Unspoken contradiction of involvement in business

This text was sparked by our recent correspondence with Luc Jones.

There's a lot of talk from HR camp about employee involvement, entrepreneurial spirit and other nice empowering things companies like to tap.

This resembles to me talking of nuclear technology in its peaceful, civil guise while completely silencing its military origin and purpose.


Once upon a time, in summer 2006, shortly after I ended my corporate carrier, I was looking for ‘my own’ loved, hi-tech project - something I would have devoted my life to.

At those times I only made first steps along this path and I didn't know where to look for what I wanted, and how to obtain it. So, I went to a number of meetings (or job interviews) with hitech startups.

One of the projects I was fascinated with was biotech company that offered antibody immunoassay for early diagnostics of a broad spectrum of diseases. They were early stage and they needed a lot of development work.

I remember there were at least three people on the other side of the table during our first (and last) meeting. The conversation went on for a few minutes, and I made my aspirations very clear.

The HR/Marketing person started to ask me specific questions on marketing strategy for their product. However, by that time I already knew the answer to the main question of the interview because I could see the eyes of key investor of the startup, who also sat opposite to me next to the lady who were asking questions at the time.

So, I told her: "We can go on with Q&A, and I know that I can handle this startup, but the answer to this meeting is not in the detail we are discussing at the moment. The answer is in the eyes of the person sitting next to you".

The unspoken questions was: "Do I need a hot shot with partner ambitions?" and the answer was "No".

Not only investors, but also people on the employer side with zero entrepreneurial experience perceive the situation as ‘semiconductor’ - once you hatch from an employee egg to an entrepreneur state (aka - person with ambition to own a business) there’s no coming back for you. You are through the looking glass. And they are partly right - once you take a breath of freedom you are not coming back into the line. Once you expand beyond limit you become unwilling and psychologically unfit for work as an employee. You need to be your own master since that.

Also, more importantly, after one crosses the Rubicon, one starts to think about how to own whatever he/she is a part of.

In this state, any business owner, theoretically, is her/his antagonist. It isnt't a good idea to hire energised, loose cannon ball coming your way, is it?

What is that the HR camp is buzzing with? It sounds like naive fraud story - they require entrepreneurial spirit and empowerment without giving the inherent ingredient - the ownership and power in key decision making or, at least, an opportunity to be heard and taken into account. As any fraud, this may work once or twice with smart people, the next stage will be - conflict.

The real pool of candidstes the companies are after, are not ‘energetic-entrepreneurial-etc’ but rather ‘highly professional, ethical with acceptable EQ’.

The most dangerous thing a business faces in a day-to-day life is a conflict of people with owners’ ambitions. The older the business the higher is the probability of this event. Productive relations of highly energetic people usually do not last too long.

In the West there is a broad array of binding contractual tools and enforcement system that make selfish, destructive behaviour too expensive to indulge in. In Russia, though, the night is yet but young.

In hiring process, the entrepreneurial element has to be put under the microscope and measured very thoroughly, otherwise you may expect Fukushima in your ranks.

The HR professionals probably have some scale to evaluate such risks (I’m curious). Proneness to conflict, level of personal ethics, point in life cycle, it’s speed and many other parameters need to be taken into account.

May be one day people will develop the ‘Brave New World’ technology that will provide for a polyamory and marriage of the ‘the id the ego and the super-ego’ (or, according to a more contemporaty terminology Reptilian, Paleomammalian, Neomammalian brains)) and we’ll see perfectly balanced, genetically engineered workers seamlessly fitting their workplace.

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