Why bigger is rarely better

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If you want to make something sound scary and evil, it helps to put the word “Big” in front of it: Big Government. Big Business. Big Pharma. Big Labor.

Big is bad, in other words.

I’m not sure everything big is scary and evil, but I do believe something potentially bad can happen as any human enterprise grows. I do believe there’s such a thing as “too big.”

Most every venture aims to make the world a better place. The only efforts that really get any traction are those that provide a service or a product that people want and/or need.

As Zig Ziglar said, you can get anything you want if you help enough other people get what they want – and I think you get there faster if your primary goal is the helping, not the getting.

The biggest, baddest organization had to have started somewhere, and I will bet you that it started with an honest desire to help people. And as people were helped and demand for that service or product increased, the organization grew – the goal was to provide better service and more service.

So how does a valuable little organization turn into a big, bad organization? When it gets so big that, generally speaking, the goal of providing more and better service is displaced by the goal of continuing to grow: Growth for the sake of growing.

That’s when the organization becomes so big it loses track of the little guy. That’s when it’s so big it loses sight of the original purpose – making the world a better place for one person at a time. That’s when the organization starts to see people as a collective, rather than as individuals.

I dare say when you look at a person and see demographics and metrics, you’re well on your way off course. When you look at a person and see a unique individual, and you aim to help that person with his or her specific needs, now you’re getting somewhere.

The bigger the organization, the harder it is to stay focused on helping individuals. It’s not impossible; it’s just harder.

The way to be of service is to pay attention to the person in front of you. Avoid being influenced by the patterns you think you have seen in other people of the same gender, or the same age, or the same race, or any other label you’re inclined to attach to that person. You’re confronted with a human being unlike any other being you’ve ever met – you’re interacting with an individual, not one of “those people.”

Sure, you may find patterns, but the more you get to know the individual, the more you will see how that individual does not fit the pattern and how best to serve that individual’s specific needs.

It’s more convenient to lump people into groups and patterns, especially when you’re dealing with large numbers of people. But bottom line, we’re not numbers.

The bigger the organization, the harder it is to see each person in the organization and each person the organization is trying to serve.

And so, give me a small town, a small business, a small school, a small church, a small club, a small government. Grow, but never get so big that you lose sight of people. That’s when you stop being good.

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Illustration  “Different” © Darrenw | Dreamstime.com

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WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.