Do Your Employees Know How To Work The Projector?

I've seen a few blog posts over the last few days about the lack of innovation that exists in large companies. One of the fundamental lessons I recall from business school was this: success leads to arrogance and arrogance leads to failure. The notion was that companies that get successful and big will inevitably become comfortable with their own success.  This comfort will encourage them to stop innovating and start putting bureaucracy in place that will protect what they have -- and that will eventually cause them to fail.  It’s a natural cycle that always exists. So my professor was encouraging us to be conscious of it so our companies might avoid that fate.

Over the years, I've met with companies big and small -- from startups with fewer than 10 employees all the way up to Fortune 50 companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. A small thing that I’ve noticed is that if the company has more than about 1,000 employees you can guarantee that something will go wrong with the presentation tools in their office. You can’t get online. The projector is broken. Nobody knows how to turn the videos screens on.  The cabinet storing the CPU is locked.  Literally, 95% of the time, something will go wrong when you're presenting to a big company.

This never happens when I meet with startups. Everyone knows how things work, there’s less security and bureaucracy and even the most senior people in the room know how to work the projector.

Obviously, on the surface, this observation seems meaningless. But I do believe it’s symbolic of the arrogance that exists naturally in a large company. Employees at big, successful companies either don't believe they need to know how to do simple things like this or the company has put so much bureaucracy in place that they're unable to learn.

If you're an executive at a big, successful company ask around and see if your employees are able to work the projector. If they're not, I wonder what else they can't do.