More small team philosophy, this time by Facebook

by Jeff Hilimire on December 7, 2010

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my feeling that small teams can accomplish more innovation than larger teams. I’ve written about why I love small teams, things that will kill a small team, and why Google is suffering by not having small teams.

I was recently passed an article about Life Inside Facebook (thanks @interpolate). Truth be told, after Google Reader and email, I got a ton of my “news” from @interpolate. Perhaps if more of us follow him he’ll tweet more of this goodness ;)

Below is a quote I pulled from the article. I think it speaks wonderfully to why small teams are immensely important for innovation and product development. Talk about a flat structure!


As companies get bigger, they face the problem of decisions having to flow up and down management, and inevitably things ossify – it’s been like that for Microsoft, and there are signs of it at Google. Is there a way to avoid that at Facebook?

(laughs) Yes, we don’t have the layers of management approval! We don’t pass things up and down the chain. The team working on the product development makes the decisions. If there’s a problem or if they think it merits it then they will talk to Mark [Zuckerberg] directly. We try to do a good job of setting out the context of the task and release people to get on and do it. People are pushing new features and code to the site every day. It’s really about trying to remove barriers and reduce friction in development.

  • Josh Martin

    Great quote. I think this is the reason they are able to produce and implement new Facebook products / features so quickly. Other companies can’t move this fast due to the layers and decision making.

  • Tom Harpointner

    Great topic Jeff! It’s difficult to even begin to imagine the vast amount of revenue and opportunities great companies continue to lose today. Not because they lack the necessary resources to propel the evolution of their business — even their entire industry — but because they’re simply too big to execute. Or, they’re too close to their business to recognize a diamond in the rough.

    Perfect example: Xerox, in 1973, was the first desktop computer (the Alto) to use a graphical user interface (GUI). Several thousand units were built and actually used by Xerox and universities. The Alto greatly influenced the design and evolution of computers in the following decades. However, it took two small, creative and agile innovators — not Xerox — to capture the hearts and minds of the masses and execute on a vision that would change the industry (and world).

    Meanwhile, Xerox could only watch on. Xerox had the financial resources, technical expertise, and industry reputation. They were well enough positioned. What did they lack?

    Here is the fundamentally value I believe agencies like ours must deliver to our clients — ignite ideation, help propel change, and inspire execution.

    I hope this inspires some more thought!

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Tom, I love the Xerox example. Did you know that Adobe actually came out of Xerox because Xerox said that software “wasn’t their business”?

    Clearly Xerox has been successful but man, they could have been a much more amazing company had they been able to innovate and expand their minds.

  • Tom Harpointner

    In case you haven’t seen it… “The Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires”

    It’s one of my favorite documentaries tells the history of the PC and how it developed from big limited box to small advance GUI based machine. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Xerox P.A.R.K researchers all speak about the PC.

    Amazing. I wonder how those ex-Xerox executives feel today.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    The Triumph of Nerds! I will definitely be watching that, not sure how I missed it. Thanks for the note Tom.

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