I see that Luke Johnson is to launch a Centre for Entrepreneurship, partly to combat the perception of entrepreneurs as ‘greedy, self-regarding and dim-witted’. I think a quick look at those who manage very large firms that they don’t own will quickly reassure us all that if entrepreneurs are greedy then they are not alone; and if they genuinely are dim-witted then not even Mr Johnson’s prestigious new organisation will be able to rescue them. However, self-regarding, now that rings true.
I went a couple of weeks ago to a breakfast meeting at which a panel discussed ‘High Performance Culture’. Three of the panel were soi-disant ‘entrepreneurs’ and I think that it’s fair to say that none of them would have recognised a high performance culture if it had walked up to them, smacked them in the face and said “Hello, I’m a high performance culture’. However, two of them (including the chap who advised that the best route to a high performance culture was to have an average workforce age of 26 and drink lots of beer) were made to look like Peter Drucker by the third.
This chap – whom you won’t be surprised to hear has recently been appointed to advise the civil service – could not have been more up himself without actually turning inside out. His first pronouncement was that he had identified through experience the best number of directors for a company and that it was less than two. Remarkably enough, it was downhill from there. His prescription for the achievement of the desired high performance culture was greeted with incredulity even by an audience still somewhat taken aback by the ‘drink more beer’ message of the previous speaker. The secret, according to our hero, was that he had given a smartphone to all his staff, had a custom app written and employed a videographer to follow him around. Thus whenever he had some wisdom, exhortation or instruction to pass on it was beamed straight to every employee and the fact that they had – or hadn’t – watched it, was known centrally.
Now at first, as I watched the audience shaking their heads and rolling their eyes, I assumed that the ‘entrepreneur’ was the only person in the room who hadn’t read Orwell’s 1984. However, on subsequent reflection, it seems more likely that he has read it, but didn’t realise it was a satire. Perhaps they are dim-witted after all. Still, as someone once said, “Ignorance is Strength”.