Eric Paley with a very real and refreshing take on how talent is distributed:
Large companies fire those who get F grades, because they are not at all productive. They accept C players, because they are somewhat productive with guidance and B players are hard to find. It is very easy for a C player to seem moderately successful when progress is largely based on inertia. Large corporations celebrate B players who can competently complete their job with minimum coaching and maintain inertia. These are the heroes of large corporations. Innovation within a function is risky and can threaten inertia.
Large companies have very few A players. A players don’t want to be at large companies because, more often than not, corporate bureaucracy and process not only fail to reward, but actually punish A players. By putting the objectives ahead of process and politics, A players step on bureaucratic toes and don’t retreat based on false territorial claims. Though there are exceptions, few large corporations create cultures that give A players room to win. It’s not fun trying to innovate at a large company when co-workers feel that you’re threatening the core inertia on which the business is based. They’ll say things like “that’s just not the way things work around here.”
The problem is, there are plenty of much less expensive C and B players overseas these days, and technology has made it easier to get to them. This is why Seth Godin has championed The Forever Recession:
The networked revolution is creating huge profits, significant opportunities and a lot of change. What it’s not doing is providing millions of brain-dead, corner office, follow-the-manual middle class jobs. And it’s not going to.
As well as writing about Future Jobs:
I regularly hear from people who say, “enough with this conceptual stuff, tell me how to get my factory moving, my day job replaced, my consistent paycheck restored…” There’s an idea that somehow, if we just do things with more effort or skill, we can go back to the Brady Bunch and mass markets and mediocre products that pay off for years. It’s not an idea, though, it’s a myth.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, because you’ve taken time out of your day to read this, but the traditional job is dead. A college degree is not a guarantee of anything in life. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t open doors, but you have to be willing to think much bigger and work harder.
My only fear while working for a big company is that it will be too easy to fall into the successful B player mindset. Eric describes the A player mindset at a startup:
To succeed, most startups need some core team of A players; folks who can “write the book and not just read it.” These are an incredibly rare breed of people who not only have a clear idea how to competently accomplish their functional objectives, but actually lead the organization to innovate and be world class within their functional area. They raise the bar on the entire organization.