Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Why promotion breeds incompetence

Random promotion is more effective than promotion on merit, according to new research. The report, by Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Sicily, concluded that picking managers at random actually increased the efficiency of organisations. According to the Guardian, the research mimics the findings of a 2001 study by Steven E Phelan and Zhiang Lin, published in the journal Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory.

Phelan and Lin concluded that random promotion performed better than every other method, including merit; up or out, where employees are either promoted quickly or fired; and seniority, which rewards longevity over performance.

But would a random promotion system work beyond the confines of a controlled study? It’s not hard to imagine how such a system might start to unravel team spirit and undermine motivation. Either a company imposes a random system in secret, running the risk of employees perceiving the promotions as misguided, or the firm publicises its intention to switch to a randomised process, risking lower performance levels across the board as normally efficient employees lose their chief incentive to perform beyond the minimum level expected.

But why promote at all? According to the Peter Principle, hierarchies are naturally inefficient because a continuous system of promotion inevitably leads to employees reaching a level that exceeds their own competence. Or as the Canadian psychologist Laurence J. Peter put it: “Every new member in a hierarchical organization climbs the hierarchy until he reaches his level of maximum incompetence”.

In practice, given enough time, every large company has the potential to become inefficient and prone to failure. As the channels that stretch to the very top of the organisation become filled with people who are promoted above their maximum capability, and in turn these incompetent managers are given the freedom to fill the rungs beneath them, the large hierarchical organisation grows ever closer to implosion. The Peter Principle is therefore the strongest and most rational argument in favour of private equity.

Pic credit: ThomasThomas

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Voters don’t know what they want until governments take it away

With the Comprehensive Spending Review only a week away, communications is now the cabinet’s most important fiscal tool. A clear strategy is emerging. From David Cameron’s standpoint, it doesn’t really matter where the knife falls as long as the right message accompanies the pain. The amount of time spent explaining the proposed cuts is dwarfed by efforts to inform us of the potential consequences of inaction. There’s a reason for this: the coalition understands the theory of loss aversion.

Defending his decision to abolish child benefits for households in which one parent earns over £44,000, Cameron said the measure raises £1bn, “and that is £1bn that we don't have to take off the poorest families, or off the health budget, or the schools budget.”

In other words, if we don’t take this money from the rich, we’ll take it from the poor, or even worse, the children. Drink this medicine, or the puppy gets it.

Cameron uses these conditional threats liberally and deliberately. “You have to address the massive welfare bills,” he said in June. “You have to address public sector pay bills… Otherwise you will have to make reductions across the board...”


“One of the most shocking things is the extent of the interest we are paying on our debt. If we don’t do anything about it, it is going to be £50, £60, £70 billion... We will be spending more on debt interest than we do on educating our children and defending our country.”

This isn’t just scaremongering. Social psychologists recognise this language structure as an attempt to manipulate our natural aversion to loss. According to Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini, the human “tendency to be more sensitive to possible losses than to possible gains is one of the best supported findings in social science”.

In their book, Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion, Goldstein et al cite the age-old business school case study, Coca-Cola’s attempt to change its formula from old Coke to New Coke, as evidence of our universal sensitivity to potential loss over gain.

In 1985, Coca-Cola decided to sweeten its formula in an attempt to make it taste more like Pepsi, which many consumers said they preferred. Coke blind-tested its new, sweeter drink on 200,000 people, 55 per cent of whom said they preferred it. When the blindfolds were lifted, and consumers told they were drinking New Coke, their preference for the new formula increased a further six per cent.

Backed by extensive market research, the company thought it was onto a winner. But new Coke bombed. Consumers hated the new variety so intently that they campaigned for the old Coke to be reinstated. The episode proved a public relations disaster. It was also difficult to explain. Why did consumers reject a taste they had overwhelmingly preferred during testing?

Some marketers attribute the anomaly to a brand loyalty so intense that consumers essentially ignored their own taste buds in an effort to preserve the status quo. But according to Goldstein et al, what really happened was that Coke’s marketing team underestimated its customers’ natural aversion to loss.

