My son looks just like me, or at least so I am told. He has bigger eyes and a rounder nose, but other than that, there is a striking resemblence that would never leave someone confused about his paternity. I am told that this resemblence in young children to the father is much more about getting me to stick around than it is about getting other people to recognize who’s child he is. In an evolutionary sense, he looks like me so that I don’t go off with someone else or believe ill about my wife. In a much more real sense, I am proud that he looks like me because it means that I knew him before he could talk or show me what he was interested in. I knew him because the part of me that is in him is showing through for the world to see.
I wonder, though, how important is it to bear a resemblance to the organization or company that helped spawn you? Does it matter if Lucent Technologies is like IBM or the Baby Bells are like Ma Bell? Does it matter if Aardvark acts like Google or if Next Computing was like Apple? Should any of the non-profits or schools that are trying to reform long help systems and traditions be held up next to the organizations that helped to create them to check for a family resemblance?
Family trees are becoming increasingly important to me and so I guess it leaves me wondering about the ancestry of the institutions I rely upon. When it counts, the eyes of a company allow it to see competition as well as envision the future unfolding. A resemblance between father and son would allow both to look out for one another, warning of opportunities or pitfalls that are on their way. The ears, too, are ones that matter. They help an organization listen to trends, and they let them hear the customer needs. A resemblance of a more open ear would be welcome to a whole family. Furthermore, a simple curvature of the nose could show how the progeny can detect the sweet aroma of the right ingredients for opportunity coming together, just as the patriarch might.
I also think that sometimes this kind of resemblance can be something of an embarrassment if the traits are too close. The awkwardness of a family looking too much alike is exasperated when the family is made up of large million dollar firms. If they all seem to be readying themselves for a big family reunion, during which there are no differences of opinion, interest, or outward appearance, there is very little chance for progress. While I think that they do some things well, the company Oracle does this kind of resemblance terribly.
In the past few years, they have purchased many companies that are helping to compliment their cradle to grave idea of applications. They want to own all parts of the development and implimentation process for both server and client-side applications. Each of the companies that they have purchased are currently being remade in Oracle’s own image, complete with nearly infinite levels of management and a culture that seems to thrive on people checking things off in order to become certified in their own jobs (take Oracle DBA, for example).
Each one of these companies that was swallowed up by a larger one does not have the cute resemblance of a father to a son. Instead, it comes off as if there is a clone being created, one that is interested only in cloning itself again as many times as possible. I like that organizations can learn from one another and that startups can find successful exits, but I believe that there is something inherently wrong about parents looking too much like their children. It is just creepy.
My advice: Be cute. Be agile. Be a good son.