The Risk of Working with Geniuses
In my work as a consultant to many companies around the world, I have noticed a phenomenon that I would like to share with you.
Early in my career, when I came across people I considered geniuses—people who were exciting and creative, who were pushing the boundaries of knowledge and experience—I was very excited to work with them. I felt close to creation. I felt that they were breaking boundaries and doing something important, and I thought that meant the endeavor would be very profitable.
After working with several of these geniuses, I came to realize working with a genius is one of the fastest ways to lose money and time. The excitement I felt did not produce the things I expected it to.
What was going on?
Those so-called geniuses enjoy challenges. They don’t work on simple problems. They look for things that are new and interesting and thus exciting. But once the concept is developed they kind of lose interest and move on to the next exciting project.
In business, details count. Commercialization counts. Quality of the product counts. Timely delivery counts. But our genius is not interested in details. He or she is interested in breakthrough technologies. And if the technology genius is the controlling owner of the company, it is a struggle to get him or her out of the lab to go and raise money , do some marketing research as to what the market really wants or to make him or her focus on how to make the innovation operative and not only exciting as a technology.
Geniuses: they might develop some fascinating breakthrough products but end up poor and destitute. Like Nikola Tesla did.
What is needed is a complementary team. He or she needs someone operationally and financially astute to whom the technology genius will listen (not easy !!!!).
I learned never again to invest in any genius unless there is a complementary team that owns part of the shares so the genius must listen.
In my experience, the most successful startup, breakthrough companies are the ones with a complementary team: a genius innovator working together with a highly competent, business-oriented, commercially-oriented partner. This team must trust each other and work together, one to commercialize the product and the other to innovate and take satisfaction from the challenge. It must be a complementary team with a high level of mutual trust and respect. Without MT&R they will fight day and night and the company will go under; If one dominates too much, say the business person, the breakthrough innovation will end as a product of continuous improvement and not as a breakthrough innovation. If it is dominated by the genius innovator, it might generate an innovation applauded by the knowledgeable but be a financial flop.
Not strange over ninety percent of startups do not succeed.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Founder of Adizes Institute Worldwide