“During the taste tests, it was the New Coke which was unavailable to people to buy, and so, when they knew which sample was which, they showed an especially strong preference for what they couldn’t otherwise have. But later, when the company replaced the traditional recipe with the new one, now it was the old Coke that people couldn’t have and it became the favourite.”

It was the fear of losing old Coke that prompted the extreme reaction. How does this information help Cameron’s communications team? Because the notion of loss is so compelling, an announcement that shows people what they have to lose will always be far more effective than simply showing them what they have to gain. Most marketers realise that “50 per cent off” will always be less successful than “Last chance to get 50 per cent off”.

For a government preparing to announce a series of unpopular public sector cuts, the theory of loss aversion presents a challenge. Every cut it makes will likely produce an emotional reaction disproportionate to the perceived value of the original benefit.

Consider the child benefits row. The public reaction to the removal of child benefits for high earners (many of whom said they didn’t even use the benefits for living expenses, preferring to set up savings accounts so that their children can enjoy the benefits in the future) shows the difficulty of implementing a heavy cuts programme. Whether or not we personally benefit from a particular service the coalition plans to cut, we are pre-programmed to resent the removal of that benefit.

But the government can also use its knowledge of loss aversion to plan its communications strategy. By exploiting our fear of bigger, potential losses in the future, it can neutralise our natural aversion to losing certain services right now. Watch Cameron’s team announce the cuts, and follow it with a reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t take the medicine.

Pic credit: The Prime Minister's Office

Friday, 8 October 2010

How to dismantle a superpower

How is the age of austerity treating you? There’s plenty more pain to come, as George Osborne frequently reminds us, but it’s in his interest to do so. To give the coalition its greatest chance of survival, cuts must be oversold in order to appear under-delivered. Doom mongering carries no lasting effect as long as the actual pain is less than expected.

Like a Tory Hans Gruber, Osborne will keep cutting until he finds something you do care about. But the aim is that when the time comes to close the local library on Wednesdays, you’ll be too preoccupied with the survival of your hospital’s cancer ward to care.

In the US, the headline cuts have already begun. A piece in the New York Times detailed a range of fiscal lacerations deep enough to make you wonder whether Obama has any kind of overarching strategy at all. Clayton County, a suburb of Atlanta, shut down its entire public bus system, stranding 8,400 daily commuters. In Colorado Springs, the authorities switched off “a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.”

Glenn Greenwald from salon.com notes that across rural America, paved roads are being torn up and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces “as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue", while the state of Utah is “seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade”.

For Greenwald, the end is nigh:

“Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights—or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State—that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?”

A recent Ipsos Mori poll found that 55 per cent of respondents had never heard of Cameron’s Big Society. They’ll find out soon enough.

Pic credit: Architekt2

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Necessity is the mother of disruption

A hat tip to IDEO’s Tom Hulme for pointing me in the direction of Kickstarter, a social-funding platform based in the US. Kickstarter aims to help hard-up creative entrepreneurs find money for artistic or “ambitious” endeavours. Ideas for potential projects are posted on the Kickstarter website, allowing interested parties to make donations. No equity is taken, but the most successful projects tend to come up with innovative ways to reward their benefactors.

One of Kickstarter’s more obvious charms is its all-or-nothing policy, borrowed it seems, straight from the BBC’s Dragon’s Den. Projects must be fully funded before the allotted time expires or no money changes hands. This has two notable benefits. One, it allows creatives to gauge public interest in a project before committing to it, which provides more-or-less free market research with zero risk. Two, it lends a sense of urgency to entrepreneurial creation. Want to bring an idea to life? The clock is ticking.

Kickstarter is full of creative ideas, focussing largely on prospective films, books and music, plus the odd entrepreneurial gem, such as the social enterprise Conflict Kitchen, a take-away restaurant that only serves food from countries with which the United States government is in conflict.

Conflict Kitchen’s current incarnation is the Iranian take-out restaurant, Kubideh Kitchen, serving kubideh: a spiced meat barbari bread sandwich with onion, mint, and basil. The sandwich is served in a custom-designed wrapper that features interviews with Iranians on subjects ranging from Persian poetry to politics, thereby serving up a multi-sensory attack on the cultural conscience.

