Upon reading the financial pages, I couldn’t help to see an increasing trend in companies that are downsizing and generally not doing as well as they should, considering their potential, I came to think of many of the brain disorders I encounter every day.
If one imagines that a corporation is a brain and its product is consciousness, there is a strange parallel here.
Brain disorders vary quite extensively in both symptomology and pathology but they have certain traits in common; disablement of the executive functions, changes in personality and neuronal loss leading to loss of the conscious self, deregulation of a system and finally, termination.
What I often perceive is that a company’s employees can be seen as hormones, functions and structures.
You have employees that are neurons that are essential for transferring a signal and making sure the brain functions. Then you have employees that are structures, like the motor cortex that are the movement and the actions. You have those that are the frontal cortex that make sure that the company has a personality, warmth and a social feel to it.
It is the frontal lobe structure that makes sure that your company empathizes with the needs from the external world and predicts scenarios that can take you forth in your actions.
You have employees that are the hippocampus and the limbic system which are ancient in their structure but fill a very basic and important function. They have a sense of tradition and memory that keep the company’s values and relations intact, they were there to build it, and they are there to make sure it remembers its core.
Once they were progenitors, and some keep themselves as progenitors. They rebuild, re-innovate and keep the company fresh. Those types of employees are, just like the progenitor cells, switched out and leave the structure once they have fulfilled their purpose but you damn well better make sure they have one, or you’ll gain nothing.
You have employees that are the corpus collosum that keep it all together through administration and communication. Some of your employees are the central nervous system, responsible for executing the will of the brain, they also act as hormonal glands, who are sensitive to outside changes and can overthrow the entire system, let’s call them the middle management and sales.
So you have this wonderful structure, needed to execute any function and goal you may have set out. You, the boss, the CEO, the major stockholder, the owner, whatever you may be; are the consciousness.
You control and are control by this entire system.
When a brain starts to shown symptoms of deregulation.
It usually starts on neuronal level, not structural. But it’s hard to catch a dying neuron. There are so many of them, and it’s not until enough have stopped functioning you realize that it may very well be too late. Neurons are what make up the foundation, you can afford to loose one or two, looks any loss is a sign of worse times to come.
The news of such loss reaches the progenitors, who now have lost the impulse signals that tell them what to do, that gives them the creativity they need to maintain or even form new neurons that will stabilize and enhance the limbic structures, the hippocampus. The hippocampus, being flexible and easily affected by what the hormonal system does to it, starts do slowly decay, and shows signs of loss of memory and tradition. The core of the company has lost much of its function and the innovative part, the part that recovers is no longer stimulated.
After a while, the hormonal fluctuations increase due to stress of recovering the system. The deterioration continues and the personality of the company changes. There has been loss in the frontal lobe, empathy and social skills deteriorate and your company becomes socially inappropriate, but functional. It’s just a matter of time before you executive functions go, for the motor cortex has suffered loss as well, and before you know it, the direction of your company becomes nothing more than a shaky hand movement that forgets it’s task before it’s even implemented in the mind.
And your consciousness becomes a blurry haze of half fulfilled plans and inability to restore your function, telling the rest of the body to allow antigens and mutations to take over, and kill you.
Now how to prevent it?
Realise that your company is a complete system, even the smallest neuron can make a difference, prevent it from leaving the system.
Realise that a company can’t consist of only one type of neuron or structure. They need each other and you need to make sure they are all sending signals to each other.
Don’t let middle management send wrong signals to the rest of the brain. They flow in to the body and are best adapted to the external stimuli. But they can also become deregulated easily. Your amygdale and HPA-axis were put there as a warning signal, a social decoder, a survival kit. It is only an alarm, don’t let an alarm become a compass.
Make sure that those that innovate, the progenitors, get a challenge, don’t leave them without stimulation and most of all, freedom to challenge and restructure the hippocampus.
So the death of a company is much like a neurodegenerative process. The difference, there is no registered cure to date for neurodegeneration, for a company, it’s as simple as getting rid of bad middle management.