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Escape the Corporate Cargo Ship

You 🫵 Should Join Us on Speed Boats Here in Web3

Cargo ship, sailing boat or speed boat?

Having been both a startup founder and a corporate employee, I've learned that sometimes, you need to nudge people to take the leap. It's great if you can do the nudge through powerful metaphors that better highlight the core message. One set of metaphors that has stuck with me is comparing large, established corporations to cumbersome cargo ships, Web2 startups to sailing boats, and Web3 startups to speed boats.

Let me nudge You to join the speed boats. This is for You - if You are working on a cargo ship and are afraid to jump overboard. Maybe you need a little nudge.

Cargo Ship's Turning

Don't get me wrong—corporations have a lot going for them—deep pockets, established processes, a predictable career planning process, and smart people in key roles. That’s what You initially liked about them, am I right? You also thought you would learn new things and spend time with customers. You believed that to be successful, corporations need to be able to get things done as planned, especially when a new priority or initiative is identified. But now You know better ... You have learned that, more often than not, the opposite is true.

Corporations are paralyzingly slow to change course. You correctly feel that the reasons for this are both organizational and cultural. As your boss says, You both are just cogs in the wheel. When taken from the actual cargo ship position, it’s just a gigantic, complex maze of groups on different decks, sub-groups, and fiefdoms under the surface, each with its own incentives. 

You now know that fighting for any change really requires multiple people operating in multiple roles. It’s a small project on its own. That doesn’t seem right. Your job shouldn't be to fight. But unless you approach it as “your job,” nothing ever gets approved, let alone changed. 

To get buy-in for any change, large or small, you have to bargain and persuade not just your boss or the captain (the CEO) but also the captain's direct reports and then their direct reports' direct reports in a nested doll of approvals. You’ve lived through this before. It felt like the approval process was the work, but the actual work should be something else. You just can’t get to it if you want anything changed.

And here comes the kicker; even once You battled through the process and got everyone's sign-off, the actual implementation hasn’t started immediately. Or it was stopped halfway through. And at the best scenario - You’ve seen it take years and years with mediocre results. 

Personal Example

Turning a cargo ship even a few degrees requires vast amounts of time, energy and empty space. Corporations are the same - it can take forever before all the low-level worker bees who power the company's engines embrace and execute on a new direction. Corporations are also great to make You busy and entertained with internal things that have nothing to do with real-work that provides value to customers or clients. But you already know that!

I give you a personal example - long time ago, I’ve been part of some technology transformation efforts in large utility conglomerate operating across many European countries. Back then, I built the product organisation on the technology side of the business; we planned the changes that needed to be done across a set of countries. They were necessary because of changing business and regulatory environment - things like unbundling of networks, open markets pricing, etc. - all needed new structures, processes and technology backend. We started steering the ship …

And I felt like we’re not moving. I felt we’re losing time, I felt we were being intentionally blocked and slowed down by the other parts of organisation, then by my new boss, then by his new boss, etc. I decided to leave. I felt I started losing touch with new tech and what’s happening in the world because I was sitting inside a cargo ship fighting with different fiefdoms on different decks. 

I left, started a company, then another one and then one day, after about 6 years, I met my previous colleagues who decided to stay. They were still running on the plan we charted years ago. That’s good - it was not a bad plan. The problem was, they got to step 3 out of 10, when the whole plan was initially supposed to be 3 years transformation. 

I think was right to leave -> I wanted to be part of the new things, part of multiple things that you can influence and see through during your lifetime. I like the part where you are figuring things out. I wanted to be part of small ships.
They were right to stay -> They wanted stable work, good salary, new wasn’t such a big deal, predictable raise meant more. They liked to figure things once and then work on them. They want to be part of a cargo ship.

You Want Speed Boat

I assume that if you’re reading this, and you are not in the small ship just yet. But You feel and know you should be! This is my invitation to You -> join a small boat and help make it into speedboat!

Small boats shake and jump on water more, but you are in touch with reality everyday and when you gather speed and you steer, you immediately see the results!

We need you. We need more smart and motivated people to join this nascent industry called - Web3, crypto or blockchain technology. We need more of everyone with any background.

Come and join!  

I hope today's post motivated you to think about speed, change and figuring things out.
If you liked it - bring your friends - they may love it as well! If you feel extra generous, you can MINT this writing and own it forever!

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