Scaling: The surprising mathematics of life and civilization

So what is “scaling”? In its most elemental form, it simply refers to how systems respond when their sizes change. What happens to cities or companies if their sizes are doubled? What happens to buildings, airplanes, economies, or animals if they are halved? Do cities that are twice as large have approximately twice as many roads and produce double the number of patents? Should the profits of a company twice the size of another company double? Does an animal that is half the mass of another animal require half as much food?

Geoffrey West – Scaling: The surprising mathematics of life and civilization

Companies and superlinear scaling

I am about 100 pages into Geoffrey West’s book, Scale, and am having a hard time not just skipping ahead to the parts about cities and companies.


Cities, West says, scale superlinearly (aka increasing returns to scale) whereas companies scale sublinearly (aka economy of scale). Which is why cities typically last a long time, and companies (and animals, for that matter) typically die young.

What if you could structure your company to scale superlinearly? Is it possible? If so, how would you go about making that happen? Would you even want it to happen, or is it a good thing that companies “die” young?

Back to the book….