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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The stem cell fallacy

No, this blog didn’t turn into a political activist blog for or against stem cell research. Yes, this is going to be an analogy. This came to me recently as I was discussing my post-sabbatical future with my boss. He’s done a lot to help me out, but it’s hard for me to get the recognition I deserve because I’m in a very non-traditional engineering role (i.e. one that’s entrepreneurial with projects that are outside the box and usually much smaller than typical). So to stay in my function I’d probably need to do more traditional roles so I could get the recognition (i.e. promotions and raises).

I’m at the point now where I’ve been around long enough that I have a little more say in my career, and I know enough about career paths to be able to know what I want. In the past, I did what I was told and went and did a traditional role. I don’t feel like the company got the most out of me.

What bothers me is corporations think we’re stem cells. At the risk of oversimplifying, stems cells are undifferentiated cells and can grow into whatever type of cell it’s placed near. If a stem cell is placed near a liver cell it grows into a liver cell. If it’s placed near a heart cell it grows into a heart cell.

Corporations think we’re all like that. You put me in a traditional engineering role, and I will turn into a traditional engineering person. You put me in an operations role, and I will turn into an operations person.

Well, I’m just not like that. The issue is everywhere I go, they assume that. If I want to go into marketing, they want me to turn into a marketing person. If I want to go into R&D, they want me to turn into an R&D person.

Corporations think of themselves as one person and the employees as cells within that body. We’re more like an ecosystem, individual organisms that interact with each other and evolve as conditions dictate. Why can't they recognize that?



Jason Cohen said...

True! Interchangable cogs in the machine.

Also explains a major problem with bureaucracies -- that the only way to make more money is get promoted, but promotions usually change the job, and eventually you get into a job you're no longer good at, where you stay.

They make the problem worse with their language: http://bit.ly/TaRpY


Dale said...


The Peter Principle!

fooddiaryuser said...

I had to follow my entrepreneur's heart and leave the corporate world where my ability to make someone else rich was not appreciated...it took seven people to replace me!

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