Friday, July 18, 2014

Honoring Orville

I am a bibliophile.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who uses the Kindle app on his iPad for almost all of his reading today. You would think that I might too, given how techie I am.

But I don't.

Give me a real book. In fact, give me a stack. Give me a library.

I actually have a stack of new books sitting here in my office that I intended to read this summer, but now that summer is half over, it's looking unlikely that I'll read them all.

But I did grab one, just to get started. It was the smallest and shortest book in the stack. The title? Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie. I read it in one evening.

My summer reading stack, and the one I chose to read first.

It is a lovely book.

MacKenzie is a former employee of Hallmark, the people who make greeting cards. In the book, he draws on many experiences he had in his 30-some years at Hallmark, the different roles he played for the company, how he struggled between absolute conformity (getting absorbed into the tangle of the titular Giant Hairball) and absolute creativity (veering off into deep space at a tangent to the Giant Hairball.) His last official corporate role was one he dreamed up and self-titled: "Creative Paradox." And, as you might suspect of someone who called himself a "Creative Paradox," he encourages us to hold the middle course--not landing on the Giant Hairball and becoming entangled there, but also not flying off on our own...but rather finding an "orbit" around the center of gravity that is the Giant Hairball of institutional policies, procedures, and paradigms.

In other words, find the ability to be creative, innovative, and maybe even a culture changer, but not in a way that alienates or disparages your colleagues and supervisors.

An easy course to plot?


But his anecdotes and whimsical illustrations give the feeling that it is certainly possible!

My favorite chapter of the book was entitled "Orville Wright."

The chapter is one page long.

Actually, it is one sentence long.

Here is that chapter:

Orbiting the Giant Hairball, p.191.

A good reminder, I think.

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