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Tyranny of Scale

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

The “tyranny of scale” confronts companies growing in size, but the impact on people within a large business or project setting is also worth talking about. I personally started my career like that.

Being part of a big endeavor or project feels good. It feels like we’re going to learn a lot and achieve great things. And it could very well turn out like that. However, what we learn tends to be more focused, narrow and somewhat silo-ed. And what we achieve comes as part of the group achievement. If that’s what we get out of it, it’s still a valuable experience by any measure and still a good feeling for sure.

But we should be quite clear what has quietly taken a backseat… specifically, richer cross disciplinary collaboration and personal mastery of the bigger picture of how the achievement was accomplished. These are the sort of “macro” things that people take years & years to experience & truly learn on their leadership journey.

In a parallel world of applied physics and mathematics, there’s a similar sounding (but different) tyranny of scales… with an “s”. Here, people concern themselves with finding ways to bridge our mastery of the “micro” with our understanding of the “macro” version that contain subtle integrated effects invisible at the micro scale.

I think it’s a great idea for us to make the same bridging effort an essential part of our professional development as well.

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