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Embrace Smallness

Nov 24, 2008 In Web Culture By Thomas Lewis

Embrace Smallness

In a world of super-sizing and "Go Big or Go Home!’ tag-lines, it is sometimes hard to go against convention and embrace your smallness. Success appears to be made of quantity more than quality. I tend to believe that you can be successful by embracing your smallness.

Smallness requires you to focus on what is important.

For example, our team is small. We cannot afford to do every thing. When you try to be good at everything, you find yourself not being good at anything. It is better to focus on the important things and do less, than to try to do it all.

Smallness allows you to change quickly.

Question: what can change course faster, a battleship or leisure boat? Have you ever tried pulling a meeting together with 9 people to make a decision? I once tried, and the only hour where everyone was available was 8am, 2 months away. Smallness can help create nimbleness.

Big organizations can embrace their smallness too.

Just because you are in a large organization does not mean you cannot take advantage of smallness. You can break up big teams into smaller ones. You can look for the right behavior, not incremental behavior. You can apply constraints that force you to be more innovative. For example, ask yourself questions like "What if we didn’t have a budget for marketing, what would we do?" or "What if we had to cut 50% of our upcoming feature set, what would we keep?"

Smallness can make you define success in a different (and sometimes better) way.

Many web sites look at quantitative measures for success. They may look at page views and consider success when they reach the 1M daily visitors mark,but is that the right measure of success? If you have an e-commerce site or a portfolio site,you don’t want a high bounce rate, you want customers! Take time to think what success should be, you will be surprised how qualitative it just might be. Albert Einstein had a sign on his wall at Princeton that said: "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

Smallness can help to create a personal connection.

People don’t connect with faceless entities. They connect with people. Social networking is huge because of this. With smallness, people can learn about you, your opinions and ideals and connect with those things. There are great examples in my opinion of folks who have embraced their smallness like 37signals and our own local Jackson Fish Market.

So let me ask you web designers and developers, how have you embraced your smallness?

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2 comments so far. You should leave one, too.

Paul St. Amant said on Feb 4, 2009

Small is good. There is safety in numbers, but when you are all alone or part of a small team with limited resources beyond your own wits, achievements are all the more satisfying.

Thomas Lewis said on Feb 4, 2009

I agree Paul!