Each time I hear of another gala ceremony and of awards showered on companies, I wonder what it all means to an average newspaper reader. And each time I reach a somewhat downbeat verdict. I’m afraid that the hypothetical statistically average reader doesn’t care much about business, while the bright lights of gala ceremonies and the shiny statutes handed out to company presidents and directors are at best mildly annoying.
We just happen to admire artists and scientists before any other creators. An entrepreneur, or the business he has built up, warrants our attention only when he has – for want of a better explanation – revolutionized the whole world. In our times, such individuals can be counted on the fingers of one hand (and maybe that’s how it should be for who could bear having the world revolutionized every quarter of the year?). Examples include mainly new technologies, which limits the field more or less to the Western Hemisphere. Our local entrepreneurship – its significance, creativity and innovation – practically does not register in the public mind.
One might ask what is so strange about that? After all, only some artists come to great fame. Not more than a few dozen mathematicians have received the Fields Medal, while it will be some time yet before the number of Nobel laureates in all fields of science taken together tops one thousand. This is all good and well, yet we don’t always listen to music composed across the Atlantic, and even if we are not particularly into science we will have heard of Polish scientists taking the world by storm. When it comes to entrepreneurship though, whatever big names there are seem to hail from the nineteenth century. As if contemporary Polish business did not warrant a mention for its humdrum nature and multifarious shades of gray.
Why do we take such scant notice of entrepreneurship? I honestly can’t answer that question, especially that business is actually revolutionizing the world. And this is true not merely because business is a kind of conveyor belt transporting scientific achievements from laboratories into our homes.
Within the space of no more than half a century, the textile industry transformed a village of just about two hundred people into a town of twenty thousand, and in the next fifty years into a metropolis of hundreds of thousands! You will have rightly guessed I have just summarized the history of Lodz in one short sentence – a city that grew out of entrepreneurship. What is left of that fascinating story in our culture and our collective memory? The Promised Land – a literary fiction? Who remembers the name of the man who brought to the Kingdom of Poland – specifically to Łódź – the first steam engine? That event became a milestone, and not just in the history of one city!
I’m sure I’m not alone in calling for more recognition for the contribution that business brings into our lives, in particular modern business – the one that slowly but surely transforms our lives. Business is most certainly not humdrum and not gray. The difference today perhaps is that, as with science, creative giants beavering alone on their inventions have been replaced by whole teams of specialists working in many different fields. Thus, names of individuals do not shine as brightly as they used to.
Yes, business deserves better, indeed. We should all warm to the idea that we have something to feel proud of, here and now. It’s not only extraordinary works of art or scientific achievements that reassure us in doing so. Fast-growing and well-managed Polish companies, scoring success after success at home and abroad, are the real reason to feel proud. These companies and their successes do not come from nowhere, nor does the Polish cinema, which picks up the most prestigious awards, or the graphene production method developed in Poland. Let us award our companies, hold them up as models for others to emulate, much as we once did with the pioneers of Polish entrepreneurship. Business is a difficult art. And in business, every moment belongs to exceptional people, to pioneers.
The first steam engine was brought to Łódź by Ludwik Geyer, founder of the first textile factory in Łódź:
Wiki page dedicated to great Polish 19th century entrepreneurs. Behind each name on the list there is a wonderful history well worth knowing: