The magic of [MIT] Building 20, powerfully eulogized in Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn, lay in the balance the environment struck between order and chaos. There were walls and doors and offices, as in most academic buildings. But the structure’s temporary origins—it was originally built with the expectation that it would be torn down after five years—meant that those structures could be reconfigured with little bureaucratic fuss, as new ideas created new purposes for the space…residents had no qualms about tearing down a wall or punching a hole in the ceiling to accommodate a new idea.
— excerpt of Where Good Ideas Come From
The initial strategic advantage of a startup is nimbleness. Without the inertia of the demands of customers, investors, employees or the carrying costs of in house developed technology, startups are free to pivot as either their market or their leadership demands.
Like Building 20, a startup in Steven Blank’s customer development stages must be built with temporary walls and fixtures. Constructs and ideas are cheap drywall meant to be broken, rebuilt and reassembled as required by the environment.
The most successful enterprises are able to maintain this agility throughout their growth. Netflix articulates these principles as cultural axioms. Amazon reinvents a physical business as a digital one with the Kindle. Apple reshuffles the order of the iPhone and iPad to maximize impact.
Like Building 20, the longest lived entrepreneurial edifices are ever-building, ever-changing and ever-deconstructing.