role model for change. This is true regardless of whether you work at a Fortune 50 or Fortune 1000, or Startup Company. Let’s celebrate and encourage innovation by recognizing the role we play as leaders. Size does matter. The bigger your vision, the more you can accomplish.