There has been much discussion on the blogosphere over Google‘s recent decision to scale back employee benefits (although many would consider a note asking employees not to take cafeteria food away to eat at home is less of a cut back than an articulation of the concept of employee respect for the workplace). People have been waxing poetic abut this being the start of the end, that once a small business scale’s up significantly, all those nice little culture building ideas – the food, the games, the drinks and the pen workspaces – become impediments to running a successful business.
I came across a video made by the gang at Atlassian, possibly the company touted as best extolling the virtues that Google did when it was small, personal and… more fun?
Now Atlassian is one of those organisations that I put up on a pedestal. From all aspects – funding, profitability, growth, culture – they excel. Perhaps it’s in part a result of being away from the Silicon Valley echo chamber which has let them create their own distinctive culture and allowed them to spend less time worrying abut the VCs, the competitors and the endless string of Web conferences that Valley companies seem to have on their agendas.
It’s a pretty exciting and inspirational video. It certainly made me want to go visit Atlassian when I’m next in town, but it also left me wondering – I’m sure a video shot at Google eight or so years ago would have had the same sort of zest – and now Google are being held up (by some) as an example of the dehumanising nature of big business.
Getting back to the title of this post, does an open and creative culture in a small business automatically become decadent when transferred to a larger business where there are shareholders and other stakeholders to answer to? Or is there a third way? I’d be really keen to hear from readers who have experienced life at a big business that inspires them, keeps them thinking creatively, doesn’t encompass rigidity and pretty much doesn’t suck?
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