Wednesday, 8 December 2010


jay rhoderick is an new york based improviser who teaches improv for businesses. he shows them that when people in business collaborate and encourage each other's wide and varied skills, then businesses will flourish and leaders can become inspirational. to you and me it seems obvious that an atmosphere of encouragement and support can lead to people performing better, but i work in a business environment and i see on a day to day basis that business folk are much more comfortable with stifling and self-importance. in my experience, business people tend to be of the 'no but...' culture of negativity and limitation. and most of them are happy in the tiny world they create for themselves and not being seen to think outside their self-inflicted box.

google didn't flourish because it constantly set limits. apple certainly didn't restrict itself to a pre-decided square. innocent smoothies didn't accept it when they were told 100% recycled bottles couldn't be done.

on jay's twitter feed, he recently posted the following quote by american critic walter lippman:
"When all think alike, then no one is thinking"
... and i haven't been able to get it out of my head.
what i think lippman was referring to was the crowd mentality. often when there is a big group of people the ability of that crowd is much lesser than the sum of it's parts. a crowd will stand looking at someone who has fallen over, and no-one will offer to help.
the x-factor is a good example. have you ever watched it? (i did once, it made me want to drive over a child). when someone says something critical in the x-factor (and they have every right to do so) the audience only have one reaction - to make a booing noise - regardless of whether it's a valid opinion. say anything positive, anything, and the audience will go mental with joy.
SCENE 1 [participant sings really really badly.]
judge: "you didn't sing very well."
audience: "BOOOOOOOOOO. what an invalid opinion."

SCENE 2 [participant sings really really badly.]
judge: "you have a nice pair of shoes on."
audience: "WOOOOOOOOO YEEAAAHHH!!!! that was great!"
i think they probably don't even need a studio floor manager to cue the audience on that reaction. i imagine the average x-factor audience member to only have basic responses to stimulus anyway.

the result is that the x-factor continues to churn out unimaginative, mediocre acts that won't be remembered in ten years time. and the people who subscribe to ITV's celebration of mediocrity remain totally happy with that.
no-one strives, no-one achieves, they all remain stagnant.

i attended a jay rhoderick workshop earlier this year. in it we learned that one of the best catalysts for interesting things to happen is when opposing forces meet and are changed by each other. the world expands inexplicably when - rather than sitting still and not standing out - people explore their differences and allow those differences to grow into something new. if everyone just sits in a room and agrees with each other, nothing will ever change.

when fire meets fire, it just makes more of the same destructive force.
when fire meets water, it makes steam.

although when water meets fire, it can put the fire out. so, fire service men are like overbearing managers who put too much control on the flame of creativity, and all you are left with is a sodden mess that's no use to anyone. what you need is a skilled arsonist who can burn down a square building in such a way that it collapses and lands in the tinder box of a steam-train. and sometimes metaphors can go too far.


this blog is a prime example of what happens when i try to write while being distracted by my job every ten minutes. that is: a big fat list of non-sequitous gumpf. i think i'm going to start putting a word limit on my entries. wait... a limit?.... DAMN!

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