Saturday, November 20

"You WILL BE creative!! That's an order!"

There's a passage in a famous book in which the protagonist has been caught by federal agents. After some hours of fruitless threatening, a higher-level bureaucrat walks in. The exchange goes something like this:
Protagonist: "What do you want?"

Bureaucrat: "Why, nothing at all. We just want you to continue doing what you've always done: Work. Invent. Innovate."

P: "And how do you propose that I do that?"

B: "Well of course we know you can't work here. Naturally we'll take you back to your workshop."

P: "And then what do you want me to do?"

B: "I just told you."

P: "No, you told me the outcome you wanted, not how to achieve it. So say I'm back in my workshop. What do you want me to do first?"

B: "How should I know? That's a stupid question. You're the creative guy, not us. You should know what to do to create."

P: "For some reason I can't recall how to do that. I need you to tell me what to do.

B: "This is ridiculous. You're the inventor and innovator, not us. If we knew how to invent things, do you think I'd be wasting my valuable time talking to you?"

P: [says nothing but raises an eyebrow at bureaucrat]
At that point one imagines a lo.o.o.ong moment of "cognitive dissonance" by the bureaucrat as he struggles to reconcile what he's just learned with the world-view he's been taught since the day he entered Hahvahd: He has a degree in political science from a prestigious Ivy school, and all he had to do today was take the helo over to where this peasant was being held and convince him to go back work innovating; back to work, so the government could take half of his earnings and give it to moochers.

Problem is, the peasant has done the unexpected: Although he has agreed to cooperate completely, he wants the bureaucrat to tell him exactly what to do to be innovative, creative.

Of course the bureaucrat hasn't a clue as to how to do this. And the dawning realization is, uh... difficult to reconcile with what his professors and political superiors have always taught.

For the first time in his life it starts to dawn on the bureaucrat--slowly--that ordering someone to be creative--or to start and successfully run a small business--rarely produces the desired result. Instead some mysterious, never-before-identified spark of...something...has to be present in someone to get him to go to the huge trouble and expense of starting his own creative enterprise.

Here endeth the lesson. Let those with ears hear it. For any of you who are bureaucrats or big-gubmint politicians, all we can do is hope you experience this lesson for yourselves, and then hope you get it. No amount of explanation--no matter how skilled or patient--will suffice.

Those who believe big government can run things better than individuals believe pols can simply order people to create, to hire new employees, to innovate.

Let us know if that works for ya.


Those of you who've read the book will recognize the scene. Yes, the author was occasionally tedious and unquestionably had some controversial personal beliefs and views, but got lots of truths across as well.

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