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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring book about staying sane in the corporate world.
ORBITING THE GIANT HAIRBALL: A Corporate Fool's Guide To Surviving With Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie
"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...
Published on 28 Jan 1999

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully presented and worded, but rather lightweight
This book is undeniably beautifully presented, both in terms of visuals and language. From the moment you open it and see how hand-drawn sketches, typography and text blend together to tell vivid real-life stories on creativity within Hallmark, it is clear that this book is quite unlike most books on corporate creativity. Here is someone with hands-on creative skill, but...
Published on 26 Jun 2008 by Design Drone


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring book about staying sane in the corporate world., 28 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
ORBITING THE GIANT HAIRBALL: A Corporate Fool's Guide To Surviving With Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie
"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."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being Effectively Creative Inside the Company, 13 May 2004
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This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
Orbiting the Giant Hairball deserves more than five stars for the potential benefits it brings to all who read and apply it.
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!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profundity and Humor from a Creative Paradox., 7 Jun 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
Not only have I read Gordon MacKenzie's "Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace", but I have also had the pleasure of interviewing the author for a newsletter piece and attending one of his workshops (better described as "performances").
The book is generally seen as "humor", even though book stores may display it in their business section. It could just as well be classified under "philosophy", however. Its message is a mix of the funny and the profound, examplified by the last chapter: "Paint Me A Masterpiece", which starts with God dispensing you at birth with a canvas rolled under your arm and the request to "paint a masterpiece for me", and ends with the writer's reflections on his now-abandoned doubts about his own talent, his current use of the wider brush, the Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue, and this reminder to you: "If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you."
The book is a written form of the workshops Gordon MacKenzie has been teaching since 1991. Workshops on maintaining creativity within bureaucratic environments. If Corporate America is to be the place that beckons us each day, that we long to go to every morning and leave fulfilled every afternoon, it had better get a grip on its hairballs, discard them and let its work places be filled with the creativity Gordon MacKenzie encourages us to reclaim.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiration for surviving the downturn, 3 Dec 2002
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This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
This is a wonderfully inspiring and entertaining book. For those who are championing innovation and originality in large organizations in times of cost reduction and market downturn this book provides hope and tactics. Full of learning experiences from Gordon's years at Hallmark and insights into how we might apply these. I am on to my third copy of this book having given earlier copies to colleagues who have since gone into orbit!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberates the you inside of you, 5 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
Absolutely fantastic! This book is a call to arms to all of us. It endorses us to be us and permits us to be different. Not only that, but the presentation itself (complete with cartoons and illustrations) is a perfect example of what Mr MacKenzie is getting at - as I read the final chapters on the London Underground this morning, I noticed other commuters looking over my shoulder at this unconforming book. "Pictures? But surely she's an adult," I could hear them thinking. "Tee, hee," I thought to myself. This book makes me feel free as a bird even though we're trapped underground and the rest of you are swearing & angry about the delay. I wish I had had spare copies for everyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars most timely business book in years!, 3 Jun 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
innovation is it. very few big corporations get it; or if they get it, they seem able to do little about it. want know why? read Gordon MacKenzie's matchless Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace. the rest of the book is as good - wise, witty - as the title. in short i think this is the best/most important business book to come along in many a year. it's a "must read" and a "page turner" - from someone who's been there (MacKenzie spent decades in creative posts at Hallmark). i have given over 25 copies to friends!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and Stimulating!, 22 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
"Orbiting the Giant Hairball" is a stimulating experience as it defends the innovative genius within all of us, which is all too often stiffled by corporate politics and foolishness. On the same subject, I'd like to recommend the satirical book, "MANAGEMENT BY VICE", (C.B. Don) which also deals frankly with the struggles encountered by innovators in high-tech R&D industry, fending off counterproductive corporate fools and finding novel projects cancelled and mangled in a "management morass". Like the "Giant Hairball", there is much wit, lots of hilarious humor, great illustrations and the kind of candor rarely found beyond the covers of the "Giant Hairball". I greatly enjoyed both these books and feel that everyone should have them close at hand when encountering corporate fools and battling to salvage the innovative spirit!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully presented and worded, but rather lightweight, 26 Jun 2008
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
This book is undeniably beautifully presented, both in terms of visuals and language. From the moment you open it and see how hand-drawn sketches, typography and text blend together to tell vivid real-life stories on creativity within Hallmark, it is clear that this book is quite unlike most books on corporate creativity. Here is someone with hands-on creative skill, but who is also interested in facilitating creativity and in reflecting on the process. Sadly though, this reflection is very superficial: most of the chapters, each with one of Gordon Mackenzie's insights into the creative process, run only a few pages. Some of these 'insights' turn into rants, with a tone verging on patronizing. In between the lines, it becomes clear that MacKenzie spurns process as something for the rational, corporate types amongst us, something which merely stands in the way of creativity. This then is - in my view - the book's greatest shortcoming: whilst it offers an interesting, high-level reflection on corporate creativity, it does not make explicit the process underlying Mackenzie's anecdotal actions. If you happen to have Mr. Mackenzie's natural talent and experience that is fine. For all others who are struggling in this area, the book does not help much. If you are looking for methods, techniques and activities to facilitate creativity and forge change within your company's creative processes, you will be none the wiser. Perhaps buy it to be inspired, but then look elsewhere for concrete help.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly inspirational, 23 July 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
I'd recommend this book to anyone who may be trying to find the means to inject some realness back into their existence and transform the suffocating tedium of big corporate life into something a little more interestnig. Gordon MacKenzie's writing, while light and fluffy, is insirational and, through anecdote and analogies, he shares many important ideas on how to recapture your true self and let go of much of the "normalcy" we are taught to display from an early age. Thanks to Gordon for a great read. Everyone else, buy a copy today!
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4.0 out of 5 stars An inspiration of what corporate life should be like, 28 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace (Hardcover)
I found this book listed on one of our company intranet sites, and the title alone intrigued me (so that part worked, at least).
The author seems to be the sort of person that I wish I could be, and it shows that there is more to corporate life than process and procedure.
One of the best "chapters" - I use the term loosely with regard to this book - is the single-sentence one entitled "Orville Wright".
The book is a very easy read - almost too easy, as you might enjoy it so much that you forget to take in the all-important message.
I accept that not every company is going to want to adopt some of the ideas presented in this book, and, to a degree, it will depend on what part of their life cycle they are in, but this is the sort of book that should be read by those members of senior management who are willing to take a bit of a risk.
I heartily recommend this book, which would appear to complement "The Corporate Fool" (by David Firth?) which is also on my "to read" list.
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