Can a big company do it wrong quickly?

    September 6, 2007

I’m back from vacation and I am overwhelmed at how many blog posts I must read every day—you really notice it when you try to read two weeks’ worth of them at once. So, for the next few days, you might see me commenting on stuff written a while back. Today I came across a post from a few weeks back from Chris Anderson on how he handles the conflict between working for a big hit-oriented company and espousing The Long Tail.

Chris takes head on the notion that a large company can pursue the long tail and also the idea that companies must choose to go after hits or go after the long tail, but not both. As he points out, Conde Nast does both, and does both successfully.

Small companies can live off the long tail but large companies often must pursue hits also. Even examples of companies clearly benefiting from the long tail, such as Amazon, still rake in lots of revenue from hit products. Too often, we believe that big companies somehow are intrinsically different from small ones in every way, and we overlook that the changes brought about by the Internet affect all companies, albeit to different degrees and in different ways.

I also like the way Chris highlights failure in the post as something to be valued, because it reveals experimentation, And he correctly points out that we must distinguish between failure caused by sloppy execution rather then by experimentation. That is what "do it wrong quickly" is all about and it is every bit as important for large companies as for small ones.