On Growth

“Corporations are people, my friend.”  -  Mitt Romney

    While I think the statement that Romney made at the Iowa State Fair was slightly misrepresented in the press, the trend towards personification of business in America has - in my opinion - contributed greatly towards the economic predicament in which we currently find ourselves.  What I think Romney was so clumsily attempting to say is that corporations are made up of people - people who benefit or suffer in relation to the actions of the larger organization.  Of course, this interpretation is actually the opposite of what he said.  

The traditional “grow or die” mantra of American business has - at its root - the idea that a business is a living, breathing entity that is governed by the same laws to which other forms of life are subject.  However, when corporations are viewed singularly as people, and not as the sum of their parts, their actions and the consequences of those actions are no longer tied to the real people that make up the whole.  The growth that has become so essential to our idea of success in business then only applies to the corporate “person” and not to its discreet (actual person) elements.  

     Under the traditional model, there are only two “people” that really matter in the world of business:  the composite, yet autonomous, “person” of the The Corporation (capitalized to distinguish it from the non-person corporation), and the similarly assembled “person” of The Shareholder.  The obvious omission here is the third “person” of The Customer, but I would argue that The Customer functions less as its own organism and more as a simple source of nutrition for The Corporation.  In this relationship, The Shareholder functions as a sort of success-obsessed stage mother, insisting on nothing but the best from her corporate charges. Here we risk extending the metaphor to breaking, but what we are witnessing now in our nation’s economic near-collapse is, in a sense, similar to the high profile meltdowns that  we have seen repeatedly from child actors, sports figures, etc. who have been subjected to the same type of treatment.  You cannot repeatedly push a “person”, real or imagined, to their breaking point, critique their every move, analyze each of their defects and inefficiencies, deprive them of rest, joy, and sustenance,  and still expect them to continue to perform forever.  Something will eventually break.

    The concept behind LiveWork Studios is essentially utopian in nature.  While we may not speak in such lofty terms to our customers or the general public, it is our goal to find a way out of this tragically flawed system for ourselves, our families, and our business.  The “person” that we have created under the name LiveWork Studios LLC is in many ways our child, but it is our goal to raise this child in a healthy, respectful way - the kind of child rearing that we try to practice in our own homes, where growth is as likely to occur in the parent as it is in the child.  

This should not be taken to mean that what we desire is stasis.  Stasis is decay.  There must always be growth for there to be life, but that growth must occur within ourselves. The business is there to grow us.  If the strength of any business is truly its people, then the growth that we seek must occur within those people for the business to continue to succeed.  In this way the studio becomes more an extension of the university than a traditional client-producer-shareholder relationship.  In the new model, innovation is prized over efficiency or repeatability, and risk-taking and personal development are actively encouraged.