Shades of grey

Sitting on the train into London this morning I spotted a tweet from Sarah Lazenby to a great cartoon called “Whack An Idea” by Tom Fishburne. The cartoon illustrates the frustration I’ve long held about the endless corporate cries for creativity and innovation, so swiftly followed by the punishment of mistakes.

Fishburne says: “When a business culture plays Whack-An-Idea for too long, it no longer needs to use the mallet. The culture begins to self-edit. Ideas that seem too risky are discarded out-of-hand.” The cartoon gave me a good laugh – and it’s a powerful illustration of a serious point. That pressure to conform, to self-edit.

The train pulled into London Bridge and as I got up to leave all I saw around me was grey. Grey suits, grey faces, grey expressions. Why bother wasting time on dress codes when most folk self-edit to grey. It comes to something when my non-descript vaguely pink shirt stands out in a crowd.

Somewhere in the office there’s a drawer. And in that drawer is a piece of paper. And on that paper is written the secret mission:

“We cut out creativity

Can’t handle responsibility

We lie about innovation

We crave idea constipation

We have assumed control”

I don’t feel so good.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

6 thoughts on “Shades of grey”

  1. It’s horrible when this is what we see & hear but it’s worth reminding ourselves that there is already a counterforce of ninjas working on this

    I recently wrote a piece which touched on orthodoxy ( The codification of organisational life not only creates orthodoxy it also creates “true believers” and (I think more importantly) “heretics”.

    So by its nature, this grey “secret mission” has created both orthodoxy & the heretics. The heretical ninjas are all around!

    @naturalgrump recently tweeted observed “suits” wearing yellow socks or no socks – how anti-grey is that!

    So maybe we see a see of grey, but look hard and you’ll spot the heretical ninjas. If you can’t see it then just imagine what they are wearing under those grey suits!!!

    1. Ah David san – thank you for the ninja reminder. Love the post on your blog – particularly this, “Mastery has an artistry and intuitive fluency about it.” and your important reminder about heretics 🙂 Yellow socks and no socks at all – gadzooks! And an important reminder from Sukh to take a second look, thanks.

      This subject reminded me of the Rush song Vital Signs. Here’s a few lines of it for you and others…

      Unstable condition
      A symptom of life
      In mental and environmental change

      Atmospheric disturbance
      The feverish flux
      Of human interface and interchange

      The impulse is pure
      Sometimes our circuits get shorted
      By external interference

      Signals get crossed
      And the balance distorted
      By internal incoherence

      A tired mind become a shape-shifter
      Everybody need a mood lifter
      Everybody need reverse polarity

      Everybody got mixed feelings
      About the function and the form
      Everybody got to deviate from the norm

  2. Doug
    Excellent post. I have to say I like to be a ninja wearing a grey suit and white shirt. I am living like my favourite ever X-Files episode – “hiding in the light”. How can you spot those who rebel amongst those who self-edit? In many other ways, we make ourselves known. Dont always assume that WYSIWYG.

    1. Sage advice from the world’s greatest workplace poet. I recall the words “hiding in plain sight” from somewhere too. I will look closer in case there are signs of deviance that I am missing. And of course the best ninjas blend in fabulously well. Cheers – Doug

    1. Thanks Anthony. Your comment describes precisely why you should be President of something very important. I look forward to your takeover! 🙂

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