Superman

  • October 20, 2009
  • Scott
  • 1 Comments

As previously noted in this blog (see Putting the Band Back Together), we’re believers in hiring Heroes.  Meaning, you find and hire people that can, to large extent, “do it all”.  We want to be the tip of the spear, at the front of the phalanx, for our customers. And the reason we do this is because we believe that BPM deployments greatly increase their odds of success when you seed the team with a few really good people.  So I was very interested to see Chris Dixon’s article “Man and Superman“.  In it, he examines why some tech companies seem to thrive beyond their first great product innovation’s life-cycle.  He points out that Sony, Apple, and Microsoft all achieved this, but all were driven by a “Superman” during that time.  In each case, when “Superman” wasn’t around, the companies did not fare so well.

I once worked for a company that, at the time, believed in great people making a difference.  We studied works like Covey’s Seven Habits, and Jim Collins’ Built to Last (and later, Good to Great).  However, at some point management decided that employees were highly expendable and fungible (the term “resources” entered the lexicon).  The company is a shadow of what it once was.  Reading Chris’ evisceration of Jim’s thesis that great companies are all about culture, not a singularly great leader, I can’t help but wonder if Chris has it more right than not.

Chris points out that most of the companies Jim profiled have since fared poorly – and not just with respect to the current economic climate, but with respect to the S&P 500 (Circuit City, for example, went bankrupt).

Culture might be important – but if you’re Superman in your organization, you better find another Superman to take over when you’re gone.  The real lesson to take home from his post is that people count.  Having good people counts.  Culture alone is not enough.  At BP3, we’re going to keep focused on hiring Heroes – perhaps we won’t live up to the Superman label, but we want the best, and we want people who are driven to keep expanding their abilities and who aren’t satisfied with status quo.

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