Little Village Syndrome – Excerpt from: Beyond Business

Excerpt from forthcoming book: Beyond Business, By: Matthew Mabel ©2012

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Small businesses can be like lush tropical villages protected by mountains and water that keep the outside world outside. Inhabiting the village is a pleasant experience. Life is good, comfortable and familiar. Natives get along well, save for an occasional argument undertaken in a context of security and trust. Every inhabitant has their own safe place in the village. Over a period of decades villagers learn their roles. Special rituals are performed. When the history of the village is told, it is clear that unique behaviors have become accepted as keys to group success. People do the things that have always worked in the past. Villagers do not compare themselves to other villages they have heard about. What would be the point in that, they wonder incredulously. Their village is special, better and unique. Villagers know in their hearts that there truly is nothing to compare themselves to. It is hard work to maintain the village’s prosperity and happiness. The inhabitants have not taken the time to look out into the world. This inward focus is the natural order, as opposed to a character flaw or risky behavior.

It is easy to spot a “little village” company. First, the people working there are happy. Unhappy people leave the village, not the happy ones. Second, in many cases, people have lived their whole working life in their village. Third, they have a great deal of pride in their accomplishments. If the village was not an admirable place to be, villagers would go elsewhere. Fourth, when I ask their leaders about their competition, they believe that their product or service is so great, special, or unique, or that their customers are so well loved, appreciated and catered to, that they do not actually have any competition, in the conventional sense of the word. At first the only plausible explanation for these circumstances must be that the village has no newspapers, cable TV or reliable high-speed Internet connections. If they did, more of the outside world would have permeated their borders.

When we identify a company with Little Village Syndrome, we begin to gently push the villagers out into the world, and ask them…

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