The last ten years or so have probably seen the biggest campaign for innovation in the corporate market place. Products, services, organizational strategies, markets and business models have all been scrutinized to be redesigned with the badge of innovation written across every single thing that they do. In the wake of permanent “disruption” buzz words have proliferated to accommodate the need to innovate or die! Yet very little has actually changed in terms of what forms represent, how they are organized to swallow greater helpings of market share, cut costs, buy back shares, cut investments in employees, buy back shares, bump up stock options, try and manipulate data, abuse employees in the run of things, and worse traffic the wishes, desires, messages to havens of manipulative data, all in the name of technological innovation.
A few years ago archeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists, proclaimed that we have entered the age of the Anthropocene. Human kind, for both good and bad, have eventually come to reign supreme over anything else that shaped our earth, our atmosphere, and of course the nature of our relationships with each other. This is a far cry from the Ice Age. And human kind has ushered in a new technology –led revolution with Industry 4.0 together with its advanced guard of machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality.
The corporate response and the analytical response from scribes and researchers has been to speculate in detail the advances that technology will make to change our lives. But this time it will be different because more technology will not only promise more leisure time but actually take over our activity time to leave us with nothing very much to do. The palliative rejoinder to that has been the dreamy supposition that new, undefined, and the known unknown jobs would help us reinvent ourselves. In effect, the tools of innovation now are slipping directly into the hands of the machines and their algorithms that will make, serve and transform the operations and outcomes of tomorrow’s commerce. This then is the promise of innovation.
Being entrepreneurial remains the only human function which can make sense of this technological whirlwind by taming its power for productive ends. Entrepreneurial managers do not simply lascivate over technology-led opportunities and the quick ROI fix, although everything in the reported media stories would indicate that the holy grail of short-termism, appropriation of our most personal data, mega mergers and acquisitions, and an antiquated model of growth through market share, are still part of the senior manager’s weaponry. The entrepreneurial manager mobilises a set of financial, human, organizational and social resources to create new forms of business activity. This means addressing pro-actively in-firm inequalities in pay, access to know-how, creative decision making processes, and reimagining the ethics of business organization. To assume that this can be achieved while maintaining the structural status-quo is an expression of stupefied arrogance. It is like the technology has hit the managers so hard, that they are unable to think beyond the pants of their seat.
Entrepreneurial management can address the inequities above by harnessing the data and the machine learning to identify and negotiate priorities with both the organisation’s internal and external communities of interest. It can collaboratively identify what processes and outcomes would attract interest and leverage inside the company and with the community in which it is embedded. It can activate a social model (not a business model) of talent nurturing in communities. It can move away from a given extractive strategy of resource absorption to continuous resource innovation. Instead of linear growth it can enrich itself with a better equipped local community with whom it works out what is good for the firm and what is better for the environment it serves.
Milton Friedman never really understood the difference between shareholding and ownership, that is the difference between acquiring a stake in an organization, as a form of possession, and owning it as if were yours to decree what should happen or not to its fortunes. Even if shareholders were considered owners, the sense of collective responsibility has never really galvanized the testosterone driven movers and shakers among stock brokers, private equity merchants, and financial management experts in business schools. After all even Jack Welch, the grand custodian of shareholder value rejected it as the “dumbest idea in the world.
Given an ineluctable sense of economic suffocation holding back businesses globally from reinventing themselves it is time perhaps to reconsider a different approach to responsible business. Corporations will not live by ethics or gender-based diversity programmes alone, or by self-righteous corporate social responsibility agendas. None of them seems to gain any traction as far as responsibility for a moral code of conduct, to women and their evolving status as leaders, and to social change, is concerned. Simply put not one of the issues (and many beyond them) forms part of an organization strategy or informs the metrics by which business performance is judged. They emerge as “issues” to assuage a sense of collective guilt not as a vehicle for collective, permanent responsibility. Industry leaders and status-quo analysts, and established researchers, would back the “issues” and appear on social media or television to promote them, but the same group of people might consider weaving them into the fabric of strategy and operations, as a possible distraction from ROI, quarterly returns, investment appraisals and even equal pay statistical returns.
