[Time] magazine had assigned a reporter named Virginia Bennett to find out about “automation in America.” She went to see Remington Rand, whose UNIVAC product was then the epitome of computing coolness…but, “fortunately for us, they weren’t very forthcoming that day.” Walking back to her office, she passed the IBM building, saw the “Defense Calculator” (IBM 701) in the window, and decided to see if IBM would be interested in doing the interview. When she asked the receptionist who she could speak with, the receptionist was smart enough to say, “Well, the head of this company is Mr Watson. He isn’t in the building today, but his son Tom is the president and you can certainly see him.”You can't buy that kind of marketing exposure, and most marketing departments can't deliver it reliably - even IBM's. But someone who was "just" a receptionist - but smart and savvy and given decision making authority - made a big difference.
The resulting article was very powerful publicity for IBM, and surely no help at all for Remington Rand’s relative industry standing. If the receptionist had greeted the reporter with the all-too-typical bureaucratic approach (“The Watsons are very busy men, you’ll have to call Public Relations and make an appointment.”) the outcome would likely have been quite different. Tom Jr notes that his father considered the receptionist position very important, and always chose those women himself.
Devolve authority. Push it down all the way to the front line troops. Then watch as you run rings around your Pleistocene competitors.