“Small pieces, loosely joined”

Photo by batega on flickr

Photo by batega on flickr

Chris Anderson’s short introduction to the main articles in this month’s (US) Wired, called “The New New Economy: More Startups, Fewer Giants, Infinite Opportunity“, discusses something that I have been seeing for a while now.

My wife Claire left a large, world-wide, design agency a year and a half ago and we set up our own company so she can carry on her work.  Many of her friends and ex-colleagues have left (some, more recently have been made redundant) and set up their own little companies of one, two or three people.  Each little firm specialises in an area and are getting work due to their low overheads . This is the same quality talent that companies were paying a premium for a couple of years back.  Their prices can reflect the fact that they aren’t supporting other areas of a company that often includes highly (over?) paid exectutives and client managers.

Claire can now pitch for work by bringing together excellent people at a great price.  These are the right people for a specific piece of work – the perfect virtual team.  They needn’t be in the same place – or even on the same continent.  Email, Skype and the trusty old telephone meet people’s needs for communication; every day tools that are available to everybody.

And companies are liking it, even in this economy.  She can pull off jobs that still take creative risks using budgets that were not imaginable a year ago.  She won’t win every pitch, but she is getting into doors that weren’t opening before and her proposals are taken every bit as seriously as those from bigger players.

The design industry has changed forever – I wonder if the bigger companies realise it yet.  The future will be better for it. Or at least more aesthetically pleasing.

In Wired’s words:

Projects would be open to the best of breed anywhere, creating virtual flash firms of suppliers and workers that would come together for one product and then re-form for another.

This crisis is not just the trough of a cycle but the end of an era. We will come out not just wiser but different.

“It turns out the rule ‘large and disciplined organizations win’ needs to have a qualification appended: ‘at games that change slowly.’ No one knew till change reached a sufficient speed.”

The result is that the next new economy, the one rising from the ashes of this latest meltdown, will favor the small.


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