Orbiting the Giant Hairball Essay Example
Orbiting the Giant Hairball Essay Example

Orbiting the Giant Hairball Essay Example

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  • Published: November 13, 2017
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In 1996, Gordon MacKenzie authored the book "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" which provides an overview of its contents.

The book was initially self-published and later became a revered "cult classic" in the business world. Gordon, who held the title of "Creative Paradox" at Hallmark Cards after 30 years of employment, encouraged his colleagues to break free from the constraints of Corporate Normalcy and strive for innovation and imagination beyond the bureaucratic confines. In his book, MacKenzie uses personal anecdotes and observations to demonstrate how to maintain a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship in a structured and potentially limiting environment such as an organization or society. He identifies "the giant hairball" as a complex web of regulations and systems rooted in past successes, which can hamper discernment and lead to mediocrity. The "hairball" gradually forms without any awareness among team


members, impeding the firm's flexibility and originality.

Although the bulk of MacKenzie's work focuses on strategies for escaping and navigating the "hairball," he also acknowledges the value and purpose of this complex organizational structure. The author recognizes that different individuals may find themselves drawn to the hairball at different times in their lives, depending on their need for security or freedom. MacKenzie advocates for a gradual progression towards greater independence while cautioning against succumbing to the entrenched thinking common in corporate culture. Drawing from his own experiences, MacKenzie emphasizes the importance of reconnecting with one's inner self to successfully break free from the hairball and remain in a stable orbit.

In chapter 15 of the book, tips and stories are shared regarding navigating a large corporate setting and leveraging its resources to advance one's career.

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MacKenzie provides guidance on interacting with individuals within the "hairball" - those who earn their living in the corporate hierarchy. Rather than seeing them as opponents, MacKenzie recommends seeking opportunities to work together towards achieving mutual goals. When faced with bureaucratic hurdles, it is important to collaborate in finding solutions that align with the system. Additionally, MacKenzie highlights the significance of having a supportive manager.

Having a leader who empowers their team and shields them from unproductive aspects of the business is highly valuable. Equally important is an environment that allows for unstructured creative processes to unfold. The book examines various topics, such as how our society and culture affect efficiency and innovation. MacKenzie argues that conformity is taught early on, leading to homogeneity in values, beliefs, and thoughts by the end of education. Consequently, the corporate world can feel competitive and cold with little room for individuality.

The author discusses the impact of organizational structure on a company's growth and profitability. A poorly structured organization can result in a decline in energy and passion among its members. According to the author, a successful organization should be structured like a tree with product innovators at the top, supported by managers, and executives providing support for the entire firm. Such a structure discourages the "silo" mentality and fosters collaboration among members, enabling them to work together on innovations across areas of expertise.

In chapter nine of the book, MacKenzie expresses his dislike for the traditional pyramid structure in which executives hold the power and innovators are stifled at the bottom. He proposes his own workshop, initially titled “Creative Manager”, to be added to Hallmark’s corporate training program. MacKenzie

later renamed it “Grope” and made no promises of providing the same results as the rest of the program, which claimed to offer solutions to workday problems through a step-by-step process.

MacKenzie's goal was not to eliminate uncertainty for managers, but rather to expose them to a structured chaotic situation as preparation for facing real uncertainty. The initial "Grope" session was successful in achieving this aim, leaving participants wondering what had just happened. However, the second session was unsuccessful as MacKenzie attempted to impose a structured agenda, inadvertently falling into the same predictable corporate pattern he had set out to avoid.

Upon returning to unstructured chaos, MacKenzie observed that the program he had previously created elicited nonlinear effects. He concluded that relying solely on the decision-making processes defined by corporations would not prove advantageous to managers in every instance. Managers may encounter problems that have not been specifically addressed in their training and will need to make decisions within situations of uncertainty. The essence of Grope training was to outline the uncertainties that managers would encounter on a daily basis, albeit with an extreme twist and a touch of enjoyment.

MacKenzie suggests that individuals in contemporary society and corporations tend to suppress their true identity due to fear. According to him, people often wear "masks" that portray a perfect appearance, despite being far from it. This behavior leads individuals to lose touch with their genuine selves, as suggested by the book. Furthermore, the author opines that the intensity of judgment and ridicule prevalent in a culture or environment is inversely proportional to its creative and productive output. MacKenzie interprets teasing as a means of exerting influence and

control over others.

