I've briefly retired from being a manager at big tech companies. And by retired, I mean I've decided to more hands on work in programming and less Powerpoint presentations. But I wanted to share some thoughts about big companies, and why they get stuck with substandard and outdated offerings.

The very first struggle a big company has is that it has "right sized" its staff to the point that everyone already has three jobs. When an employee is over maximum capacity on day to day duties, they aren't going to be shining lights of creativity - especially for the benefit of the company. Most smart people (the very people you want creating for you) will see a bad situation at work, and use that creative energy to enact an escape plan. That means hoarding ideas, hoarding that extra 10% effort, and looking for a way to leverage their talents for themselves.

You'll see big tech companies saying things like "we give employees 10% time to work on whatever they want". It's really untrue. There may be a nest of golden kids at corporate who had 10% time, but the reality for everyone else is a 12 hour day.

So now you have employees who are overworked and planning their escape (and many won't ever leave or act on their ideas, which is actually worse in my opinion than giving the ideas to corporate - an unbaked idea cheats the world!). Meanwhile, the PR machine at a big company will keep singing the song about innovation, supporting ideas, etc. But really - really really - they will use up the people who do have ideas, and the rewards will be small for that person (if any). In fact, most of the time, you will be saddled with your cool idea and your three other jobs.

And that PR machine, the same one that is supposed to be inspiring, becomes something of a cancer in the business instead of a motivator. Employees see the disconnect between the words and the deeds, and there is no way to hold on to that cognitive dissonance and feel good. It just doesn't happen.


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