Men love a business like their own baby
Have you ever heard an entrepreneur refer to his company as his ‘‘baby’’? Does he talk about gestating the business, or helping it grow to maturity - perhaps while guiding it through a ‘‘difficult adolescence’’?
Well, it may be more than merely an annoying metaphor. When a male entrepreneur looks at his company’s logo, scientists claim that he experiences the same surge of pride, hope and attachment that a father feels when he looks at his children.
Finnish scientists have studied the bond between self-made men and their business empires, using brain scanning equipment to measure their emotions towards their progenies.
They were prompted by the observation that business people regularly compared their role to that of a parent. A recent column on the Forbes business website, for instance, explicitly argued that creating a company was like raising a child - ‘‘The first two years are brutal. No one cares as much as you do.’’
The Helsinki university researchers made similar observations but added that the level of commitment meant that business owners could suffer from similar delusions to parents.
‘‘Entrepreneurs make altruistic and sacrificing acts for their ventures and frequently put the ventures’ needs ahead of their own,’’ they write in the journal Human Brain Mapping.
The flip side, they said, is that entrepreneurs’ relationship with their company is characterised by unrealistic expectations that cannot be met. Similarly, parents create idealistic images of their children and put them on an unachievable pedestal.
To test the strength of this, they took 21 fathers and 21 male entrepreneurs. Men were chosen because past work has shown that they typically have more confidence in their business compared with women. They were asked about their feelings towards their children and business respectively, and then put in a brain scanner. The entrepreneurs were shown a picture of their business logo, while the fathers were shown a photograph of their child. As they did so, the scientists saw similar brain patterns.
Some were sceptical as to whether this equated to the same thing. A British neuroscientist, who blogs under the name of Neuroskeptic, told The Times that there was reason to be cautious. ‘‘The data showed widespread brain activity decreases in fathers viewing pictures of their own children versus pictures of other children . . . A problem with the methodology is that all of these differences might have reflected familiarity, rather than emotional attachment, because the participants were presumably more familiar with their own children. This might mean they needed less brainpower to process their images.’’