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The limits of scale.

Not everything scales. Despite that, scale is another concept that has passed unchallenged into business plans,social networks, and personal wealth. “More is better”

No, it isn’t.

I suggest we have to treat scale with caution. I’m working with a challenge at the moment of expanding something that works, and is needed. The advice and tools I am offered though, whilst very good at scaling content do so at the price of relationships. In effect, It enables scale by reducing personal connection. Automating things I currently do whilst I create “more”.

It raises the important questions for me:

  • What is the marginal impact , versus the marginal revenue of the “more” I can gain through automation?
  • How well targeted is the “more”. Will they be active users, or passive consumers?
  • Will I learn more from shallower interaction with a lot of people, versus deeper interaction with fewer?
  • Is this the right thing to scale, or is this just an interim stage of something that would scale much better? Would it create more impact if I delay gratification?

It’s a challenge that data and logic cannot solve, and my intuition says wait. This isn’t ready yet. At the same time, another part of me says ‘that’s fear and procrastination”. I’ve been sitting in on the horns of that dilemma for a while. In the end, the decision is easy.

It comes down to intent. Done well, what I’m looking at can have real impact for enough real people to make a difference, and it’s not ready yet. If I scale now, before I understand what’s happening better, all I will get is a flash in the pan alongside other people doing the same. Short term gratification.

I’ve been surprised how insdious the desire to scale is, as though somehow it’s a measure of validation. It isn’t, it’s just commercial ego.

I’d rather do a little good work now, and prepare, than a lot of mediocre work and not do what I know can be done, no matter what priests of scale might say.

Artisans don’t do scale for the sake of it.

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About the Author

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Complexity and volatility create enormous opportunities for those willing to go beyond the boundaries of "business as usual" to explore the edges of their business. I am an entrepreneur, a coach, a creative thinker, and above all, an explorer of possibility.

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