Jennifer Tucker
consultant, author

Jennifer Tucker

Consulting director, Otto Kroeger Associates. PhD in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech. Author of "Type and Project Management."


Shape Your Success

Q: Wasn't it just yesterday that Google was the coolest company on the planet? The New York Times says the online giant is now seen by techies as a lumbering behemoth, and employees are starting to leave for more nimble companies. Is it possible for an innovator to stay in the lead indefinitely, or is there always a "hungrier" competitor right around the corner? Do large companies offer the same shot at success, or do workers usually have to break away to seek the greater rewards?

There is a fairy tale quality about companies like Google. Every successful new company, especially those born in the mystical land called Silicon Valley, is rich with the hope that comes with new ideas, the adrenaline that comes with early success, and the rewards that come to those who believe and risk it all.

Over time, these successes have stabilized our faith that two guys in a garage can invent the future, and that fortune most favors those adventurous techno-mavericks that create the "next great thing" to expand human potential.

And then, for those lucky few who make it, the pragmatism of the business life cycle kicks in. Success is not a static state. Innovations begin to take hold, and success measures shift to expanding market presence, finding financial stability, and continuing to innovate while also building infrastructure.

Hiring the people to do these activities both requires and leads to more process, more structure, and more needs for coordination. There is no way around it, unless they decide to get out early, the founding happy-hour gang that gave birth to a new venture evolves into a company that can't help but care about market valuation, holiday parties, and the sanctity of the brand name.

Not everyone wants to stay through this transition, and it is natural for those seeking the risk and excitement of the next new thing to move on. At the same time, new people with different talents join the party. In the best of worlds, a culture emerges that both supports innovation and the longer-term business processes that allow those innovations to take hold and thrive.

Given both its continual launch of new products, and its strong place in the market, Google appears to be holding the balance pretty well. For many, Google still remains one of the coolest companies on the planet. Is the company going to lose some hot shot engineers as it feels its growing pains? Of course. Is it going to also hire in their place some very bright people eager to shape the successes ahead? You bet.

It is human nature to mourn the loss of the early visionaries, and question the company that allowed them to go. Let's instead, wish both well, trusting that the mixing and jostling of people as they move around and between companies leads to learning that advances the game for all.

Different people define both success and rewards differently. Some see the best rewards as the big payout that comes with the innovation that changes the whole game. Others see the best rewards as the stability that comes with being part of a company for the long haul.

Still others see the best rewards as the independence that comes from controlling their own destiny, even if the huge windfall never comes. The key to finding success is knowing what success means to you, what rewards you most seek, and then finding the fit, even if for just right now, that allows you to thrive and brings you joy.

By Jennifer Tucker  |  December 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success in the workplace Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Behemothian Rhapsody | Next: Is loyalty dead?

Post a Comment

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company