Do things that don’t scale

I just read this article, about the things new start-ups can do to secure and delight the all-important small core of early customers. Now, I’m not planning to start up a start up. I don’t have an amazing business model or product to sell, and I think if I had to work for myself I’d strangle myself after a week and lock myself in the filing cabinet for good measure.

However, this article was still relevant because of the headline.

Do things that don’t scale.

What, really? Surely the whole business plan is written around how the idea will scale, how many people it will reach in a year’s time, how the fledgling systems will cope with the predicted rush of new customers signing up for the slick product with its carefully planned supply chain. What’s the point of a fabulous idea if you’re not planning to take the entire world by storm?

Well, that’s the thing. The entire world, big as it is, is made up of people, and they tend to need to be stormed one at a time. Or at least to feel like they’re being stormed in a bespoke and individual fashion.

And when it comes to resolving issues, as I am called on to do, it’s tempting to start getting all strategic and frameworky and try to construct something that will solve all the problems at once … But that doesn’t work. That way lies madness (and eventually, call centres). No, what works is solving the problem in front of you. Something that lets that person get on with their day, and maybe later they’ll share it with a few people and it will help them as well.

At work we have a saying – JFDI. This, of course, stands for Just Do It.*

This, to me, is the same as “do things that don’t scale”. Just get on with it, basically, without worrying about whether it’s going to work as a corporate solution for the other umpty-thousand employees in the organisation. As long as it meets the needs of whoever’s asking for help, and doesn’t get in anyone else’s way, it’s good enough for now. And maybe it will scale, who knows?

*Seriously? What do you think it stands for? Use your imagination.


What, never built a miniature trebuchet? Do it. You know you want to.


About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
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