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  • Kick The Corporate Ladder

    We’re not big fans of what I consider “vertical” ambition.

    It’s funny…

    When you hear the phrase “pyramid scheme,” what thoughts come to mind? For many, you associate those words with multi-level/network marketing, people harrassing their family and friends until they can’t stand to come around, and rip-offs disguised as business opportunities.

    That’s not the funny part.

    It’s somewhat ironic when you pose the same question to people involved with network marketing. They’ll tell you that the traditional corporate hierarchy that most of us are used to is the real pyramid scheme. The 1 CEO at the top, with lower level executives and managers increasing in number as they decrease in authority. Nearly all the workers are at the bottom of the pyramid.

    It’s hard to argue with that logic!

    Climbing the corporate ladder is a quest that many workers dedicate years to. Paying dues, working hard and getting noticed will gain access to the ladder’s higher rungs over time.

    Ambition is encouraged, even required, if you want to have any upward mobility.

    (On a personal note, I was passed over for a promotion that I know I deserved. It bothered me so much that I approached my manager’s manager to complain. I was told that people don’t advance simply based on merit. You have to take the initiative to make sure your superiors know your specific intentions to move up. That didn’t make me feel better, but I knew better for next time…)

    Jason Fried, president of the software company  37Signals, considers “vertical ambition” to be a bad thing.

    In fact, if you dream of climbing the ranks of his company, becoming a manager, and possibly one day calling all the shots, Fried will tell you that you’re looking in the wrong place.

    37Signals operates as a “flat company.” There are no managers, per se. Decision making is decentralized, and every worker is responsible for their own work, rather than being held accountable to one department leader.

    We revere ‘horizontal’ ambition,” says Fried, “in which employees who love what they do are encouraged to dig deeper, expand their knowledge, and become better at it. We always try to hire people who yearn to be master craftspeople, that is, designers who want to be great designers, not managers of designers; developers who want to master the art of programming, not management.

    Does that sound odd? To most of us, it doesn’t make sense. But it works for 37Signals. Fried explains that  “support has gotten better…customers are happier. We’ve measured the difference, and we know it works.”

    Learn more about how 37Signals and a few other innovative companies aorund the world are running horizontal organizations in “Why I Run a Flat Company.”

    Challenge your point of view. What benefits do you see in this model? What problems can you see arising?

    Please comment below!

    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Gamechangers

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    About the Author: Donnie Bryant is a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant. He specializes in improving businesses' sales and profitability by creating compelling marketing messages and strategies. Find out more about Donnie at http://donnie-bryant.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @donniebryant and connect with him on Google Plus at +donniebryant.

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