"I favor general use of the psychic-prison metaphor to free people from the traps of favored ways of thinking and to unleash their power and creativity."
--Gareth Morgan
"We cannot just remodel the prison. No, we've got to get out of it."
--W. Edwards Deming

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Workplace mingi

I recall seeing a fascinating but also chilling documentary many years ago about the Hamar and Karo tribes in Africa. Recently I came across a related video clip from National Geographic, from which I transcribed the following:

Narrator: "Their survival is due to an unquestioning belief in an omen called mingi. Mingi is a sign that bad things will happen to the tribe: war, famine, failed crops. It is an omen that comes in the most innocent of forms. It is a child whose upper teeth come through before the lower teeth, or [who has] any physical defect, like a cleft palette. Twins are also seen as mingi. Or a child born out of wedlock. In each of these cases, the child will be thrown into the river or left out in the bushes to die."

Professor John Burton, who teaches anthropology at Connecticut College in New London: "Mingi provides these people of a way of understanding what's happened and what should be done. So, for example, a man may say, 'Because we didn't get rid of this child last year, and it was a mingi child, that's why we have drought right now.'"


Fortunately--the horrors of famine and war facing African tribes today notwithstanding--the system of mingi that leads to such tragic loss of life is fading into history. However, the notion of negatively labeling and then cutting an individual loose from his moorings in society or organization may be finding something of a resurgence in some circles. I will try to provide supporting references in future posts. A parallel to mingi within the culture of modern organizations might go something like this:

Corporate survival is due to an unquestioning belief in an omen called "problem employees". Having problem employees is a sign that bad things will happen to the company: ruthless competition, stock decline, failed products. It is an omen that comes in the form of an individual. It is an employee who may be seen as being somehow different, whose difference is a defect whereby he doesn't quite fit in with the others, who furthermore may have once displayed what appeared to be a negative attitude, and who, after thus being labeled a problem employee, is feared will become a cancer on the organization if collective action is not taken. The employee will then be terminated or at least isolated until he resigns.

Problem employees provide an organization with a way of understanding what's happened and what should be done. So, for example, an executive might say, "Because we didn't get rid of a certain employee last year, her negative attitude has infected her coworkers, and that's why we have poor morale now."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Unleashing creativity

The following is exemplary of unleashing creativity by way of setting aside worries over time and cost. Time stands still when you are creating, and cost becomes insignificant in relation to the eventual payoff realized.

On the 40th anniversary of the recording of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album, Guitar World Magazine (June 2007) published a special tribute section to what it says is an album that "has been hailed repeatedly as one of the most influential albums of all time."

The main article quotes from an interview with the recording engineer about the process of creating the album:

It was a time of great experimentation.
There were no time limits,
and as far as cost--their attitude was,
'Sod the cost! We're making a masterpiece.'