Review: Orbiting the Giant Hairball–A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

4 Star, Change & Innovation, Consciousness & Social IQ
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4.0 out of 5 stars Over the Top on Cute, Profound Insights, No Solutions

September 4, 2001

Gordon MacKenzieI would never have bought this book off the shelf, because it is way over the top with cutesy child-like drawings, hard to read type, and other affectations–it goes beyond charming toward excessive cosmetics. It was, however, recommended by someone I trust, and I am glad I read it.

The two most profound insights, insights every teacher and CEO should be required to repeat every day, are that our schools beat creativity out of our children, and our corporations suppress individual ideas and any attempts at diversity.

I read this book twice. The first time, like a cat circling a mouse, I would pick it up and read just one of the stories, expecting to collect enough evidence to discard it completely, and instead being drawn back for another story at random. The second time, more sequentially, looking for the meat to review.

Unfortunately, absent a major revolution in how we manage our organizations, this book does not suggest solutions. Very few can survive on their own unless they are willing to drop down to subsistence living. The sad fact is we have a school system designed over 100 years to deskill people to the point they could work in assembly line jobs (including white collar “company man go along” jobs), and in the same 100 years have focused on building companies in which everyone is replaceable, and no one person can hope to do the business development, product development, service, and billing for any given offering.

Certainly the Internet offers some prospects–say 20 years down the road–for networks of “virtual corporations” to take effect, but in the meantime, I have to judge this book as a really excellent pate de foie gras, just the thing with which to torment the corporate slaves who want to dream of freedom.

Great book, something we can use in another 40 years or so, if we have managed to get a grip on campaign finance reform, neighborhood cottage and networked industries, and radically restructured schools that get away from rote and celebrate the process of learning. Until then, most people are going to have to focus on keeping the job they have, however distasteful it may be, because the harsh reality is that in this day and age, it is the large inefficient organization that provides gainful employment for the majority of us that have not been schooled to be anything other than drones.

I'll end on a positive note: there is something called the Davies J-Curve, a political science finding that suggests that people do not revolt to acquire greater freedom or anything else, but rather when they have experienced all that they wish, and then it is taken away from them. If we have a major recession that decapitates government and cleans out a good third of the small businesses and corporations that are hanging on by a string now, it may just inspire groups of people to revisit how they relate to one another.

One more positive note: if you are a realist, and you know that you have to accept drone status, but want to be cheered up and contemplate little ways around the margins where you can exercise some freedom muscles, this is the book for you. I enjoyed reading this book, and it may be unfair to evaluate it at the strategic level-there is no question that the author is an inspired original thinker, and I hope the day comes when he is the norm, rather than the exception.

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