The New York Times had an interesting guest column written by a former designer for Microsoft. In the piece, Dick Brass remarks that “Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator.” The problem, according to Brass, is a lot of infighting within the bowels of Microsoft, where departments would sabotage and compete against other departments within the company, killing innovative ideas before they could flourish.
Internal competition is common at great companies. It can be wisely encouraged to force ideas to compete. The problem comes when the competition becomes uncontrolled and destructive. At Microsoft, it has created a dysfunctional corporate culture in which the big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence. It’s not an accident that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft’s music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left.
I find stories such as this fascinating. What is it that creates a climate of interdependence, trust, and collaboration within some companies and envy and competition within other companies?