Cognitive Dissonance Predicament of the Cubicle Capitalist

Bijon Islam
September 17, 2014
Cognitive Dissonance Predicament of the Cubicle Capitalist

Do you like your work? Yeah, I guess – you know the pay is good and the work environment is nice, caring colleagues; sometimes things are a bit hectic but can’t complain. Ok, let me rephrase the question – if given the option, if, would you be doing this for the rest of your life? And, the answer is overwhelmingly – probably not.
The answer to the second stimuli is very simple – with time as you move up the need hierarchy your necessity for self-actualization becomes stronger. You long to be part of the misfits who gave a shot at changing the world. If Edison didn’t have his 1300 inventions, the Wright brothers didn’t risk their lives in a flight, Bill Gates didn’t start Microsoft, Warren Buffet decided to work for a financial institution we won’t have the world as we have today. However, when we do decide to pursue and long to fly, somehow the comfortable chair in our sophisticated offices hold us down. We start thinking like a business, ironically, and end up being the “Cubicle Capitalist”.
However, things are changing rapidly – around the world we now see a wave of innovation – Silicon Valley in the US, Bangalore in India, Shenzhen in China – people are beginning to understand that there is nothing wrong with giving a shot and failing because after a few decades when you are sitting on a hospital bed you are not going to regret the things you did but the things that you didn’t do (Alert 3 Idiots Fan).
So in the contextual landscape of Bangladesh – what holds us back? Why when India is moving up with their ITES industry powered by the entrepreneurial generation, we still despite having comparable demographics and relevant skill sets are far behind. Let’s take a look at three parameters that might be responsible.

  • Apathy to Risk – Our social texture has low tolerance for risk. You will get criticized if you walk across the less trodden path. Life is to study, get a good job, get married, have kids, buy an apartment, maintain good relations with relatives and die- that’s about it. Unless, we develop the “Risk Gene” and our acceptance of the construct – we can’t ingrain innovation in our lives and will spend our energy in protecting the status quo.
  • Risk-Return Matrix – I was talking with one of my supervisors before I left my job in an investment bank. He told me look – Bijon if I calculate the life time income streams of my current job and discount to find the net present value and compare that with the return if I move to entrepreneurship – the risk adjusted returns doesn’t make any sense. That is the dissonance, if you keep thinking like a cubicle capitalist you won’t be able to follow your heart, buried forever beneath your cognitive fence.
  • Support – By this I don’t mean infrastructure – incubators or access to finance. I also don’t mean favorable government policies or support from the market, businesses or society. The most important support comes from your family and friends. When I first left my job – my aunt told me what are you going to do? – “Sell Cabbages?”, but what has pulled me through was the support from my Mum and Dad. My close friends didn’t tell me that I am wasting my life – they joined me as business partners. This is what is needed to push us and explore.

So next time you see a Crazy Guy with a Crazy Laptop trying to Change the World don’t start thinking like a Cubicle Capitalist – do what you can to help him/her and maybe someday take the leap yourself.

WRITTEN BY: Bijon Islam

Bijon Islam is specialized in business model development, financial structuring and inclusive business design with 10+ years of experience in corporate/ investment banking (with Citibank, N.A.), private, development and public sector consulting. Co-founder and CEO of LightCastle, one of the country’s fastest growing consulting firm with 100+ projects in 3 years and social ventures like and

For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

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