Imagine being at an interview for a high-level job, and being asked to provide a syringe of blood, or a cheek swab. It's not to test you for illicit drugs but to analyse your DNA. It's not an improbable scenario: the search is well and truly on for the genes that confer leadership ability, and other personality traits relevant to business. And, though it is hazy, a picture is emerging. Immigrant populations, for example, appear to have a slightly genetic make-up to their compatriots back home. Business researcher Scott Shane has even written a book - Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders - detailing the genetic research into leadership.
The most promising "business gene" that researchers are currently studying is the DRD4-gene, and it comes in different versions (it's called a polymorphic gene). Economic games reveal the short version of DRD4 to be associated with altruism, conscientiousness, and fairness - these are typical manager traits - while the long version is associated with novelty seeking, risk-taking and impulsiveness (this version has recently been linked to ADHD). The risk-taking version is more prevalent in countries which have experienced mass human migrations in the past.*
These two versions might be adaptive in different environments. A landmark study conducted by anthropologists in Kenya in 2008 showed that people with the long version fare particularly well in nomadic tribes, while among the settled tribes the people possessing the short gene version were healthier and better nourished.
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