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Different Kinds of People

There are basically two types of organizations—stable and borderless—just as there are basically two types of people—Fords and Ferraris. Both people and organizations can be in transition from one state to the other. Just as transitional organizations try to transform themselves from stable to borderless organizations, people try to change from Fords to Ferraris. The transitional state in both people and organizations is always difficult because major transformation always involves core change.

There are significant differences in the percentage of Fords, transitional people, and Ferraris in different cohorts. A cohort is a 10-year age span (e.g., 20 to 29-year-olds). Within the age group of 50 to 59, perhaps 80 percent are Fords, 15 percent are transitional, and 5 percent are Ferraris. Among the 20 to 29-year-olds, perhaps 60 percent are Fords, 20 percent are transitional, and 20 percent are Ferraris. The percentage of people in the three groups will vary by age and industry.

Depression-impacted Fords are security seekers. Their key goal is first to achieve security, and then some reasonable level of success and a comfortable and predictable life. Although the great majority are far too young to have lived through the Depression, they learned the lesson of putting security first from their parents or grandparents. Or they saw the local factory close, putting a town out of work. Or they were let go and discovered their skills had little value. Because all security seekers are affected by the Depression and share a fear of financial disaster, people in this group are far more alike than they are individual.

Ferraris are a small but vitally important group. These people thrive on risk, change, and unpredictability because they see far more opportunity than threat in those conditions. They've lived through bad economic times as well as good and their innate optimism is tempered by a strong sense of reality. Honed by hard times during which they survived and might even have succeeded, they are genuinely confident.

Although small, this group is disproportionately important because these people are the natural leaders in borderless conditions. People who prefer turbulence and change are far more likely to succeed in borderless conditions and their success can inspire confidence and hope in an organization's Fords.

Fords prefer merry-go-rounds; Ferraris choose roller coasters. People who flourish in stable conditions are very different from those who succeed in borderless conditions.

The third group of people—the transitionals—is the most difficult cluster to understand and motivate. These people look like and talk like Ferraris, but although a few ultimately become courageous and entrepreneurial, the great majority of them never develop the requisite confidence and personal strength.

This group is made up of two subgroups: One cluster includes young people, especially fairly recent college graduates, who have no memory of the last severe recession which occurred between 1981 and 1982, and they've never seen a prolonged bear market. Growing up during two decades of good times, even after the stock market tumbled in 2000 and the economy stumbled into recession, this group continues to say they expect to achieve major success within—at the most—five years. But their confidence and optimism are illusory. Without the experience of hard times, courage and tenacity are untested and, therefore, undeveloped. We can't know what this group's longer term attitudes and expectations will be because that will largely depend on what happens in the economy during the next five years or so.

The other people in the transitional group initially chose stable careers. They joined GM, IBM, or 3M, or they became accountants or lawyers. They moved to borderless companies, especially start-ups, or they became day traders in the second half of the 1990s, either because the potential rewards were so breathtaking or because their self-esteem required that they join start-ups to assure themselves that they, too, had what it took to be Ferraris.

When the dot-coms crashed and the stock market tanked in 2000, the great majority of these people went back to the kinds of organizations and careers they had originally selected before the buoyant good times started. Many of these people took a double blow: They were financially burned and they learned they weren't Ferraris after all. Most of these people learned they were Ferrari-wannabes.

The transitional group includes people who want to be Ferraris and aren't; young people who are still in the process of developing strengths and confidence, and a very small number of Fords who discovered that borderless conditions can be exhilarating.

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