How Story, Vision, and Culture Scale with Reid Hoffman

In Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh’s book, Blitzscaling, they talk about the transitions companies go through as they scale their businesses up. The authors reference the Marshall Goldsmith quote, “What got you here, won’t get you there,” to illustrate how important it is to be ready for multiple changes along the way. While we won’t all be building our own LinkedIn’s from the ground up, understanding the concepts for how sales growth relates to company size, culture, and policies can be enormously helpful for everyone involved. Here are some examples:


Communication changes dramatically with size. Two people can easily talk and exchange information. Ten people start to have complexity issues with 45 potential two-person conversations at any time. Fifty, or one hundred, or one thousand people? This will require serious communication strategy adjustments along the way to ensure people, instructions and the vision for the business don’t get lost in a massive game of telephone. 


Culture is critical, in part because it can serve as a substitute for bureaucracy as a company grows. Culture gives choice its context. While policies and procedures are important, an awareness that “people like us do things like this,” offers a powerful contextual shortcut. Leaders help reinforce culture via their individual actions, their communications with the entire group (setting and refocusing the vision), and in the management of people and their careers. 


Regarding people management, the authors use the Ship of Theseus as an example. The legendary warrior’s ship had every one of its wooden parts replaced over time, raising the question – is it still the same ship? Hoffman and Yeh say yes – that the name and story of the ship’s history have to be bigger than any one plank. As people inevitably come, go, and are promoted, leaders should focus on the story of the ship collectively, not just the individual aspects.


Whether we are at the top of an organization, the bottom, or somewhere in the middle, we should have a sense for how our companies, cultures, and careers are evolving. Books like Blitzscaling aren’t just templates for startup founders, they’re templates for all of us to understand how our modern world of work actually works. What got us here, won’t get us there. Adaptation is everything, and our story, culture, and vision all have to work hand in hand. Miss any of these and we dramatically reduce our potential to successfully scale.

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