Gordon McKenzie, in his book Orbiting the Giant Hairball, writes of the tangle of the Hairball, where the ghosts of pass successes outvote original thinking. McKenzie says "to tap the ability to create, you must spiritually soar into the thin air of the stratosphere-blue sky- where it possible "to bring into existence" from nothing an original concept. Hairballs detest thin air like nature abhors a vacuum. A concrete world where precedence is a reality more to a Hairball's liking. A world honeycombed with established guidelines, techniques methodologies, systems and equations that are the heart of a Hairball's gravity."
There are three thing's an individual can do... "succumb and sink into the grey bowels of the institute looking up from their task to ask, occasionally, "What year is it?"
Leave, "often to fall into another's giant Hairball."
Or "to practice orbiting the giant Hairball. Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mindset, beyond "accepted models, patterns, or standards" -- all while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.
Hairball is policy, procedure, conformity, compliance, rigidity and submission to the status quo, while orbiting is originality, rules-breaking, non-conformity, experimentation and innovation."
To manage a hairball is pretty straightforward, but orbits are not manageable as we need people who are likely to do things that do not fit in the "normal run of things".
"If you are interested," wrote Gordon MacKenzie, "you can achieve orbit by finding the personal courage to be genuine and to take the best course of action to get the job done rather than following the pallid path of corporate appropriateness." Corporate appropriateness comes from looking up to see the ghost of past successes but not backward to feel the inspiration, hard work and risk-taking that actually created that success. Managers that are creative leaders know how to tell those inspiring stories that energises the team to go off at tangents, to explore and discover- to become Teams from Heaven.
But these leaders also know how to gently nudge people into orbits that connect their insights with the master plan of the organisation, yielding fresh products and services that deliver winning experiences to the broad audince of people that use them. One way organisations cope with this paradox of orbiting vs. hairballs is to create "skunkworks" where a mini-hairball of leadership can create and maintaing the momentum of a Team from Heaven.. the challenge then is the re-entry to the bigger organisation... one that some avoid or face up to... by "spinning-off". An example is Myhome which as the ST put it "began life as a bright spark's idea at Unilever in the late 1990s. The Anglo-Dutch giant invested £6.5m with a vision to develop new avenues to promote its brands, such as a residential cleaning service.
But Unilever wrote off the money in 2001 when it sold part of the business - following a strategic U-turn - to Chores Group for £300,000 and some shares."
"As long as management stay focused, Myhome should develop into a £100m business. This will please serial small-cap investors Nigel Wray and Stephen Hemsley, the franchise guru, who built up Domino's Pizza in Britain, who own more than 20pc of the company between them.
When Myhome reaches the £100m valuation it may become a tidy acquisition opportunity for a major company looking to diversify. Maybe Unilever, maybe not, but you get the idea."
Maybe part of the problem is the that creative design of innovative "things" -those products and services that enable experiences we crave for- happens under the radar. As Gordon MacKenzie puts it:
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"A management obsessed with productivity usually has little patience for the quiet time essential to profound creativity..... too many enterprises seem self-destructively locked into a debilitating reality of 100% perspiration and zero per cent inspiration.
A healthier option is the Orbit of trust that allows time - without immediate, concretes evidence of productivity - for the miracle of creativity to occur."
One has to remember the wisdom in chapter 19, the whole of which I repeat here:
"Orville Wright did not have a pilot's licence."
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The Wright brothers having shown it could be done it was other pioneers that finally perfected the flying machine; the Boeings, Hawkers, Avros, etc. did not let the "Ghosts of past successes" prevent them from moving forward and making air travel the universal benefit we all enjoy today. And they certainly did not worry about measuring the creation phase.