It is important for big things to start small

From what I can tell, every big thing that really sticks in people’s heads started at least an order of magnitude smaller than what it ended up as. This goes for companies, organizations, projects, movements, etc. etc.

By contrast it seems that whenever whenever someone starts something huge - a massive fund, a company that is hyped from day one, a movement - it ultimately disappoints.

There are several practical reasons for why big things tend to succeed more often if they start small. Three of the biggest ones (which are not completely independent of each other) are expectations, momentum, and trust.

When something starts small, it has the ability to exceed expectations. Exceeding expectations sticks in people’s heads more than meeting them. By contrast, when something starts big, it has massive expectations from the beginning so it is hard to exceed them.

Small things have less momentum, which in turn allows you to make many quick, small adjustments to iron out problems and move in a better direction. To continue the analogy, less momentum means that the costs to changing things are lower. It’s the difference between being in a kayak and a cruise ship moving at the same speed. If you know you’re going in the right direction, you want to be in the cruise ship, but almost nobody gets everything right from day one.

The momentum-related costs of changing direction come in several forms. Direction-changing costs could appear as coordination-related Transaction costs between people: the more people who are involved in something, the more coordination costs you accrue when you try to change anything. The costs could be in terms of reputation: the more eyes and expectations on what you’re doing, the bigger the confusion and or reputation damage you cause when you choose to do something different. The costs could be literal capital costs: if you buy an expensive piece of hardware that ends up being useless or a large office in a place that ends up being the incorrect place.

Starting small enables you to build up trust. Building trust is a process of verifying that you

To some extent It is important for big things to start small is isomorphic to Running multiple organizational experiments flies in the face of common wisdom



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