1. Evil, Inc. developed as an idea after one of your 350 interviews with top executives for a non-fiction book, The Big Time. What inspired your new novel?
The late Bruce Henderson, founder of Boston Consulting Group, gave me the idea when I was interviewing him about what makes corporate executives successful. He said that the kind of men who become CEOs of big companies have more in common with sociopaths than most people would care to admit. He went on to cite the diagnostic criteria framed in terms of the executive’s lifeline in the big company.
Psychopathology expert Robert Hare, in his recent book Snakes in Suits, says there are two milieus in which psychopaths grow and thrive – prisons and large corporations.
2. Are you saying that you have to be psychopath in order to become a CEO?
No, I’m saying that it has been demonstrated that CEOs and psychopaths can have many traits in common. Evil, Inc. has a character who appears to be the perfect corporate executive with all the right stuff to be CEO. He turns out to be a murderer. The ability to play roles in order to manipulate others is one of the traits of a psychopath.
Could a psychopath like this become a CEO? Evil, Inc. is saying that in today’s corporate world, with its current values and the way it rewards certain behaviors and abilities, it just might be possible.
3. But certainly the business world kills careers, mistreats workers, screws the consumer, and breaks the law. Why do you think this rampant violation of common decency is the modus operandi for many corporations?
There is definitely a dark side. But the business world also builds companies, creates wealth and opportunity. It brings higher living standards and that thing they used to call “progress” to millions of people.
It’s the mortal wrestling match between the good business can do and the evil it can do that interests me. And, I hope, my readers.
4. One theme of your book shows that some people take the work ethic to work hard and take risks to the wrong degree. Are you knocking motivational authors or just saying some people can take the same encouraging advice and legitimately succeed where others can bastardize it and use it for horrible means?
The self-help and get rich books are recipes for being effective – not for being good. One of my characters happens to be a very bad guy who uses a self-help advice book to help him accomplish his evil more effectively. Yes, I meant it as a comment on the culture of “success can be yours” recipe books. It is also a compliment to them – in a way.