I know tilt, in the Quixotic sense, means joust.
This is a blog about intrapreneurs, and how they create change within large organizations. It borrows from my own discussions with large companies, as well as work within and alongside them. And it considers modern, small-batch, pay-as-you-go technologies such as cloud computing, 3D printing, digital delivery and personalization, and how these affect innovation.
We’re in the middle of a tectonic upheaval in business. The move from physical to digital systems has moved the economic order quantity of nearly everything to zero. That means many of the barriers to entry on which large companies could rely—infrastructure, assets, capital, employees—have crumbled. Sure, they still have real advantages in the form of brand awareness, access to customers, and a war chest. But something’s got to give.
This is borne out by the longevity of companies on the Fortune 500 list, which slid precipitously from nearly 60 years half a century ago to just 15 years now. Small startups might act like they’ve got nothing to lose—but big companies have everything to lose, and they’re furiously losing it.
We’re entering a world where cycle time trumps scale, where the ability to learn and iterate faster than the competition becomes a virtuous loop of self-improvement. One of the major movements to come out of this is the Lean Startup movement, which recommends a constant, iterative cycle of building, measuring, and learning.
So back to the name. Mills are big, archaic machinery, dark and satanic. Tilting is another word for leaning, an allusion to the Lean Startup movement and to Lean Analytics, a book I wrote in 2013 with Ben Yoskovitz. And of course, when you mess with an old pinball machine, throwing your weight around, it resists your attempts to break the rules through a tilt detection mechanism. When you try to hack old machines, they push back.
But most of all, trying to change an organization from within can feel like tilting at windmills, in the truly Don Quixote sense of the word. It can seem futile, sysiphean. And it shouldn’t. Plenty of smart companies have figured out how to innovate in these new conditions, and there are a variety of strategies that can help.
I’m hoping to explore that here. I hope you’ll join me. If you want to sign up for updates, custom content, and ultimately, whatever media comes out of this project, you can do so below. I won’t spam you and I won’t share your information.