Have you ever had a colleague or employee that just didn’t fit? You know what I mean, when they just don’t seem to “get” things the way you “get” them. I have and recently is occurred to me that they really did see the world from a different perspective. And I don’t mean they had different opinions, I mean their brain seemed wired in entirely different ways.
What I enjoyed, they feared. What I desired repulsed them. And the way I saw the everyday issues that faced our business, compared to the way they perceived them, was so different it was as though we were experiencing completely different things. It was like we were from different planets.
After another exasperated conversation with an employee in question, a different member of my team (who happens to be a geneticist) suggested her colleague lacked the variation on the D4 Dopamine Receptor Gene that my geneticist has long ago determined the rest of our company to possess.
I was like, “what?”
She went on to explain to me that about 25 per cent of the population have a variation on a dopamine producing gene that made them seek novelty, act impulsively and embrace risk. It is the very same gene that has been associated with ADHD and thrill seeking adrenaline junkies.
She was certain that almost all of our team had that thrill seeking variation and that anyone who did not, simply would not fit in.
What went through my brain next may indeed horrify you. It certainly horrified me.
“I am going to genetically test my potential new hires from here on in,” I declared. “And I don’t mean for ‘aptitude’. I am going to genetically test them. If you don’t have this novelty seeking gene you’re out of the running.”
Needless to say she was a little taken back. As a geneticist she was well aware of the power and potential of genetics, but she happened to also have very strong opinions about privacy.
You’ll be pleased to know I recanted almost immediately, not because of privacy though, but because I do not support the ‘reductionist theory’ of human potential that suggests our achievements in life are pre-determined by our genetic make-up. Influenced sure, but pre-determined, no.
But this little internal debate got me thinking. Is it only a matter of time before we are allowed to do such tests? Sure, in most countries it is technically illegal to discriminate on such grounds but most legislation I have been looking at contains exceptions to capturing such information.
For instance, corporate wellness programs designed to help employees take care of themselves are an acceptable way to obtain genetic information. Now it is illegal to use that information in a discriminatory way, but once it is out there it is surely easy for someone to be influenced by the results?
Many companies already psychometrically test people . Why not extend this to much more fundamental issues such as whether they are genetically wired to take risks and push the envelope or not?
A challenging question, don’t you think?
And I don’t just mean because we will all want the risk-takers. 2008 saw the destruction of personal wealth on an immense scale. Why? Because a too many chief executives and senior executives took insane risks.
Perhaps we should be testing those with whom we entrust our life’s savings and the well-being of the global economy?
Should we be allowed to genetically test our employees so we can create the best “genetically balanced” teams?
What about testing CEOs and boards? They hold such immense power over the well-being of so many others, shouldn’t we use ALL means available to us to put the right people in these positions?
Do you believe it is inevitable that this will happen anyway?
Originally posted October 5, 2009 on the Sydney Morning Herald