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24 Mar, 2009 08:59

When the drive to succeed goes over the edge

A top psychologist who's proved links between inspiration and schizophrenia has warned against putting power in the hands of the most creative. It comes as the G20 prepares safeguards against out-of-control bankers.

Banks let talented traders gamble away billions of dollars, provoking the current economic meltdown. They held as little as 4% of the amount being risked, to cover potential losses. The German Chancellor's joined Britain to as much as triple the capital banks must keep. A joint proposal is expected at next week's G20 summit.

Top psychologist Mark Batey, from Britains elite Manchester Business School, advises companies like Rolls-Royce and SonyBMG on the link between talent and mental disorder. In a study to be published this autumn he warns those losses and future catastrophes could be avoided by resisting the most inventive.

“What we found is a process called latent inhibition. There's a brain mechanism controlled by the frontal lobes, with creative people that mechanism is less powerful. The risk would be to run with a very creative idea that someone's very passionate, who can persuade you to follow in a very egregious way, but that is not fitting for the business environment.”

Batey says Russia's top mobile entrepreneur may be a case in point. In nine years casual-dressed Evgeny Chichvarkin grew Euroset from 2 shops to more than 5,000, before a fire sale in December. Interpol's now hunting him for kidnapping employees and blackmail. Rivals say the 34-year-old would send Euroset-yellow vibrators, with vulgar notes attached. Mikhail Gerchuk, Chief Financial Officer at MTS, says other gifts were equally bemusing.

“We have received a set of other tools like a helmet, hammer, toys. Each has some meaning for his business. For example the purpose of the helmet was that no-one could put ”spaghetti on your ears,“ it's a Russian saying meaning to lie to you.”

On Friday millionaire businessman turned mayor of Kiev refused Ministry of Health demands for psychiatric tests. Leonid Chernovetsky's solution to financial woe in Ukraine’s capital is to “auction a kiss with me, or a trip in my armoured Mercedes.” The 56-year-old exercised in front of the cameras to prove his health, and compared himself to Einstein. He insists “sucessful businessmen are so busy they’re all crazy.”