In the text, it is mentioned that teasing is a way of shaming people who challenge or put the hairball's status quo at risk. The author cites MacKenzie's chapter titled "No Access" as an example of how he turns a potentially disastrous experience into an inspiring message. MacKenzie recounts his story of intentionally ignoring warnings and physical barriers to descend a cliff to reach a beach, instead of using the stairs. He becomes stranded and unable to continue safely on his own. A passerby on the beach spots him and calls for help from a sheriff's helicopter and rappelling team, resulting in his rescue. The chapter emphasizes the theme of courage.

One valuable lesson is having the courage to seek help and acknowledge one's shortcomings. It also takes bravery to be vulnerable and accept assistance. Additionally, learning from those who came before us is highly beneficial.

According to Gordon MacKenzie, treating business decisions like climbing a cliff can be disastrous without a chance for rescue. Although MacKenzie acknowledges the importance of a "hairball" in holding organizations together, certain businesses are required to adhere more strictly to hierarchical structures. This need arises due to factors such as government regulations, legal stipulations, or consumer expectations. In these cases, "corporate normalcy" in the form of policies, procedures, standards, patterns, and the status quo may be the only option available. Enron's collapse exemplifies the consequences of dysfunctional "orbiting" which can lead to a company's downfall. By employing creativity in its business procedures, executive decisions, and accounting practices, Enron has become a notorious symbol of intentional corporate fraud and corruption.

Chapter 12 of the textbook Competing for Advantage deals with

strategic entrepreneurship and innovation within an organization. It emphasizes the importance of balancing and nurturing internal creativity. Gordon MacKenzie's book focuses on the main topic of maintaining creativity within an organization while being confined by its rules. It provides ideas on how to maintain happiness and creativity in our careers and help others, regardless of whether they remain within the organization or are orbiting it. Both those responsible for creativity and those responsible for implementing it can benefit from reading this book as it offers a better understanding of accomplishing individual innovation to facilitate organizational growth. One key idea suggested is to question rationality and the norms.

According to the author, practicing openness and creativity can enhance one's abilities, but it must be done in a non-threatening environment and with thoughtfulness. MacKenzie emphasizes that each individual must navigate their own way around the hairball. This aligns with the book's message of courage and awareness of cultural and structural aspects of a company. The book also encourages continuous growth by taking calculated risks outside of our comfort zones.

We mustn't let fear of relinquishing certainty paralyze us. Furthermore, the author emphasizes the importance of recognizing and leveraging our unique qualities. While Gordon MacKenzie's hairball metaphor regarding corporate operations may resonate with those who possess relevant experience or knowledge, it's necessary to question the universality of his insights. MacKenzie's role at Hallmark, where he spent 30 years in an industry that values creativity highly, is a somewhat singular one. The greeting card business demands a higher level of imagination than most fields. Given these factors, it's unlikely that anyone else will replicate MacKenzie's tenure or his ultimate role as

an inspirational leader.

According to Robert D. Steele, the book does not propose solutions for managing organizations unless there is a major revolution. Steele believes that very few can survive unless they accept subsistence living. This harsh reality is unfortunate but true. For many of us, pursuing a career within an organization requires caution, as our employment often holds more significance than personal creative achievements.

The HTML code displays a link to the website http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670879830,00.html?breadcrumbList=%7Borbiting+the+giant+hairball%7D;bcPath=c590611%2D00000000%23%23%2D1%23%23%2D1%7E%7Eq6f72626974696e6720746865206769616e74206861697262616c6c;searchProfile=US-590611-global;strSrchSql=orbiting+the+giant+hairball which features a book titled "Orbiting the Giant Hairball". The breadcrumb list and search profile used are also shown in the link.The website Barnesandnoble.com features a book search tool using the ISBN number. In this specific example, the ISBN is 9780670879830 and the book title is "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by MacKenzie. This book was published by Viking in 1996 and is available on the website under the "TABS" section.The text within the provides a link to "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by MacKenzie, which can be found on the Barnes and Noble website by searching for the ISBN number 9780670879830. The book was published by Viking in 1996 and can be found on page 104. The title "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" is repeated twice within the text.The contents of this text consist of various citations and references that include an excerpt from the book "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by MacKenzie published by Viking on page 139, another citation from page 87 of an unknown source also published by Viking, and a reference to the Enron scandal on the website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron written by Robert E. Hoskisson and Michael A.The second edition of "Competing on Advantage" by Hitt, R., Duane Ireland, and Jeffrey

S. Harrison was published by Thomson, South-Western in 2008.

Chapter 12

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