The theme switches every four months (a frequency that appears to lag only slightly behind US foreign policy) allowing Conflict Kitchen to provoke discussion around a different culture. Next up is Afghanistan. Bolani Pazi, as it will be known, plans to offer a well-known Afghan street food, called bolani. After that, Conflict Kitchen will switch its attention to North Korea. If you want to invest, do so here.

While Kickstart’s projects provide a great example of innovation thriving in the oxygen of social support, it’s hard to ignore the invention of the funding model itself. Last month I spoke to the creators of Funding Circle, a UK social lending platform, about the paucity of available funding for established SMEs. Funding Circle aims to help small businesses reduce their reliance on punitive high street banks by putting them in touch with members of the public. Group lending ensures the risk of default is spread, securing an above average return for investors and improved rates for borrowers.

Small business finance is critical for long-term economic growth, yet the lack of supply remains a problem infinitely more discussed than resolved. Labour flat-refused to tackle it, while the coalition continues to prioritise the issue right to the bottom of the list. If the banks won’t play ball, perhaps it’s time to disintermediate them out of the picture completely. Social lending could prove necessity is also the mother of disruption.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Humans are boring, say machines

Behavioural psychologist Gavin Potter is an expert on idiosyncrasy. He helps computers understand what it means to be human. Potter works as a consultant to online dating companies, using massive data sets to help match prospective partners. Every time a user clicks on a potential date’s profile, all the relevant information leading to that click (hair, eye colour etc) is logged, helping the software to make predictions about the types of people we might be attracted to in the future.

While Potter is an expert on what makes us unique, his success in teaching computers to predict our behaviour comes from spotting the things that make us alike. For example, female daters click on profiles of men who are on average three years older than them. If you think that’s clichéd, consider that over 90 per cent of men seek women who are half their age plus seven. "People think they are unique," says Potter. "They say, ‘you can't possibly profile me’. The depressing thing is that you can actually do it pretty accurately."

The key to accurate, automated profiling lies in the size of the dataset. The bigger the dataset, the easier it is to iron out statistical anomalies. With evermore data, those clichés get easier and easier to find. It’s ironic that in our attempt to examine humanity through artificially intelligent means, all we ultimately reveal is our own robotic predictability.

Large-scale datasets are becoming increasingly available to the public. Take a look at behavioural economist Dan Ariely’s blog for an interesting take on password selection. Data from 100,000 Israeli user accounts, which were published following a cyber attack, show a depressing lack of what the author defines as necessary “randomness”.

The accounts, which were hacked from user registrations for Pizza Hut and an Israeli property website, revealed individuals’ usernames, email addresses and passwords. The most commonly chosen password was 123456 (584 users), with 1234 as the runner up (569) and 12345 in third (388). All in all, 1786 passwords (nearly 6 per cent) were comprised of consecutive increasing numerals.

“This means that one person in 18 didn’t muster the cognitive capacity to generate a password more intricate than 1234 and the like.”

Even worse,

“788 people (roughly 2.5 per cent, or one in forty people) chose a password identical to their username. [And] 417 people (1.32%) chose a password comprised of identical digits (e.g. 1111).”

The password analysis was completed by hand, but advances in computer processing power, and the addition of psychological insight to statistical analysis, have greatly improved our ability to automate the discovery of behavioural patterns from large datasets. It's unfortunate that the most enlightening discovery to date is our penchant for banality.

Pic credit: Tleilaxus

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Zuckerberg's privacy trade-off

Facebook spends a disproportionate amount of time and money persuading us to leave our data in its capable hands. At least, its efforts appear disproportionate to the average user. In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who lists "openness" as one of his interests on his own Facebook profile, is desperate to sell us his vision of the future, if only to prop up Facebook's ambitious $10bn valuation. That future precludes privacy.

To Zuckerberg and his shareholders, disclosure is the new discretion. To justify the business model, all of our likes and dislikes must be indexed and segmented at the behest of Facebook's eventual paymasters. Privacy must die if Facebook is to live.

