How Big Companies Think

You probably know that inside your skull there is a brain divided into two halves, a right brain and a left brain, that collectively control the way you think, react, and behave.

Similarly, decisions at Big Companies are a team effort, the result of a shared opinion between two forces that guide a company’s thinking: the Organizational Mind and the Individual Mind.

Like the “right brain”, the Individual Mind uses reason and logic to identify opportunities and champion ideas. An individual within the Big Company – a Sally or Jim or Jennifer – can see the nuance in the value that you can bring to his or her organization and decide on whether to the weight of their support behind your partnership. Or they may be personally motivated to advocate on your behalf, recognizing an opportunity to make a name for themselves by personally sponsoring your partnership with their clout.

But the Individual Mind cannot function alone. It requires alignment with its counterpart, the Organizational Mind, in order to build momentum to carry out a plan. The Organizational Mind dictates how the company will perceive the value of an opportunity. Over time a Big Company evolves an organizational structure, a company culture, and a set of protective processes that determine whether the Individual Mind’s efforts will be thwarted. A culture that discourages risk-taking, a siloed organization, or an endless series of bureaucratic obstacles can squash even the greatest of partnership or sales opportunities.

To succeed in working with a Big Company, you need to create alignment between the Individual Mind and the Organizational Mind. You need an individual who cares enough to stand behind your deal, and an organization that is willing to get out of its own way when pursuing growth opportunities in a way that is new (and therefore scary) to it.

You won’t always find that alignment in the first place you look. You may have a contact within a Big Company who champions your deal with all of their might, but an organization that won’t support innovation at the expense of risk. Or you may find a Big Company with a history of doing exciting deals, but no individual who cares enough about the value that you create for them personally to shepherd you through the organization.

When pursuing deals with a Big Company, it’s not enough to have the support of the Individual Mind or the Organizational Mind alone. You need both.

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