Why You Should Only Recruit Spontaneously Combustible People

Joost Minnaar
Written by Joost Minnaar June 16, 2024

The late Kazuo Inamori, the charismatic founder of two major Japanese companies, Kyocera and KDDI, won worldwide fame for his unorthodox management ideas. Inamori developed a unique management model which he referred to as "Amoeba Management." He argued that companies should be highly decentralized by dividing the organization into numerous autonomous small teams, with each team responsible for its own results. He believed that the success of the companies he founded was mainly because the model allowed all employees to get actively involved in its management. However, to make his model work, Inamori strongly relied on a certain type of people, the so-called 'spontaneously combustible people.'

Three types of matter

Inamori borrowed the concept of 'spontaneously combustible people' from material science, the interdisciplinary field of researching and discovering materials. In material science, there are three basic types of matter: combustible, non-combustible, and spontaneously combustible.

  • Combustible materials are those that are capable of catching fire and burning. Examples include wood, paper, plastics, and fabrics.
  • Non-combustible materials are those that do not burn or ignite when exposed to high levels of fire or heat. Examples include ceramics, concrete, steel, and glass.
  • Spontaneously combustible materials are those that can spontaneously ignite in the presence of air. A good example of such material is white phosphorus.
3 types of people: non-combustible, combustible, spontaneously combustible

Three types of people

Inamori believed that people could be categorized into three similar groups.

1. Spontaneously combustible people

This is the type of people who get fired up without needing any input from the people around them. They generate their own energy and share that enthusiasm with those around them.

2. Combustible people

These individuals are capable of catching the flame when exposed to someone else's enthusiasm. They can become enthusiastic but do not necessarily take the initiative on their own.

3. Non-combustible people

These individuals remain passive no matter how much energy and enthusiasm they are exposed to. They lack passion and enthusiasm and often fail to make good use of their talents and abilities.

Only recruit spontaneously combustible people

In Inamori's Amoeba Management model, there is no place for non-combustible people. Inamori found these people to be cold as ice and believed that their coldness could rob others of their heat.

Instead, Inamori's companies aimed to recruit only spontaneously combustible people. He believed that everyone should strive to become the type of person who gets fired up on their own. He believed in recruiting only self-starters who do not wait for instructions before taking action, who naturally take initiative, and who honor their commitments before being asked to do so.

He relied strongly on spontaneously combustible people because they also serve as role models for others, demonstrating how to be proactive and constructive in their approach to life and work.

How to become a spontaneously combustible person?

But how can one become a spontaneously combustible person? How can we develop the type of personality that naturally takes initiative at work and maintains an enthusiastic nature?

Inamori believed that to become spontaneously combustible, we need to make work more fun in order to fall in love with it. He believed that love was the mother of enthusiasm, our greatest motivator. When we love what we do, we naturally feel enthusiastic about it and therefore want to give it our best effort. This combination paves the road to success.

And, as often, Inamori is right. Regardless of their field of work, successful people are those who love what they do. The main lesson here? Making your work more fun and then falling in love with it is a great way to enrich your life.

Written by Joost Minnaar
Joost Minnaar
Co-founder Corporate Rebels. My daily focus is on research, writing, and anything else related to making work more fun.
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