Entrepreneurs versus Employees
Lone survivors wander a battlefield, befuddled and bewildered, the world they once knew consumed by a more agile, energetic adversary: the entrepreneur. Such has been the reality of corporations of late that even the mightiest have had to face either of two choices: stand aside or adapt.
The business landscape is a hunting ground. Small start-ups hungrily seek the market share of big players, whilst big players desperately look to absorb start-ups’ entrepreneurial agility. And thus traditional understandings of the employee role are slowly lost. The workers of today must be entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors, with the elusive talents and traits normally allergic to the corporate environment, roughly injected with a needle dirtied by previous non-starters. Amidst the war for market share, creativity has become the new weaponry, fighting the battle between old and new, failure and success.
But therein lies the problem. A lot of the creativity rhetoric has been based on the false precept that entrepreneurialism can be bred into corporate life, grafted on like the head of another animal. Job sites are filled with companies professing to seek out creative entrepreneurs, innovators and free thinkers. Such is the spiel of recruiting that even a lowly position must somehow also possess these traits which, in truth, are poorly defined to begin with.
Much of this can be seen as marketing, with terms such as ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ simply becoming corporate buzzwords for progress. The simple truth is an innovative spirit is hard to come by, and is by its very nature antithetical to the average 9 to 5 desk job. Not everyone should be or can be ‘that guy’, and the height of corporate creativity usually amounts to selecting which brand of coffee to use.
The sad truth is that corporate intervention at first props up creativity, and then secondly distorts. The idea of entrepreneurs growing companies from garages with minimal resources and turning them into billion pound enterprises is an obviously attractive one. But innovation has become intrinsically paired with technology, and it is through technology that change is possible. Sure, the promise of massive profits wouldn’t be far behind any altruistic will to better society, but fundamentally the reasons individuals and corporations innovate are massively apart.
Like some storybook villain attempting to absorb the youth of the young, industry giants now desperately try to grab onto bright-eyed entrepreneurs in an attempt to overcome the incongruities of the two worlds. When Yahoo bought Summly for $30 million in 2013, many suspected part of the hefty price tag was related to the recruiting of Summly’s founder, Nick D’Aloisio. It made sense for a struggling Yahoo to gain its own Zuckerberg, somebody who, regardless of his tangible contribution to the company post hiring, could make an invaluable PR contribution.
Simply, innovation for many companies is less an actual process, supported by a clear-cut working mentality, and more an act of branding. We propagate the illusion of universal creativity, waiting for the one innovative spark to ignite in some cubby recess of a company.
But what’s in a name. Calling a role creative doesn’t make it so, nor does repeatedly shouting the word innovation in a dark room result in progress. When something doesn’t fit, we’re left with the option of pushing, contorting and mutilating it to fit our design. Branding can embellish, but insisting on the need of individual creativity in each and every role becomes counter-productive and an unrealistic estimation of where we’re at. One day soon, decisions makers will cease to place the onus on hiring creative employees to change their fortunes, and instead rely on a natural innovative mentality bred into the company’s structure (which, for many, will prove an impossibility).