Ultimately, Going Big means the courage to be brave. It’s hard enough for us to do in our personal lives and a million times harder at work. Companies are so highly matrixed and political that they make sticking your neck out nearly impossible. At least, shunned. No one wants to take the ball or stand out. Since no one is brave at work, most employees mimic lots of average and invisible employees.


Big comes from big ideas and big dreams. Most people and companies don’t know how to recognize an idea.  It’s not anyone’s fault, we’re just not practiced at developing them. Most ideas don’t have a clear course. And charting new courses or knowing how to stop turning the same crank is not something companies genetically know how to do. Ideas need care. Anyone can kill a sapling but only those who can Go Big can grow them into trees.


Instinct is amazingly human. It’s so immediate we often don’t give it a voice. At work, we bury instinct with layer upon layer of justification, data, and gobs of the unnatural for fear that our instinct may be wrong. We don’t trust ourselves, in large part thanks to the Naysayers, who have used fear to bash down people’s gut. Gut is a powerful guide in our individual lives but for some reason we abandon it at work. Your gut doesn’t have supporting data. Like a relationship, it isn’t something you can prove before you do it.


Plain and simple, if you can’t rally people, you can’t Go Big. The more people we can motivate, the bigger we can go.  Since the only way to deliver is through a powerful network of leaders and followers, nothing works without the relationships you’ve built. They are your water. Make sure you have plenty. Networks aren’t created through entitlement. They’re created through respect.


Ultimately, if doughnuts aren’t leaving the factory, you’re not Going Big. People and companies need to deliver and re-deliver consistently and constantly. They must bring their Go Big dreams to life. Execution is key. Markets and coworkers have no loyalty. They judge you on what and when you deliver.

  • Tara Reed

    Short, Sweet and a great reminder. Thanks!


  • James Governor

    Nice to see Jimmy Carter in the “getting shit done” side of the chart. that dude has built an awful lot of houses. i met him once. it was a great honour.

  • http://Website Angie Barbour

    solid info and the visuals bring it home. Thanks!

  • Sara Aase


  • Mukund Mohan

    Absolutely spot on Sam. Good work bud.

  • Dirk Singer

    As usual, an excellent post

  • John P. Kreiss

    Great post and very creative. The visuals get the point across and do it quickly.

    John P. Kreiss
    MorganSullivan, Inc.

  • Susan Scrupski

    Hey Sam. You and I are mind-melding here. We’re both fighting the good fight. But, why aren’t we breaking through? When Norman Naysayer arrives at the customer watering hole, he’s greeted with a warm, “NORM!” from his fellow naysayers. Resistance, fear of change, yada yada, is a comfort zone.

    Propaganda is not going to win this war. We need to take hills on the battlefield with measurable gains in business operations as a result of Big initiatives. Without these, we’re just publishing posters and pamphlets. In other words, the evolution of market acceptance has moved squarely into the “show me; don’t tell me” zone.

  • Sonny Gill

    That first paragraph sums it and mainly: “Companies are so highly matrixed and political that they make sticking your neck out nearly impossible”.

    I personally think a lot of companies are stuck in this mode mainly because they think it really is political; going big for the company vs. for an individual’s agenda/promotion/etc. It starts at the forefront with a company’s culture and whether if Going Big is even attainable. But in the end, you’ve got to have the willpower to push through, go big and force the case until someone (and everyone) listens.

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  • http://Website Brent C.J. Britton (BCJB)

    Thank you! Go big. Supersize it. My $0.02:

    We’re stuck with some evolutionary baggage. We come from schools of fish and herds of animals for whom sameness is a survival skill and standing out from the crowd gets you eaten. So we have evolved a pleasure response to our own conformity. Fitting in to our peer group evokes a sense of comfort. Somewhere deep within our brains lies machinery that makes us really dig flocking.

    Choosing to innovate requires overcoming the visceral desire to just sit down, shut up, and accept the status quo like everyone else.

    Evolutionary disdain for radical behavior works outwardly too; we instinctively fear and loathe the behavior of our peers when it runs too far afield of the norm. And we have no qualms about letting them know it. This kinship-based weirdness suppressor is an evolutionary backup to keep us in line if we can’t self regulate as individuals. When people have too many different ideas, we think they’re crazy and we tell them so. Witness the very epithet “mad scientist.” Heck, witness how any group of teens treats a nonconforming peer. When Fulton proposed the steamboat, they called it Fulton’s Folly and they said it would never work. After all, why put a steam engine on boats when we’ve got reliable, centuries-old sails and oars? I have no doubt that when the first of our kind tried rubbing two sticks together in an effort to make fire, the rest of us stood around making fun of him and probably suggesting he was in league with Lucifer. We cannot conceive of our own place in a world that is marked by the change that innovations represent. Just ask the 19th century oarsmen that Fulton’s incredibly useful steam engine put out of work.

    To innovate successfully, you’ve got to ignore the slings and arrows of critics. You’ve got to get yourself spending time around people who appreciate weirdness and smartness and who value new ideas because they are new. You’ve got to remember that pretty much everyone who ever said it couldn’t be done…about anything… was wrong.

