My Ego is Smaller than Yours…

Allowing for some semantic debate about exactly what one’s “ego” might be (usually, “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance) and avoiding the existential question as to whether an insurance underwriter or risk manager can even have a soul, it is generally considered bad form to profess to possess one.

Frankly, this is nonsense, as the persistent carnage caused throughout history, both literally and metaphorically, by those who were not “egotistically-challenged” attests.  The idea that those CEOs who engage in creating and building business empires did so for altruistic purposes and “without ego” is laughable.  After all, it is now generally considered demonstrable that the prevalence of psychopathic tendencies among business leaders is somewhat higher than in the general population; and titles such as the “Genghis Khan Guide to Business” (sic) are taken seriously (having more resonance than “Who’s Moved my Cheese?”).

At Awbury, we try to curb our psychopathic tendencies; and you, Dear Reader, will have to wait rather a long time for the publication of our distillation of wisdom, to be entitled “The Awbury Way: How to avoid CATastrophe”.  However, none of us is naïve and foolish enough to believe that we do not possess individual egos, or that they do not matter or have NO value.  IN FACT, recognizing and allowing for a healthy balance between an individual’s ego and the team’s dynamics is essential for highly functional teams to achieve their best, particularly in creative and high-value-generating environments, such as new product creation and the building of innovative business models.

Scientific studies tend to demonstrate that most of us have an over-developed sense of our own importance- in the jargon, there is an “egocentric bias in responsibility allocation”; or, in plain English, each of believes that we have contributed more than we possibly could have to a given outcome (except, of course, when something goes wrong!)  The key point is to recognize this; manage it in terms of group dynamics; and avoid it becoming a distraction, as well as destructive.

Somewhat disturbingly, another study indicates that everyone enjoys talking about themselves. One would have to say that this seems rather intuitive (dead-pan expressions all round), but in a business environment, it is a distraction.  There is a reason why Awbury’s “Insights” are anonymous!

Nevertheless, egos do matter: The more senior and successful people become, the larger their egos tend to be, whether visible or not.  Any catalogue of successful business leaders would support that hypothesis, and its capacity for the destruction, as well as the creation of value.  We are deliberately not mentioning names to avoid accusations of bias – but you know who you (and they) are, and it is a long list.

In our view, a carefully-managed ego is actually essential for any normal human being.  After all, we each have an individual identity; and suppressing it too much is actually harmful.  Yet, we have to be mindful that the team is far more powerful than any one of us; and that starting to believe in “one’s own propaganda” is evidence of a slide towards delusional and probably harmful behaviour.  Not a good thing.

So, please be assured, that the Awbury team acknowledges, and channels its inner ego.  Now, as for the Id…

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