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Learn the key ideas of the book by Gordon MacKenzie

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

The contradictions between company culture and creativity

Orbiting the Giant Hairball is an ironic guide and enquiry into the contradictions between company cultures and creativity. After 30 years in the same company, MacKenzie tells the story of his experience as a creative. In fact any company, with its rules and regulations, will always try to contain any enthusiasm even to the extent of discouraging new ideas brought forward by creative types, in an attempt to ‘normalise’ the employees. Spending time in an environment that aims to stifle creativity can be very discouraging for creatives. However, the author offers a solution. In order to survive, the creative person needs to maintain a healthy distance from the hairball that guards over the company rules, and orbit around it.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball
Read in 13 min.
Listen in 16 min.

Every man is a potential artist, but we forget our creative side too early

As children, we were often stimulated to be creative. We learn about the world through drawing, telling stories and observing colours and we give it the shapes of our imagination. Growing up, however, that creative part is sacrificed in favour of rationality.

In a class of six year olds, if we asked all the artists to raise their hands, all the children would put their hand up and try to grab our attention. When we are six, we all feel like artists. If we asked the same question to a group of 8 to 10 year olds, less of them would put their hands up. This is because as we grow up, we are encouraged to develop our more serious side, to play the part of the students that have to learn things and get ready for the big wide world.

Rationality smothers our playful side, and seriousness takes away our irony. What is actually happening here is that we are confusing being playful with being dumb.

Then there are social rules that impose composure and tend to level out any type of diversity. After all, society requires us to be normal, not to be unique. So over time we forget that we are potential artists and we lose contact with our creative side.

This tendency to forget also derives from real lacking on the part of adults who, having already stepped out of the creative world, don’t recognise little ones as artists.

Giving up on the belief that we are artists represents a slow and inevitable process of disenchantment for those young people that would like to enjoy some recognition for their talent, but who are destined to become simply normal. Yes normal, because companies want normal people, even when they say that they are looking for creatives.


The key ideas of "Orbiting the Giant Hairball"

Every man is a potential artist, but we forget our creative side too early
Every company comes from a creative idea and from a vision
How is the clash between corporate culture and creative effort expressed?
The job description as a classic example of boxing in creativity
Learning to orbit the hairball to defend one’s own creativity
The creative paradox: the last working hope of Gordon MacKenzie
Lessons in company survival for creative geniuses and those who are misunderstood
The true strength of an organisation is its dynamism
The importance of imagination to be able to live a full life
Take-home message

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