What can an ant teach a corporation?

Money isn’t the gateway to happiness!

Hard work alone isn’t the route to success!

How to be happy and successful then…?

After the following fable, we are going to reveal the missing bricks, if you won’t find it out yourself.

 

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“ Once upon a time there was an ant. Early every morning he went to work. The ant was diligent and liked a lot his job. The lion who was the leader got surprised when he noticed how productive the ant was without any kind of supervision. He reasoned that if the ant was so productive without supervision he should be even more productive with a supervisor.

Hardworking Ant
Hardworking Ant

The lion hired a cockroach who was trained in labor supervision and also was known for his detailed reports. The first task for the supervising cockroach was to create a labor schedule. He needed a secretary to take notes. The cockroach hired the spider to handle all the different files that increased in volume.

Further, the spider took care of the switchboard and answering the telephone. The lion got exalted of the reports the cockroach delivered and asked him to create graphs for the production and making an analysis of the development. These documents the lion could show to his boss. The cockroach had to buy a computer and hired the fly to take care of the IT department. The ant who had earlier been a happy and productive worker hated his new job now, as he was obliged to attend different seminars, describe his work in different reports and register deviations, etc.

The lion argued that it was time to hire a manager for the division where the ant worked. The gadfly was assigned the position and immediately he bought a nice carpet and an ergometric chair to his office. The gadfly employed an assistant and acquired a computer to be able to create a plan and optimize the work and to make a budget. The unit where the ant was working wasn’t any longer a pleasant working place and the atmosphere was bad with a lot of tension.

The lion proposed to the gadfly to do a complete survey of the labor environment. It turned out that the division of the ant had higher costs and lower productivity. Upon this alarming report, the lion hired the owl as an external consultant to propose necessary changes. After three months the report of the owl was released: “there are too many employees”. Guess who was the first one the lion fired? Of course, it was the ant as the report clearly showed that he suffered from the lack of motivation and had a very negative attitude.”

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This very descriptive fable shows clearly that something that worked fine, maybe not 100% optimized, went completely down the drain when people with a good intention tried to improve things.

Many of us who have, or still are working in a corporation, probably have seen this kind of situation many, many times. The question is why does it happen?

  1. Management without sufficient knowledge and contact of/with the core business
  2. Theory wins over best practice, as often intellectually superior
  3. When the overall goal for the organization isn´t super clearly pronounced, easily political movements will appear to look after personal interests rather than the ones of the company
  4. When problems start to pile up as a consequence of the previous 3 points, the last and often desperate measure will be to hire a lot of people and expensive consultants, hoping that these people will solve the problems. This is quite common in state owned companies without a clear goal setting for the employees. Bureaucracy is a more popular wording for these set ups, surviving because we as taxpayers continue to pump in more money.

 

Are you an expert or an entrepreneur?

There are thousands of successful corporation out there, even some very few state-owned, and they have one thing in common no matter the industry or the size of the companies:

Entrepreneurship

And using the same four steps pattern as above, these are the typical behaviors of a true entrepreneur:

  1. A true entrepreneur knows his business inside out. Often he started the business himself or herself with two empty hands. Only just one alternative existed: do all the work yourself or your dream will fade out and die.
  2. Best practice will always dominate the route towards the goal. A true entrepreneur is never afraid of taking the fight against “established” theory when his/her gut tells him/her that he/she is right. Therefore, it can sometimes be somewhat turbulent to work with entrepreneurs.
  3. Political movements will never exist, as the organization never will let them grow. They are seen as the weed in the lawn and will immediately be taken care of.
  4. As a consequence of the three previous points, bureaucracy will not appear as poison to entrepreneurial driven organizations and will kill the goal of the company.

 

Multitask Entrepreneur
Multitask Entrepreneur

For me, it took many years, too many, to realize the behavior of corporations as described in the first case. Although I was holding top management positions and fought hard against all unhealthy behaviors that did not bring the division under my responsibility towards the established goal, after all I was only a brick in a much bigger construction where other interests were predominating.

With an entrepreneurial mindset the best you can do, no matter the age, is to run your own business where you apply all your knowledge, experience and gut feeling.

Referring to the fable, it’s not a question of being an ant or a lion but to be all the animals in one. A friend of mine, a very successful entrepreneur who built up a multimillion organization, said once:

As an entrepreneur you are not an expert on anything, needed experts you hire, but you know a little of every single piece of the company.

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