Four Ways to Scale Up: Smart, Dumb, Forced, and Fumbled

Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2021, "Four Ways to Scale Up: Smart, Dumb, Forced, and Fumbled," Saïd Business School Working Papers (Oxford: University of Oxford).

37 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2021

See all articles by Bent Flyvbjerg

Bent Flyvbjerg

University of Oxford - Said Business School; IT University of Copenhagen; St Anne's College, University of Oxford

Date Written: January 5, 2021

Abstract

Scale-up is the process of growing a venture in size. The paper identifies modularity and speed as keys to successful scale-up. On that basis four types of scale-up are identified: Smart, dumb, forced, and fumbled. Smart scale-up combines modularity and speed. Dumb scale-up is bespoke and slow, and very common. The paper presents examples of each type of scale-up, explaining why they were successful or not. Whether you are a small startup or Elon Musk trying to grow Tesla and SpaceX or Jeff Bezos scaling up Amazon – or you are the US, UK, Chinese, or other government trying to increase power production, expand your infrastructure, or make your health, education, and social services work better – modularity and speed are the answer to effective delivery, or so the paper argues. How well you deal with modularity and speed decides whether your efforts succeed or fail. Most ventures, existing or planned, are neither fully smart nor fully dumb, but have elements of both. Successful organizations work to tip the balance towards smart by (a) introducing elements of smart scale-up into existing ventures and (b) starting new, fully smart-scaled ventures, to make themselves less dumb and ever smarter.

Keywords: Scale-Up, Scaling, Scale, Scalability, Modular, Modularity, Replicability, Speed, LEGO

Suggested Citation

Flyvbjerg, Bent, Four Ways to Scale Up: Smart, Dumb, Forced, and Fumbled (January 5, 2021). Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2021, "Four Ways to Scale Up: Smart, Dumb, Forced, and Fumbled," Saïd Business School Working Papers (Oxford: University of Oxford)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3760631 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3760631

Bent Flyvbjerg (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Oxford
Great Britain

IT University of Copenhagen ( email )

Copenhagen
Denmark

St Anne's College, University of Oxford ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

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