Action, following the critique above could include a pronounced move towards embedding the organization in the economic and social environment in which they are located. Sociologists have long discovered that embedding was given, especially when firms are created, but we find little by way of practice by firms at either the local or international level. So would it too far- fetched to expect organisations to embark on a new mission which argues for:
A limited voting rights seat on the board for a specific numbers (at least one) from each community in which it located (including branches, subsidiaries and associates) with representatives from community organisations, universities and small firms;
Select (based on local feedback) and incorporate at least a set of local economic and social objectives of the region in which it is based;
Advocacy of an internationalization plan which engages with the economic priorities of the region in which it intends to operate;
Connect the choice of priorities mentioned above with actions plans for delivering the appropriate sustainability development goals in the regions of corporate activity;
Encourage and allow the supply chain players to develop a collaborative agenda for community-based business activity (not separate community business or social enterprise).
Fortunately, in Ford’s recent engagement with MIND to tackle mental health issues at work, we can see the possibility of change. So can we in the numerous small firm-based initiatives at the local community level, by the firms themselves. But these have to be more than extra initiatives or projects. They need to be part of a new, networked organizational agenda, the development of which may be referred as the extrinsic values of an organization. The avalanche of technology and the sweeping changes to industry structure and business models calls out for a change of vision, mission and action. Just as organisations need to sharpen their intrinsic values of employee involvement and diversity, they could do so much more than simply seek egregious monetization of every piece data they acquire, and be responsible business leading economic and social change.
A decade or so of stormy economic weather, social fragmentation and institutional failures around the world, has, paradoxically, focused people’s minds on possible solutions. Thus inequality, demographic changes, rapid technological development, environmental pollution, climate change, poverty, and migration, are issues which need urgent resolution or mitigation. The resolution, so public and scientific punditry suggests, may be found in a pronounced effort at sustainable economic and social development, controlled globalisation, ecological husbandry, socially driven enterprise, fair working conditions, and the measurement of social impact. The United Nations has set seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to encapsulate ways and means to transform our world. The interventions of many may address, and hopefully achieve, some of these goals.
Our interest is in how these large macro level dynamics of sustainability play out in the lives of people, in particularly, their creative environment at work, in their roles as entrepreneurs and workers, especially in small, innovative firms, which form the backbone of most economies. This has led us to examine two ostensibly unrelated phenomena which have captured the imagination of public policy makers, private business practitioners and academic researchers, namely, entrepreneurship and well-being. These issues find their sustainable development home in SDGs 8 and 17.
By entrepreneurship, we refer to the identification, development and implementation of economic and social opportunities to produce new goods, provide novel services, and establish new ventures, essentially through the creative mobilisation of human, financial and social capital. Since the latter half of the last century, much store has been set by the ‘elixir’ of entrepreneurship in creating most new jobs, using new technology to produce new goods and services, and generally improving business and social ventures in our societies. Perhaps excessive attention has been given to the talismanic capabilities of entrepreneurs to drive such change, while ignoring the contributions of those around them and their well-being in generating creative, innovative outcomes. Smaller firms depend, more so than their larger counterparts, on the creative combinations of ideas, resources and the endeavours of both the entrepreneurs and the small team of employees and associates in their networks.
By well-being, we consider the positive emotions and feelings of happiness people experience, or the feeling that we are doing something meaningful and purposeful in life. In an entrepreneurial context, we could interpret a range of behaviours and psychological process linked to entrepreneurial success, including positive self-perceptions, belief in others, and intricate mental tasks, such as creativity, flexibility and innovation. 
