The system is rigged.

You’ve probably heard that being said somewhere recently… and it’s safe to assume that half of you vehemently agreed with that statement – and the other half chuckled a bit.

Well, a scientific paper published by Professor of Media Arts and Sciences Cesar Hidalgo, a few years ago studied this question mathematically – and the result was astonishing.

He studied the phenomenon of the meritocracy and topocracy and how networks start out as a meritocracy  and as they scale in size – turn into a topocracy.

What he proved was that it really is not what you know, but who you know that determines your success. Even in the age of digital access to networks like we have today, there is an emergence of superhubs (like Facebook and iTunes) that act like a monopoly of content within a system that should be completely democratic, but isn’t.

This gives rise to a new form of inequality once again, where some will proclaim things like ‘your success is based on hard work‘, or ‘success is due to your level of talent‘. This assumption, sadly, is just wrong.

Success depends on your connections, your network…and has absolutely nothing to do with how talented you are. This then is probably why big companies stop innovating when they hit critical mass. Because success from then on is based on maintaining the relationships in the network which have been created, not pushing out new creations based on talent. Which is exactly why they become irrelevant, because other newer players come in – offer something more appropriate and tease that network away. The relationship folds and the old order fails.

It’s interesting research and is some excellent insight as to why it is that as an organisation grows, it inherently become more fragile.