I’m in awe. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of big corporations. I think they often (but not always) dehumanize the people who work there. They can ruin communities in the name of efficient and cost-cutting, and they distribute wealth in truly bizarre ways. But… But… They’re amazing! Not just a little amazing; they’re frickin’ mind-blowing amazing!

Today I was getting lunch at Subway and the regional manager was there helping them tune up their processes so they can deliver the same quality as measured by customer feedback as several thousand other franchises. Not only do they do it today but they will do it every day going forward, rain or shine.

Have you ever thought about that? How incredible it is? There’s never before been a civilization that could do that on such a scale once, much less thousands of times. And we take it for granted that any large company will be able to scale like that.

And the things we do… Building the ancient pyramids is considered a Wonder of the Ancient World. We build buildings that are a thousand times more complex and sophisticated, on a regular basis. We rarely even ask “is a half-mile high building feasible?” Of course it is. We’ll find a way to do it; the limitation we focus on is funding. We know we can master the technological challenges. We know we can get the supplies made to spec. We know that we can coordinate the hundreds or thousands of people it will take to pull it together. And that’s unprecedented in human history.

The modern corporation has taught us to create systems larger than any one person could ever create. It has taught us to create flows of materials and information that span the globe, enabling us to coordinate people and projects on a level that can change the whole planet. And most astonishing, these organizations keep working even though the people who comprise them come and go. Popular business mythology aside, our ability to create and share process has made our achievements largely independent of any single person. The skills and abilities reside in the structure of the systems as much as (or more than) the individuals.

Tomorrow I’m sure I’ll be back to battling the not-so-nice parts of business. But today, I celebrate the corporation, an invention that has raised the human race to levels of accomplishment we have never before dreamt of. Savour it. Appreciate it. Enjoy it. Because it has enabled you to live in the most extraordinary time ever in human history.

In Praise of the Corporation

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