The wellbeing of people at work has dominated the headlines of numerous business and research publications. Popular appraisals of the ‘best companies to work for’ show, for example, that while business giants such as Safeway and Haggen in the USA, Morrison and Tesco in the UK, Infosys in India, have announced declining profits and layoffs in a climate of distrust, skulduggery, and limited concern for general welfare of all its stakeholders people (employees, customers and other stakeholders), smaller, family-owned, private companies such as Publix has never made an employee redundant in its 86-year history while increasing its revenue to $30.6 billion from a previous sum of $24.5 billion. The absence of such well-being at work has tarnished Uber’s image as one of the most successful unicorns in the world, reflecting in part the human cost of a dystopian reality of entrepreneurial management practice.
Researchers have indicated that well-being acts as a natural motivator, improves physical health and longevity and promotes positive relationships, which can act as a catalyst for success for the organisation, and in turn, the economy. The literature on entrepreneurial and innovative organisations (especially small and medium sized enterprises) refer to the need for shared vision, the importance of creativity, autonomy and self-efficacy; but they are directed towards the locus of control of the entrepreneur. The concept of dynamic capabilities focuses on the abilities to introduce new or re-shape firm’s resources and routines in the image and vision of its entrepreneur(s) and, in some cases the management team. We know less about the dynamics of interactions between the entrepreneur(s) and the rest of the team of people. Continuous, adrenalin fuelled environments may not be conducive to creative, innovative outcomes and the well-being of the entrepreneurs and other team members. The development of organisations can be hampered if individuals are unable to achieve their aspirational goals.
We see the nexus of people, structure, organisations and environment enabling entrepreneurship. Each of these components entails the various relationships between individuals structures within a firm and the environment. The current limitations in the use of the human element in the literature suggest the need for ‘stretch’ and new conceptual combinations.
Amartya Sen has proposed the idea of ‘functionings’ as what people want to achieve in their lives). We adapt Sen’s ideas to argue that ‘functionings’ are what people (both the entrepreneur and his employees) want to achieve in their organisations as individuals. These functionings are facets like autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, self-acceptance, creativity, freedom to grow, training and development, many more which enhances their sense of purpose and wellbeing as individuals in entrepreneurial organisations. We ask:
Is there a probable relationship between entrepreneurial organisational culture and employees’ mental health and well-being?
What are the factors that affect employees’ well-being in an entrepreneurial organisation? How and why are they important?
How does the need to become and sustain an entrepreneurial organisation affect employees’ wellbeing and mental health at work?
Our research adopts an interpretivist approach to gain in-depth insights into how people perceive wellbeing at work in small entrepreneurial firms. We examine three types of entrepreneurial firms – high technology businesses, social enterprises and networked, community-based firms. Our early findings indicate that entrepreneurial organisations are better able to understand what hinders the well-being of their people. However, their entrepreneurial capabilities could be jeopardised when dysfunctional relationships, procedures, policies and compromises with the creative process breeds a culture of stress, anxiety and negative well-being. Perceptions of negativity could damage the individual’s self-worth, his/her ability to make a worthwhile contribution, and impede entrepreneurial outcomes.
Based on the questions above and our initial exploratory research finding we have developed six propositions and an analytical framework with which to examine in more detail the significance of the relationship between well-being and entrepreneurship. Given the growing importance of sustainable entrepreneurial ventures, better working conditions and decent work for economic growth and social development, we believe continuing research on this relationship could have profound effects on how new or established, entrepreneurial ventures could foster a new model for work and enterprise, stimulating sustainable economic growth and social development.
Figure 1: A Framework for analysing the relationship between the Well-Being of People and the Entrepreneurial Firm
We look forward to working with all who are keen to safeguard the value of entrepreneurial talent and those who help foster and support such talent to promote the search for innovative solutions to overcoming barriers to sustainable working lives. Both sustainability and entrepreneurship are dependent on negating the idea of things remaining the same; both act as instruments for transformation of people’s lives now and in the future.
As of the 26th of March 2020, South Korea confirmed 9,241 cases of infection after the first case of coronavirus in the country on January 20. At the moment, 4,144 patients were discharged from hospitals after making a full recovery from the virus and 131 deaths are reported.
