Pam Slim, author of the bestselling Escape From Cubicle Nation, discusses what might keep our best and brightest from fleeing our cubicles. Maybe the answer is to encourage a "side hustle."
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Last month's World Domination Summit made me realize that the micropreneurship isn't just so much smoke and mirrors--these are real people creating real revenue and a real quality of life. But in addition, I also realized that technology and globalization has made it so easy for our very best and brightest employees to successfully join these movements, and there is a very real possibility that this is the beginning of some serious corporate brain drain.
Freaked out at this notion, and to learn how to retain our best employees, I consulted an expert--corporate escape artist Pam Slim, author of Escape From Cubicle Nation. Here's how the first part of our conversation went down.
InformationWeek: If our corporation's best and brightest follow the advice from your book, Escape From Cubicle Nation, that's a huge concern to business technology leaders, because frankly, we need those folks! The work that business technology staff does is pretty complicated, and requires a lot of business savvy and creativity. What are the things that might make people who read your book keep your advice as a contingency plan instead of immediately jettisoning? How can we retain those people instead of losing them to the phenomenon of micropreneurship or solopreneurship?
Pam Slim: I think there are two different cases. There can be people who have, since the beginning of their career, gone into a corporate life, not really because that was really what they were meant to do, not because that particular environment is one that they really felt passionate about, but because they really didn't have any other idea what to do, and it was a logical step.
People fall into majors in college that way, often at the urging of very well-intentioned counselors and parents and people who want the best for them. And so the metaphor that I use for that kind of situation is somebody who is wearing an ill-fitting shoe, where they're a size eight and they're shoved in a size six shoe, where that entire environment or the role that they're in in a corporation is really not meant for them, because they're fundamentally wired to be somebody who's going to flourish more in an entrepreneurial environment that has high risk and very little rules and restrictions and a high amount of creativity, a much smaller organization for an individual like many of the micropreneurs that we saw at World Domination Summit. They're people who just might want to work for themselves and travel around the world.
So that kind of person may never be the ideal candidate to be in a corporation, because that's not really the way that they're wired. And I think that there are people who do fit that profile, who prefer to always be on their own.
The second kind of person that I run across very often in my work is somebody who actually really enjoys a large part of the corporate environment. They like the camaraderie. They definitely appreciate not having to hustle every month to make sure they have a paycheck. They enjoy the resources that come with a corporation that's able to provide training and information and really smart people. I remember in my own corporate career--I was at Barclays Global Investors before I went out on my own 16 years ago--and it was an extremely stimulating environment. I loved walking around the trading room floor and talking to some of the smartest people in the world that were doing really interesting things with investing and data and all of that. So a lot of people enjoy many aspects of corporate life.