The Importance of Bigness

Comments

1
Bigness at its best can lead to a willingness to part with small things, and a good sort of pride that says, 'We are too large and successful to tolerate this kind of pettiness, nor have any excuse to do so.'
2
"This is why a small firm or enterprise in the Third World cannot compete with a corporation like Boeing—its memory is too tiny. "

Man, with these kinds of analytical thoughts, you missed your calling as an investment researcher.
3
Good Morning Charles,
Wasn't it E. F. Schumacher that remarked "Small is beautiful"?

I don't have a problem with Bigness being inportant. But "smallness" has great value too. I don't see either as inexorable economically. I do believe in necessary changes to capitalism. Yes, excess should be reigned in. On the other hand, ALL should see the big picture but ALL should dwell on the small as well. It's tricky. After all "Less is more". :)

BTW, I recommend Milan Kundera's "Smallness". It's novel I read many years ago.
4
Jesus Christ, he's going to be repeatedly posting shit next year, too?
5
If a little bit of big is good, then a whole lot of bigness must be even better, right?

It's hard to reduce this point such that it's useful for more mass media consumption, but the reality is that there is an optimal point of bigness beyond which greater bigness does more harm than good.

Sure, "more harm than good" is a subjective standard. Or, more specifically, a subjective mix of quantifiable values (price/cost, profit, quality, innovation, functionality, risk, safety, etc.)

Are corporations (ie, "bigness") good? Yes. They're responsible for enormous gains in living standards. Often, there is added utility from greater bigness.

The tipping point beyond which greater bigness is a negative is in proportion to the complexity of it's product or service?

Large passenger aircrafts? Yeah, there's probably only room for 2 or 3 global competitors. Airlines, media corporations, and banks have all probably consolidated into bigness beyond which is optimal.

So, when people talk about "smallness". In practice, what they're really talking about is a pushing back on an industry that's beyond it's optimal "bigness point".
6
Lovely essay, but it seems that if you are aligned with this thinking you must forget your hatred of cars. As he says, a car is simply another place that consumes energy to perform its purpose, in which good and bad things happen. That it's a mobile and not a stationary place is irrelevant.
7
Right. And that would be why Microsoft developed the newest, best, and most popular products over the past 15 years and small startups got no traction, I assume?...

Big things have inertia, Charles. They don't adapt easily. And we live in a dynamic world. Which is why big institutions seem stagnant, inflexible, and stuck in the past: they are.
8
@5 For efficiency's sake there should only be one airplane producer, The People's Air Works. The banking systems will be unnecessary for money, but the purchase tracking ability of the credit system will morph into supplying needs before they are recognized.
9
@8 The closest thing to The People's Air Works is otherwise known as Airbus, which regularly has its ass handed to it by Boeing. Alas, Airbus provides an effective competitive counterbalance to Boeing. Who knows, there might one day be a Chinese counterpart to that equation.
10
Hold on, are we talking about boobs again?
11
Charles

I look forward to this, and to responding with at least one post referencing Jane Jacobs and her insight that Bigness (large cities) enables littleness (small groups and their interests can thrive only due to the bigness that surrounds them).

Bill
12
Unless we're talking about women, then bigness is always bad, right Mudede? >:(
13
@10: like everything, there's big and there's too big.

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/my-big-br…
14
The bigger the crowd, the more perfect their cause? Hitler thought so.
15
What do you call a small business that does really well?

A big corporation.
16
No entity should ever be so large that a single person can't understand fairly easily. If that ever happens, it should be a collection of smaller things guided but not controlled by a bigger thing.

Big isn't the enemy. Complex is.

Examples:
1. International Engineering Firm. Each city is run as an individual company. Corporate office exists only to handle identical tasks among offices - say, CAD standards, the financial department, etc. The top level can easily be understood, the bottom level can each individually be easily understood. The benefit of large is some cost savings from reducing redundancy, but also from shifting work around. When a single city goes through a slow point, in the short term work can be shifted from other cities that have too much work. This works.

2. Most Massive Companies. Shareholders don't understand much of what happens inside of a company. They tell executives what to do. Executives don't understand much of what happens in the actual factories. They make big decisions that affect everybody based on what their shareholders want. Managers of factories don't understand the reasons for executive decisions, and do their best to meet mandates from up high. Factory workers that do understand their trade are pissed on by everyone and do their best not to be crushed by rolling waves of power from up high. This does not work.