The other night I went to listen to some music with a friend. I was billed as an interesting fusion of Bach and Latin music called The Passion According to Mark. After the show, I found myself at the post-performance reception drinking very strong Mango Martini’s and wolfing down crackers after every sip to keep for getting sloshed. While making cocktail chit-chat, about what I did and where I was from with other party goers in varying stages of boredom and inebriation, I struck up a conversation with a consultant from BCG . This was an affable fellow, for a consultant, no steely stares or close talking and the moment I mentioned I had worked around the music his energy level amped way up.
There is a reason that MBA’s and the large companies that tend to employ them, in general, suck at being entrepreneurial. It’s no secret that in exchange for 2 years of your life and $100 thousand dollars, a top business school will train you to think in a way that large companies around the world find tremendously valuable. You will be able to do a SWOT analysis , calculate NPV , quantify risk, run Monte Carlo simulations and generate more decks, of dizzying complexity, then the average employee. However, the average MBA will get no classes on making a decision in the face of uncertainty, no cases on thinking like a successful entrepreneur, no training in innovative problem solving. This deficit in MBA programs, reinforced at most big companies, arises not because innovation requires some “special sauce” or because entrepreneurship involves a genetic predisposition coupled with Powerball level luck. These limits are the result of a mode of thinking called “causal thinking” or “causal reasoning” and it is this manner of thinking that can most limit innovation and reduce entrepreneurial action .
If you work in a large company, causal thinking should be very familiar to you. It is a process that starts with the definition of a goal (generally static and imposed from above) and an assumed set of means or capabilities (narrowly constrained to core competencies in most organizations). The causal thinker selects the best option from among a given set of “means” to achieve the desired goal. In other words the casual thinker connects a series of dots between a set of given means and some pre-determined optimal end. In the causal model the future has to be predicted (using research or other analytics) in order for a controllable set of options to arise, from which they can cherry picking the most favorable path.
I’m thinking of a buzzword (well actually a phrase). Its mention may inspire some of your peers and strike fear in the hearts of others. This phrase could be used to bring the excitement of Conker to a larger audience or profitably shine a spotlight on the thrill of Chess boxing. It’s a word that could be used to vilify the backward ways of luddite media elitists, bent on aggregating mass audiences with homogenized content or laud the visionary action of online retailers willing to sell anything in a desperate (but valiant) effort to stay in business.The phrase I’m thinking of is the Long Tail. That’s right, it has gone from being a mere buzzword used to spice up executive presentations, to a fully capitalized noun (big L, big T). Yet it remains a poorly understood concept by either its many excited fans or its few detractors.
Google modules are the perfect example of how a company can embrace change, even the random, unpredictable, messy, business model challenging change, that is the subject of so much fear within organizations. Modules are little applications which can change anything from the functionality to the appearance of Google’s website and they are built using an API written and released by Google. If you haven’t checked out the unofficial Google modules site yet, you should if only to check out the possibilities of modules.