“Mine!” “No! Mine!” How often have you seen that scenario play out? I certainly found it a recurring theme over the holidays as I watched my two very young grandchildren play. And I would guess that 95 out of 100 initially happy games that ended up in tears, did so when such conflict arose. Even when it wasn’t about direct ownership, it was about perceived injustices over “turns” or temporary ownership of a particular activity. The concept of possession thus seems to be a deeply ingrained in our culture from a very early age.
Whether this is good or bad, is actually irrelevant. Less materialistic cultures, such as the San people of the Kalahari, suggest that it is possible to have a culture without ownership and consequently with considerably less conflict. This, arguably, makes ownership the Pandora’s Box that seems to be the price we pay for civilisation and something that is almost impossible to discard. Indeed, you could argue that ownership underpins capitalism, which, historically, has been responsible for the world’s major economic development.
Yet, even in commerce, ownership is a root of contention and conflict. You only have to watch “Dragon’s Den” or “Shark Tank”, with would be entrepreneurs pondering an investment offer to see this.
- Invested considerable time, effort and personal finance, developing something new;
- Realised they cannot go any further on their own, without additional expertise and/or financing; and
- Recognised that, at this stage, they have virtually nothing, and need the investment to create value.
Securing the investment offer is prima facie evidence of the potential of their proposition. That’s the hard part done! The choice now is between a larger share of something small or a smaller share of something significantly bigger. And, all too often, they choose to keep a larger share. What an insight into psychology. It’s a little like blowing out another’s candle because you don’t have your own!
You could call it “Dragon’s Den Syndrome.” Yet Dragon’s Den is not the only place you’ll find this phenomenon. It is pervasive in the wider corporate world. Not least in the objections to my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model, where some have said they think, because the second phase of the model entails giving every employee an ownership stake in the organisation, it inevitably reduces the shareholders’ stake and, consequently, their rewards.
This is false logic for at least two reasons:
- Under the ‘Every Individual Matters’ model the employees do not acquire equity or shares and so there is absolutely no effect on the proportionate shareholder stake.
- The common purpose and additional energy, enthusiasm and engagement that such ownership offers results in greater productivity which would increase the returns considerably.
Employee ownership is widely regarded to improve business performance. Generally, however, ownership is linked to equity and comes with inherent shortcomings. Without this, the process becomes inherently easier to administer, as well as less susceptible to manipulation and distortion. Furthermore, as an essential component for creating an organic organisation, it is key to “busting bureaucracy” and delivering the $3 trillion p.a. saving that Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini identify as being possible from doing so, as described previously in Busting Bureaucracy by Eliminating Hierarchy.
So, if you are suffering from “Dragon’s Den Syndrome,” I recommend that you revisit your premises and explore the ideal that ‘Every Individual Matters’. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could provide the catalyst to help you create a culture in which everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding improvement that transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.