the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

You can’t do that on stage any more

in General Rants , Monday, July 17, 2006

Euan Semple recently posted an article about business taking itself too damn seriously, and the consequences of this both on the business and the individuals working for it. I'm coming to the end of my stint of trying to integrate into a big business, and I cannot say how much his words resonate. It may be a cultural thing (both national and business), but the stern, we-are-so-important stuff, in my opinion, totally dehumanises business, make it lose sight of any moral perspective, demoralises or corrupts its employees, and generally serves to cover up mediocrity. Frowning on levity is a sign of a business with no self-confidence, and no sense of proportion. There is no company, no business in world which is so important that it should be beyond laughing at itself. I'm not saying that it there should be an open licence to mock, to attack, to insult. Humour is not an excuse for damaging the company, or for breaking rules. But humour has many benefits. It acts an emotional safety valve. It can make people look at things in a different way. It can encourage participation. It can defuse tense situations. It can make daunting situations seem much less so. In summary, it enhances productivity and creativity by making people feel more like they are part of a community, and not just a bunch of wage slaves. People who frown on humour usually have some personal approval-seeking agenda, which can be seriously detrimental to the company. Introducing a touch of (controlled) levity into a difficult meeting can save the day. Cood managers know this. Bad managers fear it. Related Andecdote: If you come into the arrivals hall at Z├╝rich airport, you will be assaulted by a barrage of huge banners exhorting the wares of the Swiss banking industry. Each one shows what the respective advertising companies appear to believe are aspirational images, generally trendy-blurry monochrome images of immaculately groomed suits (of both genders, but frankly little different) congratulating each other on their good fortune to have inherited huge stacks of loot. Almost always in a cold, impersonal concrete and glass environment, totally devoid of warmth, emotion or humanity (and I'll leave the extension of that line of thought to the reader). To me, this is a sign of an industry, which in the wider scheme of things, has totally lost the plot, at all levels, and from all perspectives.

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