Creative institutions get bigger so that they can avoid doing things that feel risky.
They may rationalize this as leverage, as creating more impact. But it’s a coin with two sides, and the other side is that they do proportionally more things that are reliable and fewer things that feel like they might fail.
In other words, hiring more people makes their useful creative productivity go down.
This is not the way it works in a factory. When Henry Ford hired more people for the assembly line, productivity went up. Things got more efficient. More lines, more plants, more hands led to more productivity. The natural scale of the enterprise was large indeed.
But a creative studio, a marketing team, architects, strategists, programmers, writers, editors, city planners, teachers–the natural scale of the enterprise is smaller than you think.
This is a new law of organizations, and it’s not well understood.
We hire more people to make it feel safer. To paper over the cracks, to please more people, to increase stability.
None of these things are why the creative institution exists.
While the bureaucracy may benefit from more scale, the work doesn’t.