The average user may not fully comprehend the company's goals, but that won't stop them feeling cheated once the targeting begins in earnest. As the Guardian points out:

"...the internet has proved resistant to overt commercialisation in the past. When Rupert Murdoch's News Corp bought MySpace for $580m in July 2005, the company used it to plug its own products and the site's hip audience of teenage music fans soon began to search for other online hangouts."

But moral outrage is generational, argues Web entrepreneur David Murray-Hundley. "We're very good in technology at saying, 'this generation doesn't get it, let's concentrate on the one behind'."

"It scares the crap out of most people," adds Murray-Hundley. "But look at the generation behind. They give up their data. An 18-20 year-old will give you the whole world."

That we are outraged while Facebook grows ever more powerful is no longer a paradox. It is simply a demographic shift. The appeal of Zuckerberg's trade-off, access for data, is a gamble on social media's popularity and eventual ubiquity. Don't bet against it.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A bad Budget for creativity

The biggest business loser in today's Budget is undoubtedly the video games industry, which lost the tax relief earmarked by Labour’s pre-election budget. It's a massive blow for a sector that annually contributes £1bn to UK GDP. Despite a vague promise of support from Ed Vaizey, the Chancellor this afternoon announced the removal of a tax break he regards as "poorly targeted".

Big mistake. The industry has been lobbying hard for tax relief in the face of tough competition from countries such as France and Canada, which enjoy government subsidies that allow developers to pay more for the best talent.

In the past, the UK has more than punched above its weight in the sector, rivaling games giants Japan and the US. But with more attractive packages available in English-speaking Canada and Australia, or closer to home in France, developers fear a "brain drain" of talented programmers. In a Budget purporting to inject life back into the private sector, Osborne has greatly underestimated the value of one of Britain's most valuable creative industries.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Jabulani: predictably unpredictable

More on the Adidas Jabulani ball from Jon Naylor over at Half Volley. Adidas has produced the official World Cup ball ever since FIFA first sold the rights back in 1970. But as Naylor reminds us, this is not the first time the German sports company's technology has been criticised. In 2006, the "Teamgeist" was described by England goalkeeper Paul Robinson as "a water-polo ball", while 2002's "Fevernova" was compared by Italy's keeper Gianluigi Buffon to a "ridiculous kiddy's bouncing ball".

But if you study the statistics, says Naylor, it begins to look as if Adidas's perennial critics are merely getting their excuses in early. Since the Tricolore ball, which featured in the 1998 World Cup, "there have been progressively fewer goals scored in World Cup finals tournaments", not more.

2006 (Teamgeist): 147 goals, 2.30 per game

2002 (Fevernova): 161 goals, 2.56 per game

1998 (Tricolore): 171 goals, 2.7 per game

If the balls were "as difficult to handle as has been suggested, then surely goal avalanches would have been more regular in later tournaments," suggests Naylor, as opposed to increasingly rare?

Not necessarily. There are other factors at play, not least the attitude and skill level of the average World Cup striker. With an unpredictable ball at his feet, and the whole world watching his every move, many attacking players are opting to pass rather than shoot, or as we witnessed during England's opening match against the US, concentrating more on hitting the target than on scoring. True enough, we've seen the odd goalkeeping howler, but many more shots have ballooned over the crossbar.

So far, this World Cup has yielded the lowest number of goals in history. But there's another angle to consider. An unpredictable ball produces fewer goals, but what it also creates is more competitive matches. It may not be traditionally designed, but the Jabulani is at the very least a useful leveller, bringing parity even where attacking resources are unevenly distributed. Which is one of the reasons why games such as Brazil-North Korea are ending 2-1 rather than 5-0, and why Switzerland were at least in with a chance of toppling favourites Spain.

We might not get as many goals, but an unpredictable ball means a less predictable tournament. It's a reasonable trade-off.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

BP and the crowdsource defence

With some suggesting BP could ultimately collapse under the weight of the multiple lawsuits headed its way, survival will depend a great deal on how the oil company is seen to handle the crisis. While the accident exposed flaws in the company's risk management, BP's response will test its PR team to the full.

The case for the prosecution is clear enough. Any future litigation will likely focus on the oil company's appalling safety record. But how much BP will owe in damages is unwritten. If the company can show contrition through the seriousness of its response, the courts will at least be inclined to focus more on facts than on the level of public hysteria.