Table 1. Reported Cases and Management Status (total since 3rd Jan 2020)
Source: Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC)
Figure 1. Number of new confirmed cases (per day)
Source: Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC)
Cases of COVID-19 patients have increased significantly in South Korea since mid-February, particularly in and around the city of Daegu (North-Gyeongsang province, 237km away from Seoul, See Map 1 below). Korea, as a leading high-tech and digital country, as well as a country experienced by SARS and MERS, is very focused on this development.
Map 1. Number of confirmed coronavirus cases by provinces & special cities.
Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea
More than 365,000 people have been tested in the crisis centers since mid-February, and many have since been released as healthy. In this way, infected people can be identified and treated at an early stage.
Drive-thru testing: 20,000 people every day
South Korea has built 633 testing sites nationwide, including 45 drive-through clinics and pop-up facilities (Photo 1) to help diagnose patients and minimize contact between the potential patient and medical staff. This new idea shortens time spent on testing to just 10 minutes per person as the medics do not have to change quarantine suits after every test. Applicants must drive to the site in their cars wearing masks. Tests are conducted at a makeshift tent outside of buildings to prevent spreading indoors. The test fee is between USD 70 and 140 and it will be free of charge if the test result is positive. The drive thru facilities cut testing time by as much as a third, so it makes 20,000 tests per day possible in Korea. In other words, the number of inspections was 26 times higher than other countries.
Time magazine and BBC News reported that the reason why South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak got so quickly out of Control. Main explanation is due to the relative “openness” and “transparency” in Korean society. The South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-Wha, had an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marrs on March 15, 2020 and pointed out that the preventative measures being taken in South Korea have so far involved no lockdowns, no roadblocks, no curfews and no restriction on movement. Furthermore, she thinks extensive testing has been the key to South Korea’s low corona virus fatality rate, and that the South Korean government have the responsibility to “guard against panic”. South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, has taken a back seat as health officials communicate twice a day to the public about the state of the outbreak showed the high degree of transparency and competency of South Korean health institutions.
5-day rotation mask distribution system
Korean government recently introduced “5-day rotation mask distribution system” to the country. This system guarantees that Korean citizens and foreigners can buy two masks per week on designated days by presenting their ID card at pharmacies, post offices or supermarkets. People are also allowed to buy masks for family members under 10 years or over 80 years old by showing their ID in print or digitally through the mobile app “Government 24”. This new distribution system secures equal allocation of masks and prevents citizens from unnecessary panic buying.
The Korean government has developed two mobile phone applications to follow potential patients, with one of them being mandatory for people arriving from high-risk areas – currently includes China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran and the EU countries – who are forced to answer daily questions about their possible symptoms. The app forwards users to telecalling executives for arranging testing if they report developing symptoms. The other app warns public officials whenever someone is quarantine leaves the isolation zone.
More firms introduce “social distancing measures”. LG International Group has decided to extend its telecommuting policy to March 20th, Hyundai Motors Co., Kia Motors Corp. and SK Group are considering similar extensions to their respective work-from-home arrangements. Hanwha and Doosan Groups are thinking about expanding their social-distancing measures through telecommuting, holidays and other means. MOTIE (Korean Ministry of Trade, industry and Energy) decided to support companies in the exhibition industry and to diversify export marketing for export companies by rescheduling exhibitions, expanding digital marketing support such as 1:1 Video Buyer Meetings in collaboration with KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) regional offices and overseas networks, or merging postponed exhibitions with similar ones. 
Cases of COVID-19 patients have increased significantly in South Korea since mid-February, particularly in and around the city of Daegu. Korea, as a high-tech and digital country, as well as a country experienced by SARS and MERS, is very focused on this development by concentrating on identification and treatment at an early stage. The “Korea model”, characterized by full transparency, pre-emption and prevention, built public trust and led to a very high level of civic awareness and voluntary cooperation that strengthens the collective effort to overcome COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. Su-Hyun Berg is a Korea export specialist at COLUMDAE ApS.
Su-Hyun has worked with a wide range of Korean and European governmental and industry organizations with a key focus on high technology projects including Industry 4.0, AI, Biotechnology and renewable energy issues.