There are some interesting lessons to be learnt from the success of Google and some other up and coming companies in the valley these days. In this series I will put together a list of lessons that wannabe entrepreneurs like me cannot afford to discount.
There is no hierarchy, the old hierarchy is dead
In a period of 6-8 years, the old way of doing things has been completely subverted, and has been replaced by a new, egalitarian, non-hierarchical system which is revolutionizing the way people work these days. Having spent a month at Google, I have had the opportunity to experience this new way first-hand. I am not saying Google is the perfect example of this new order, but it sure it is nearer to this model than most other companies regardless of industry, location and sector.
Nothing is more evident in the new order than the lack of hierarchy. Sure, there are directors, Senior execs, VPs etc, but they are there to provide direction, a way to massage the processes so as to create efficiency which in turn helps scale the company. No one orders others about what to do. Hence, no one is beholden to anyone else. Work is accomplished through influence. In this new order, accounting, finance, marketing take a backseat to the most important MBA course one can take - "Managing People at Work" ( Hat tip to my Wharton professor, Mike Useem).
There is no bar for age or experience. You are respected for your work which may be a factor of your age and experience (and then maybe not). So we have high flying, young, out-of-school Associates doing wonderful things because they are allowed to, nay, because they just can. You are only held back by your ambition (and luck). Try telling others what to do, and you will be relegated to the back. The old school of Silicon Valley companies will have to change because the new age tech companies are empowering their employees and in turn, attracting the best ones to their folds.
Is this a mirage or is this really happening? My thesis is that this is what is going on around you right now in the Silicon Valley. The whole basis of the technologies that these companies are producing is empowerment of consumers.
Products like social networks, blogs, p2p, are harvesting the long tail and leveraging an individual's power to create an interesting era of techno-egalitarianism. How can they peddle these wares if they did not, to paraphrase Google, "eat their own dogfood", and implement the same thought-process and concept in their own internal systems?
Anyone who wants to be connected to this coming generation of companies whether as a VC, or an entrepreneur or an executive will need to learn how to work with this new flat order.
Look out for Lesson 2.