BP chief executive Tony Haywood has already made the best PR decision available to him. Crowdsourcing a potential solution to the problem, a strategy that has already elicited over 30,000 ideas, is a public relations masterstroke on multiple levels. First, it shows that the oil company is ready to explore almost any route in its attempt to clean up the mess. It projects a willing, can-do attitude: an image the stricken company will need to hang on to.

Second, it demonstrates a degree of openness. At best, an inclination to collaborate can be used to combat the perception of secrecy—the potentially damaging impression that the public isn't being told the full story. Finally, it suggests, albeit subtly, that the company is in some way disconnected from the root cause of the problem. While BP can still score image points in outwardly claiming full responsibility, the fact that it has sought assistance from outside the company is a strategy of disassociation: it suggests that the leak was an occurrence so freakish that the only solution is as yet unknown.

The risk to BP's—and Haywood's—reputation is that ignorance is always a shaky foundation on which to mount a defence. If BP didn't fully assess the risks, it should never have commenced drilling in the first place. That said, the best outcome Haywood can hope for is leniency. Public perception remains crucial.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The puncture in Cameron’s inflated society

Even if David Cameron manages to bargain his way to the top of a coalition government, the Tories have floundered in their attempts to convince the British public that an unwieldy state should be replaced by community power. In a referendum for Cameron’s Big Society, the Tory leader has failed pretty convincingly. As Tim Montgomerie concludes on ConservativeHome:

"Unforgivably, the big society message favoured by the Tory head of strategy, Steve Hilton, was never poll-tested, and failed to cut through with most voters–and even frightened some."

Labour has dismissed the Big Society as an election gimmick, but there are signs in the private sector that the decentralisation of command is gaining currency. ROWE, which stands for Results Only Work Environment, is an attempt to rebalance the working environment, replacing so-called presenteeism with extreme flexibility. In lieu of command and control, employees get to dictate when and how much they work, the only stipulation being that they meet their individual targets. In a ROWE, it doesn’t matter what hours you work as long as the job gets done.

ROWE is a trade-off that rewards productivity with work-life autonomy. According to ROWE’s architects, former Best Buy employees Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, eighty per cent of lost productivity can be attributed to presenteeism, an all too common attitude in which employees believe simply turning up to work is enough to warrant their monthly pay slips. ROWE decentralises workplace decision-making, so that employees set their own schedules. The goal is to empower through increased responsibility. Says Ressler:

"People at all levels stop doing any activity that is a waste of their time, the customer's time, or the company's money. This promotes a more engaged workforce motivated to not only produce something, but to produce something meaningful."

There are of course clear disadvantages to such a distinct redistribution of rights, not least of which is the fact that most organisations require more than a skeleton staff present during normal working hours to deal with that inconvenient thing known as the customer. It’s also argued that focusing too heavily on results dilutes team spirit, turning workers into selfish, unilateral robots—empowered, but inconsiderate to the needs of the company as a whole.

It’s a fine balance. Gain motivated, productive employees; risk creating disparate self-interest. Now consider the way local government decisions are made. Would Cameron’s Big Society have followed a similar path?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cameron's ideological handicap

This is the best description I've come across of the ideological hurdle David Cameron must leap to win the election. DC is hamstrung by a blanket mistrust of free market capitalism and his party's historical bond with that system, writes Larry Elliott in the Guardian. You might think that the biggest loser after a recession of this size would be the government that presided over it. But the polls show that voters are still a little nervous of a return to small state politics.

"Cameron is in the diametrically opposite position to
Margaret Thatcher in 1979: she was helped by the crisis of Keynesian social democracy in 1976; he is hampered by the crisis of laissez-faire. The events of the past three years have made it much harder to argue for a small state, market-knows-best approach to economic management, and the Conservatives have not yet found a plausible alternative.

"They have tried substituting the Big Society for the Big State, but it doesn't really address the fundamental weakness for the right: the ideological advantage is with those supporting more state intervention to tame the market."

