Bob Sutton is one of Silicon Valley’s most influential business gurus. A professor at Stanford’s Engineering School, he is the author of bestselling books like The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss. And his latest book is Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less, which argues that what distinguishes great companies like Pixar, Twitter, Google and Facebook from dysfunctional companies like Zynga is their ability to scale their organization.
“Scale”, Sutton told me, means the “spreading of excellence from the few to the many”. And successful founders, he explains, are able to build teams around them and grow the company organically. But some companies are harder to grow than others, he says.
Indeed, Sutton even refers to something he calls “the glass cliff” at struggling companies like Yahoo, where the job is so challenging that men are scared of taking it on. Being CEO of Google is an “easy job” compared to Yahoo, he says. Marissa Mayer could easily run Google, he says; but Larry Page would struggle to run Yahoo.
So is Bob Sutton right? Is everything in Silicon Valley really about people? And are the most successful companies those that are best able to scale their organization?