Open your heart to EVERYONE
skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his
hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly
whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast
with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the
dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion
and straight black lips.
This is how Mary Shelley describes
Frankenstein's monster. He gets a friendly makeover in Apple's new
Christmas ad. Of course the creature was a composite of parts of
other people, and in Shelley's vision, as it is shunned by humans
the story doesn't end well. However there may be an advantage to
putting together a composite of lots of people in business.
If you're one of many who is looking
for a role model then the Frankenstein creature approach may be the
best one for you.
In the talks that co-author Kathryn
Jacob and I are giving for The Glass Wall the question of role
models comes up frequently. At a talk at one city firm the question
"who is your role model?" was best answered by one top partner who
replied "don't look for the perfect role model, build your own
This approach works for 4 reasons
1. A composite role model creature
won't let you down in the way that investing in a single person
might when you need some advice or attention from them. Whoever you
find in the real world will, you can guarantee it, have off days,
have days when you need something from them but they're under
pressure that they can barely cope with, so they might be abrupt or
even churlish with you. If you invest in a composite creature
instead this doesn't happen. If one person disappoints you'll
always have a back-up.
2. Very few individuals are skilled at
everything. There aren't many people who are equally exceptional at
strategy and tactics, logic and gut feel, warmth and
If you fix on just one individual you
compromise on some aspects of excellence unnecessarily.
3. Great performers tend to have a
great entourage or team around them. Those who have one dominant
influence can fall into an unhealthy Svengali like relationship
with them. Svengali is a fictional character in George du Maurier's
1895 novel Trilby. Svengali seduces, dominates and exploits Trilby,
a young English girl, and makes her a famous singer, but she is a
pawn in his game. Think of Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker, of Brian
Wilson and Eugene Landy.
4. If you pick one person it will be
someone you admire, who you want to borrow traits from of course.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this but it might limit you
to someone who thinks like you already. With whom you have stuff in
common. This won't stretch you in as many directions as a composite
would. Better to have a collection of people who are different.
Very different. From you. From each other. That way you can use
them in different situations. If you've got to deal with a delicate
negotiation ask Jane what to do. If you need to cut through to the
heart of the matter at high speed pick John instead to ask for
Don't aim for one role model to put on
a pedestal. Chances are they will either fall off, or climb down.
Go for an Apple-friendly Frankenstein approach instead.