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Why art should be compulsory for CEOs

In Tim Brown's book, Change by Design, the author calls for design thinking to "move upstream", closer to the boardroom, where strategic decisions are made. But there are a couple of good reasons why this is harder to execute than it sounds. Roger Martin, who with the help of Brown first coined the phrase "design thinking", says that most CEOs are completely devoid of artistic capability while many designers seem overly keen to keep it that way. "CEOs aren't nurturing their artistic sensibilities," says Martin. "Art is a little foreign to them."

"In Canada, virtually everyone who can drop art drops it. Maths and English are required subjects to the bitter end at high school. Hardly anyone takes anything that would cause any development of their artistic sensibilities at university. Some take history of art, but the numbers are minuscule in total."

If you combine that with the fact that many designers want to keep design "pure" and away from the grasp of CEOs, says Martin, you have a recipe for disintegrated organisations, in which design is wholly detached from the process of innovation. Leaders should "care about lines and form", adds Martin. It's the only way to ensure design thinking pervades the entire organisation.

"Why are iPhones so pretty? It's because when the guy who green lights them is shown an iPhone that looks pretty good and one that looks awesome, he says I'll take the awesome one".

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Social media for business: five tips for neutralising negativity

1. You will be judged on the tone of your response. Be humorous, but not flippant. Be polite, not argumentative. Consider every contact individually. Does this person require assistance, or are they simply letting off steam?

2. Don’t hide behind a logo, be human. Make one employee your single point of contact for social media. This should be a senior marketer with a good grasp of frontline customer services, not an intern with plenty of Facebook skills but little idea of how your business really works.

3. Deal in facts. If your company is being attacked for something that isn’t true, politely offer a link to a source that backs up your side of the story. Treat every comment in the same way you might in a retail environment: other customers will be listening.

4. Show that you care. Emphasise that the reason your company has a social media channel is to listen to customers’ problems and act on that information. Promise to investigate the problem and keep that promise. Social media happens in real time, so be quick.

5. You may need to move the discussion away from a social media platform to email, or even telephone. This has two benefits: first, it removes the oxygen of publicity. Second, it permits you to be much clearer and more precise than you can ever be in 140 characters.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Innovation lessons from Richard Noble

Richard Noble is defined by his multiple land speed records, and also by the attempts that didn’t go quite as well as expected. His first effort, for instance, back in 1977 in a car he built himself, finished upside down in a field after a death-defying, mid-air triple-roll. Noble, somewhat dispassionately, describes the order of events as: crash, pub, scrap yard. He says back then he hadn’t a clue about engineering, let alone any motor racing experience. He was obsessed by speed, and invigorated by the desire to break records, and that seemed enough.

It’s impressive, this insouciant ambition, which drives Noble to achieve things that to others seem inconceivable. Innovation has never seemed so natural. His latest record attempt is called BloodhoundSSC. The car, which Noble hopes will destroy his own land speed record, becoming the world’s first 1,000mph vehicle, is currently being built in Bristol. He’s set firmly on that record, but goal number two is more altruistic: to inspire a new generation of engineers.

Young scientists may well be enthused by Bloodhound’s potential. Provided the team can keep it on the road, the car will be able to travel the length of four football pitches every second. Although it would be too dangerous to try, should the driver be of the mind to swivel in his seat and fire a gun back towards the car’s origin, the car’s sheer velocity would render the bullet impotent. It would exit the chamber and fall straight to the ground.

Noble retired from the cockpit soon after breaking the record with Thrust2 in 1983. These days he looks after the business side of things. You might think such an experienced campaigner would rule his project teams with an iron fist. Actually, the reverse is true. “Every employee should have enough authority to fail the company,” he tells me. Why? Because to inject a workforce, any workforce, with passion, commitment and ingenuity, you need to forget about the concept of natural leadership.

Noble's project teams are almost completely flat. Noble is the sole director, looking after planning, finance and company culture. On everything else, his teams answer to no one. "I only want to know when things go wrong," he says. With no manager to go through, people are forced to collaborate. Teamwork prospers. In a flat organisation, says Noble, "you see people develop like you've never seen them develop before".

Here’s an interesting lesson: if you want innovation to thrive, take your hand off the tiller.