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Developing an Executive for the Future

Originally published May 26, 2005

Recently, I went to the office of a large technology company. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones as well. During my visit, I encountered an old friend who had left the large technology company for the lures of the dot com boom. My friend had been with the dot com company for 15 months before it had folded. My friend then returned to his former company.

My friend is a senior executive. He meets the public every day and has always done an excellent job. He is a real asset to his company.

But seeing him after a number of years was an interesting experience. His experience with changing jobs and attempting to make a business in the dot com market place really has benefited him immensely. He now brings a different perspective to his job.

So what is it that an “outside experience” can do to enhance your perspective? It can do a lot:

  • The contrast between a large company and a startup is stark. In a startup you have to do everything for yourself. In a large company there is an infrastructure. For all the complaints about an infrastructure, not having one, can make one suddenly appreciative of the things that one once took for granted.
  • The ability to not have politics. Yes, small companies do have politics. (A wise person once said—you get two people in a room and you have politics.) But the politics of a small company are inconsequential compared to the politics of a large company.
  • The ability to make a decision on the spot. In a large company, decisions are usually done by committees. We spend countless hours agonizing over what to do. In a small company, a decision can be made on the spot. In a small company, we can turn on a dime (or at least a quarter).
  • Seeing new technology. In a small company we often get to see things that are never apparent at a large company. In a small company, there are many cutting-edge things going on. In a large company there is usually much less innovation.
  • Seeing the marketplace. In a small company there are limited resources available for marketing and the marketplace is usually fairly small. In a large company, there are considerable resources for marketing and usually a large market that needs to be addressed.

There are many reasons why being a part of a small company for a short period of time is a good idea.

The fact that my friend’s old company welcomed him back is a credit to the company. My friend brings a greater appreciation and a wealth of new ideas back to this former company which is a benefit to them.

In fact, it is such an enriching experience that large technology companies might consider sending executives to other industries for a limited amount of time. When the executive reenters the corporate stream after tasting what other experiences have to offer, he has a new perspective.

This could be equated with the “Loaned Executive” for United Way. However, large companies could do this with some of their development partners and experience a win-win situation.

I sincerely doubt that many large corporations would embrace such a radical approach. But that does not mean that it is not an idea worth considering.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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