Short answer: Yes. But what do I mean? I mean that even though a business is a collection of people putting effort into a particular goal, the business has its own story. The people putting effort into making that story everything it can be need to be aware of that fact. They are serving not only their own careers or their own sense of self, but also serving to actualize the possibilities and potential of the business.
The business is a part of the life story of its founder and of everyone else who signs on in hopes of taking the next, hopefully-lucrative step forward in their lives, but it has manifest destiny of its own. That’s why when someone on the team isn’t contributing to the success of the business, that person has to “go.” The business can’t become SELF-actualized if there is no homage paid to that goal by anyone on the team.
It’s important to remember, by the way, that the business can only become SELF-actualized if its story is non-fiction. That means that the product has to be real, and the team has to be really focused and must possess the needed skills to develop the product and market it. It also means that assumptions made about the market for the product have to be rational and based on real data. Competition can’t be downplayed; the competitive landscape has to be researched in depth and accepted for what it really is.
A business can’t become SELF-actualized with fiction baked into its narrative for another reason, too. Investors will tend not to “buy into” the story. Good investors have a sixth sense for whether the narrative arc of a company is likely to include great success or whether it is an interesting, but fictional, story.
While people may criticize capitalism, one of the real silver (or gold) linings of capitalism is that it is a force that helps to SELF-actualize companies and those who expend true effort on behalf of them. When you give voice to the goals of a company and they make sense, you set in motion the internal desire of many others to see the company become what it was meant to be. Human beings are instinctively excited by and activated by stories with real potential to include great chapters. Being the founder of Amazon, or Employee #11 out of an eventual 5,000 employees at a company, or an investor who heard the true promise of a venture and put his or her money “to work” fueling that venture, feels good because we all want to watch something or work on something that fulfills its promise.
This very human and very deeply felt creative impulse can’t be explained away by studies of the brain that look at how dopamine surges when success is achieved. Because chemical messengers in the brain are just molecular tides. The joy in helping a business become self-actualized is a mystical, immeasurable experience. It’s no different than the joy in envisioning the form of a sculpture and then carving it out of stone. The finished product, if excellent, brings a sense of fulfillment and excitement. It also brings a sense of relief—the product of the artist’s imagination has now become a physical “product.”
Getting every single person in a company to understand that he or she has the profound responsibility to actualize that company requires a leap of imagination, too. But only until the company is built—for real.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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