Mesmerized: Seeing Beyond The Chalk Line

“When you come into an organization, you bring with you an arcane potency, which stems, in part, from your uniqueness.”

“But if you are hypnotized by an organization’s culture, you become separated from your personal magic and cannot tap it to help achieve the goals of the organization. In losing connection with your one-of-a-kind magic, you are reduced to nothing more than part of the headcount.”

-George MacKenzie ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace’

In ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’, author George MacKenzie shares this fabulous story of a summer his father spent on his uncle’s farm.  And how, one Sunday, his father and his cousin feigned a bout of sickness to stay home from church and have a bit of fun.  At which point, to shorten the story, his cousin asked…

“Do you know how to mesmerize a chicken?”

From which the cousin quickly disappeared into the chicken coop, only to quickly reappear carrying a “fine white hen”.  With the author’s father watching intently, the cousin took a piece of chalk and drew a line on the porch and then held the hen’s beak to the chalk line. And…

“After a moment or so, the boy slowly removed his hands.  The chicken stood motionless, beak to the chalk line, hypnotized.  My father hooted with glee.”

Unfortunately, much like that hen on the chalk line, when we are not aware, our organization’s can do the same thing to their people.  They just hold your beak down to a different type of line.  A company line.  Towing that company (chalk) line can effectively eradicate curiosity, diversity, inquiry, imagination, individuality, and creativity.  With your beak to the line, you will eventually lose what is effectively and uniquely you.  Or as Gordon MacKenzie warns…

“If you are not careful, you will be hypnotized by this line.”

Which is often the very reason that many of our organization’s lack the creative and innovative thinking that we have deemed vital to success in the 21st century.  We are not really interested in providing autonomy, searching out diversity, engaging in new ideas and thinking, because…

Towing the company line is about uniformity, standardization, consistency…which leaves little room for autonomous, creative, innovative, free thinking and thinkers.  Often leaving  those who challenge the status quo, to either have their beak pushed down on the line, or move to the fringes and serve as outliers.

In the future, it will continue to be increasingly difficult to build creative and innovative organizations…when we neither want or embrace the people and thinking that leads us to that goal.

Which is a great reminder for the next time someone has the courage to challenge the status quo…

“So, whenever you feel your head being pushed down onto an organization’s cultural chalk line, remember the challenge is to move out of the way, to choose not to be mesmerized by the culture of the company.  Instead, find the goals of the organization that touch your heart and release your passion to follow those goals.”

Gordon MacKenzie ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace’

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