The Rise and Fall of Creo: How Economic Thinking and Employee Empowerment Defined a Tech Era

In the bustling tech hub of Vancouver, BC, once stood a company called Creo that embraced a unique approach to decision-making and employee empowerment. Founded on the concept of “unit presidency,” each employee at Creo was entrusted to make decisions as if they were the president of the company. This philosophy, based on “economic thinking,” emphasized the importance of sound economics and consensus in key decision-making processes.


Under the leadership of CEOs like Ken Spencer, Amos Michelson, and Mark Dance, Creo thrived as a flat organization where employees were self-managed and compensation was tied to contribution. The company’s success was attributed to a strong sense of shared vision, a framework for decision-making, and a culture that valued mentorship and adherence to core principles.

However, the golden era of Creo came to an end when the company was acquired by Kodak, leading to a cultural clash and a decline in effectiveness. The shift towards hierarchy and politics resulted in a loss of alignment with the company’s original values, ultimately leading to its downfall.

Despite its eventual demise, Creo left a lasting impact on its employees, who fondly remember the company for its unique culture and effective management practices. The case of Creo serves as a valuable lesson in the importance of strong leadership, shared vision, and a culture that fosters economic thinking and consensus-driven decision-making.

As the tech industry continues to evolve, the legacy of Creo lives on through its core technologies and the memories of those who experienced its organizational philosophy firsthand. The story of Creo reminds us that strong management, employee empowerment, and a clear focus on economic principles are essential components of a successful and sustainable organization.

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