Today, I have been contemplating on the reasons for the success of corporate structures, when an obvious analogy came to my mind. The analogy is drawn from bucolic life, a theme that was very popular in poetry (centuries ago).

Let us take, first, the structure of a group of sheep. You have the shepherd who leads the flock. Then you have the sheep who graze happily in the fields. This picture cannot be complete without the dogs who will keep the sheep within the allocated space. The happy sheep eventually provide the shepherd with their wool, milk, skin and meat that will be sold for profit in the markets. Don’t forget the wolf who hides at the corner of the picture, ready to snatch the precious sheep.

Let us now change the setting. Imagine yourself at a modern university that trains its students for the corporate life. At the helm we find the Vice Chancellor (shepherd) who sets the tone and values of the Institution. Then, follow the professors (dogs) who provide the students with knowledge. In actual fact they do a lot more than that. They teach them how to follow instructions, how to comply with the demands of their superiors and how to complete a task in the allocated time. The students (sheep) pay exorbitant amounts of money to learn these precious skills. The wolf of the picture may be the year out, or the lure of other universities.

Once the students graduate, almost half of them will find jobs, while the rest will be drifting from one low paid, part time position to the other, or they will follow postgraduate studies (to avoid facing the job market head on). Once they land the dream job, they will be at the bottom of the chain. At the top is the CEO (shepherd) designs the values and principles of the company. His/ her managers (dogs) are responsible for implementing the vision and guiding the workforce. The employees (sheep) work hard to move upwards in the chain, while they produce profits for the company. It has been estimated that they get paid less than 30 per cent of these profits.

Who is the wolf in this picture? Some of you may assume that he is the competition who may snatch the sheep… sorry, employees… to lead them to better pastures. And you are probably right. The wolf is an integral part of every story. He is not, though, dangerous, since he is part of the system. In fact, the true danger comes from another aspect, the stranded sheep, who thinks that she is the shepherd.(Read more about my views on Female Entrepreneurship).

This sheep (employee or student) follows the entrepreneurship path and seemingly creates outside the system. Of course, this system puts in place rules and regulations to curb any unwanted activity. Even so, there is enough innovative activity going on to disrupt the economy, especially if new technologies are involved.

Have you ever heard of stranded sheep in any of the fairy tales? They are normally either happily recovered by the shepherd or eaten by the wolf. These cautionary tales are designed to keep the status quo and to threaten entrepreneurship.

Who are you in the above story?