    My advice? Avoid lizardry. Yes, you’ve got this paleocortex in the back of your head insistently pumping out the signal that you are a fearful little ball of nerves just desperately trying to avoid getting eaten (because your paleocortex knows that you are crunchy and good with soy sauce). But for several hundred thousand years you and the rest of your kind have been toying with how to use this other rather nifty hunk of jelly right behind your forehead. The highly organized electrochemical potentials in your cerebral cortex have paved the way for all sorts of useful skills, such as choosing whether or not to supersize it, for example.

    And also to decide whether or not to actually give voice to the signals coming out of your lizard brain or push through them to become the star you are, star.

    Your evolutionary fears are but a subset of the whispering winds luffing through your sails. Choose to ignore them and boldly go.


  • JP

    Love it. Great piece. I’m sure I’ll be quoting the sapling and tree analogy soon. And yes, love the graphics.

  • Javabeanboy

    I love, love the slight parallel facial features between each comparison. Mel Gibson looks lionesque. Steve Jobs looks vaguely like Tin Man. And so on. Nicely done.

  • sam

    @Brent Awesome commentary and insight.

  • @SocialJulio

    Another great post Sam… most of the reason I am no longer with my previous job are on this article.

  • Phil K.

    Ummm…that’s post-presidential Jimmy Carter, right?

  • Jenny

    This is – without question – my current favorite blog post. Thanks SO much!!! (Now if I could just get that blasted song out of my head “If I only had a…”).

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  • http://Website Audrey

    Thanks for using Democrats!

  • Martin Buckland

    Very thought provoking!

    Thank you.

    Martin Buckland
    Elite Resumes
    “We brand our clients to stand out from the competition.”

  • sam

    P.S. I’ve gotten a lot of crap for naming Jimmy Carter as someone who can execute. Who should have I chosen?

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  • maggiefox

    As usual Sam, there you are, going big with this post. Like it.

  • Eric Gonzalez

    Excellent post Sam, as always.

    But.. Jimmy Carter? :)

  • Laura “Pistachio” Fitton

    this is wonderful. all i would add is that Go Big Together is what I wonder about perhaps most these days. how do the oddbals @bcjb describes feed off each other more effectively to amplify that greatness? can they do that better?

  • John Johansen

    I like the scale concept for each of these elements. It’s true that we sometimes associate our ability to succeed at work with not getting fired. But, really Going Big requires stepping off the well-worn path.

    I’ve been off the path, it’s not an easy course to take. And… well, you don’t always ‘succeed’ when you step away from the crowd. Still, I’d rather strive for these goals that you point out Sam.

    And as Susan said, we have to keep showing the value in that.

  • Walt Ribeiro

    Go big or go home. Love it. Great post!

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  • Josh Bernoff

    You are so right on target with this.

    This could very easily describe the last two years of my life. How else do you think I could write a book at an analyst firm? No fear.

    A couple of things for people reading this:

    1. If you do this, you could fail. That’s right, you could. Big means failure is possible. You should do everything you can to maximize the chance you won’t but what if you do? Don’t go big without an answer to this question. (And failing at something big is a worthwhile activity, in any case.)

    2. For most people, the skills and contacts that make it most likely you will succeed accumulate when you are older. And older people lose their nerve. That’s why going big successfully is rare. I have convinced people wisdom that comes from working for the last 25 years, combined with the recklessness (bravery? daring? you pick) to not be afraid of what happens next. Do you?

  • Stacey Monk

    It always puzzles me why people are so gripped by fear that even the best ideas and possibilities become trapped inside minds, hearts and bellies rather than manifested for the world to share. You’re probably familiar with this quote by Marianne Williamson, but your post reminded of it, so I’ll include it here:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

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  • Scott

    @ Sam – Tiger Woods = Execution

  • Jevon

    This is a special post Sam.

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  • Josh Bernoff

    Reading this again made me think of Bill Bluestein, Forrester’s president who died in 2001. ( We dedicated Groundswell to him. He would have loved this.

  • Steve Golab

    Sam, what a monster response. 36 in just 2 days. Great job. Like Susan, I really resonate with the idea of going big.

    While the overall changes achieved at first may not be as big as originally envisioned, that is generally okay. Instant change at a massive level is very rare, so be patient, observant, committed and focused on the holy grail of going big. This sort of vision is an effective compass for executive leadership.

  • Michael Cayley

    Great to see the Wizard of Oz metaphor in use. But you forgot Toto!

    Or not Toto as the case may be.

    I GO BIG with not Toto in Social Capital Value Add. Check it out:

  • Michael Cayley

    Ah, yeah check it out …

    What’s With the Dog

  • Allan

    Can I buy this in a poster format? Nice job.

  • http://Website Jay Rogers

    Nice. Found you through twitter, but followed you (in another sense) at SicolaMartin Interactive a few years after you left 97-99. Amazing career! Way to go, wish we’d met!

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