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Originally self-published and already a business "cult classic", this personally empowering and entertaining look at the crossroads between human creativity and the bottom line is now widely available. It will be a must- read for any manager looking for new ways to invigorate employees and any professional who wants to achieve his or her best, most self-expressive, most creative and fulfilling work. --Amazon.com
"You are an artist, you can paint your masterpiece," is the premise of this book, which is fast attaining cult status in the United States. Gordon Mackenzie spent 30 years at Hallmark Cards, finally rejoicing in the job title of Creative Paradox. Packed with cartoons and drawings, this is a book you will either love or hate. It focuses on how to retain your creativity in the corporate world. But what about the title?
* The Giant Hairball
This is the corporation. Policies and practices are laid down by generation after generation. Far from making things simpler, this creates a Giant Hairball. Creative people find themselves stuck in this web, where 'command and control' managers try to discover new ways to get the best from their people. Hairballs are a fact of life, however, so you can choose to join one or, taking your life in your hands, you can go freelance.
* The Need For 'Orbiting'.
This is your creative contribution. Joining a company, you have three choices:
a) You can do your own thing and rocket off into outer space.
b) You can wait and expect managers to manage your contribution. (Forget it. Even the best managers find it hard to manage creative people who, by their very nature, yearn to find new ways around the system.)
c) You can choose to 'Orbit' around the hairball. How? You can keep making clear contracts with your key sponsors about how you want to make your best contribution to the company.
Life is a Peach, believes Gordon MacKenzie. Nostalgically looking back over the years, he remembers the taste of fluffy peaches. Biting into their juiciness brought an almost orgasmic feeling. Today's peaches look the same, if not better. Biting into them brings disappointment, however, and the sterile taste of plasticine.
We have done the same to corporate life, argues Gordon. The joy of juiciness has disappeared from our labour of love. No point in apportioning blame. Get on with orbiting around the hairball. People must take responsibility for making their own creative contribution if they are to find fulfillment.
Finishing the book in a poetic way, Gordon writes:
"You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. And remember: If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you."
Although I have read many excellent books about nurturing creativity and working creatively in companies, this is the first book I have read where the author has been someone who has done that repeatedly and in a variety of ways. That perspective is uniquely valuable both to those who want to have more creative jobs and those who would like to encourage creativity.
Although the analogies seem far-fetched at first (orbiting the giant hairball means taking a creative tangent and refocusing it to have relevance for the company's purpose), they serve to open your mind to thinking differently about creativity and organizations.
Although the author's key points are not summarized anywhere in the book, you will begin to get a sense of how the ideas connect together. That's useful, because otherwise why should he try to teach us so much? Except in the chapter that deals with them, any of the key observations would have been enough for a whole book on the subject. The overall theme is that our minds are subject to being too quickly anesthetized, rather than stimulated to ground-breaking insights. You'll love the story about hypnotizing hens where he introduces that concept.
One of my favorite stories in the book described when the author was asked to create an introductory course on creativity. The first session was wildly successful. The author then analyzed why it worked and created a more organized version of this course (called Grope). That sesssion didn't work as well. Then he went back to being unstructured (operating at the edge of chaos), and the course worked again. He learned from this the delicate connection between groping and rote. You need more of the former and less of the latter.
Another of my favorite stories related to the joy he experienced when he first started parachuting. But within six months, it was getting to be boring. He could only make it more exciting by taking the parachute off, but that would be suicide. On the other hand, if he never tried something new, he would be vegatating. So we want to stay somewhere between suicide and vegetation for the most effective results.
You will enjoy reading this book because it presents a fresh perspective that will stay with you. The successful point of entry is a story about children. When the author shows children about making sculpture from sheets of steel, he asks them if they are creative. All first graders raise their hands. By sixth grade, no one will say that they are creative. The pressure to be like everyone else makes the creative people want to hide. It just gets worse from there. Everyone who reads that story will remember experiences from childhood where their creativity was actively discouraged by teachers, parents, neighbors and classmates. Such a pity!
Each story is imaginatively illustrated to help you get a sense of a different reality. It also makes the material more accessible to people of all ages.
In addition to reading and changing your own behavior, this book should be shared with young people to reinforce the idea that it is desirable to be creative. This would be a good book to discuss with your coworkers, as well.
May you always find the creative solutions!