Updated: Nov 21
Mr Sam Altman, the visionary who instantly commercialized the business of OpenAI, a San Fransico-based startup backed by industry heavyweight Microsoft, is in the news for his recent ouster from the Board of the Company for deviating from its policy on Artificial intelligence. Mr Altman has been removed for charges of miscommunications and for ‘developing the business’ without considering the risk involved in Artificial intelligence. His removal is ironically akin to the removal of Mr Steve Jobs by the board of Apple as part of a power struggle. But later on, the same company had to spread a red carpet to the poster boy for returning to the Board of Apple to turn it into the future of the World. The news about the removal of Mr Altman from the board of OpenAI had yet not been digested well by the major investor, Microsoft, who has invested more than $10 Billion in the said company. After a few hours of the removal, Mr Altman has been adorned as the head of the AI team of Microsoft to lead the same into new heights. Though the exact reasons for the removal of Mr Steve Jobs and Mr Altman are not fully revealed to the public, they can be traced by filling in the dots that, their attempts to overpower the board by undermining the corporate personality of the entity as the reason for their untimely removal from the company, which they have idealized, envisioned, nurtured and cherished.
The pages of corporate history are filled with thrilling stories of plenty of boardroom struggles, power tussles, succession games, ego blusters, and the list is endless. The said struggles are not limited to big conglomerates but are happening in small-sized entities too. The corporate disputes can be compared to an unerupted volcano. Though from the outside volcanos will look very calm and serene, the hot lava inside it may be burning for a long time, and all of a sudden, it will come out with a huge pile of gas, ash, dust, fire and heat. The volcanic eruptions could destroy everything in the vicinity and create collateral damage to the atmosphere, places and people. Once it erupts, it is nearly impossible to stop it and the crux of it will burn for years before getting cooled off. The dust and debris shall cover the land, water and air for a long period of time, affecting the normal life of all living beings. Similarly, corporate disputes cannot easily be identified by outsiders till it come out ugly in the shape of boardroom wars and courtroom dramas. Once the non-confidence takes the front seat everything else will get undermined, the relationship strained, the finances drained, the business eroded, and value nosedived, till everyone realises the colossal damages that had been caused to all the parties, on account of uncontrollable ego levels.
If you dwell a bit deeper into the core issues of corporate disputes, it will be revealed that the real struggle is between the person who envisioned the idea (promoter) and the investors who had invested in the entity by trusting that idea. It is the ideas that have shaped the world to the present state. Every new venture starts with an idea that erupted in the mind of someone. But an idea alone cannot be shaped into a commercial venture until someone bets on that wild idea by trusting it. If Mr Mike Markkula had shown hesitance to fund the dreams of Jobs, Apple would have decayed in his garage in California. Without the capital of the risk bearers, many of the great conglomerates would have remained as great ideas in the minds of the visionaries and would have been buried in their tombs.
But unfortunately, quite often the taste of success will hallucinate the visionaries to undermine the role of the investors who had drained their fortunes on the naive and wild dreams. In some cases, it is the other way around when the investor will get hallucinated by the overnight success and shall undermine the role of the visionary who sowed the seed of thought and breathed life into the business. There is a midway which can resolve those conflicts but hardly a few have that skill.
Though, superficially, the said conflicts seem to be a manifestation of the ego of individuals, the actual reason is nothing other than a lack of proper communication. The Corporate structure of a company is intelligently designed to ensure proper flow of communication through different levels of hierarchy. When the said flow of communication is blocked, the same will lead to chaos and turmoil. The Board of Directors are the steering holders of a corporation which leads the same to the right path through the proper shifting of gears, acceleration, deceleration and timely braking. If all the wheels of the system are not functioning in a well-oiled manner, it will result in a loss of traction and efficiency. Proper communication, willingness to concede to thoughts of opposite sides, ability to concur and mutual respect can convert the board rooms into the epitome of efficient management and will eventually lead the organisation to more heights with the right mixture of ideas and investment.
May Mr Alman have a good time with Microsoft and, the OpenAI may find a new visionary to fuel the dreams of its lost hero.
Bijoy P Pulipra Advocate