Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Guys, a question - which companies do you think are messy? Don't worry about the definition - go with your gut.
Google is messy (throw products at a wall, see what sticks).
Amazon is messy (wild new models, EC2, S3).
Sub Pop records is messy (genre breaking A&R, time and time again).
Too many handsets.
Sadly, Yahoo is very messy. And not in the less disastrous peanut butter way. I mean on the higher, sense-of-self, personal identity level. They're a confused and angst filled teenager.
by messy, i am taking it that you mean "profoundly open to innovation and disruptive potential": twitter.
My gut tells me messy is often a good thing.
Google - very large number of initiatives all over the place - branching out in all directions - funded by their core businesses - may work simply due to survival of the fittest
Yahoo - trying to do everything but not doing anything very well - poor integration of new companies - wasted opportunities - lacks focus on core products
On the other hand - Facebook is very focused - has a strong vision which it continues to build super fast - also very innovative and continually enhancing their business in new ways - they seem to pick up new ideas and run with them as soon as they gain some momentum on Techcrunch, Read/Write web and Mashable. Have they open sourced their product strategy development without telling anyone?
I think Microsoft is obviously 'messy', but although Gobble (Google) is often heralded for their strategic chops (especially on this site lately) I think they are getting messy as well. I know Umair, you will say that Gobble is displaying the right kind of messy, i.e. "understanding atomization of media" etc, I think like MS, Gobble has become messy because of its success, and its 'buy anything that looks remotely interesting' strategy. Messy = Lazy.
for different reasons, but all messy:
ebay, myspace, aol (?!)
4Chan.org (v, v NSFW)
Smutvibes (also NSFW)
and, almost too obvious to mention but still true, MySpace
K-mart. From the organization to the stores itself.
I've always loved the topic of "messiness" -- so many examples of how messy beats ordered. Comparing England and France gives us lots.
Wild English gardens versus French geometric gardens. The evolving patchwork we call the English language versus the obsessively controlled French language. The fluidity of English common law versus the torpor of French statutory law.
I would argue in each of these cases, the messy English solution has been usually better, more efficient, and more successful.
Looking elsewhere, India is pretty messy. Yet after hundred of years of various foreign rulers India has remained remarkably consistent -- arguably changing her rulers more than her rulers have changed her. This is the kind of resiliency you get with messiness.
The military successes of Iraq's insurgents versus the well trained US forces is another example. And some recent military success of locally grown counter-insurgent militias over increasingly top-down insurgent organizations is another.
There are so many more examples of how messiness allows emergent to trump planned.