Thursday, December 27, 2007

CEOs can learn a thing or two from cows – more from “Orbiting the Giant Hairball”

My friend, Dan, and I recently went to Maine to spend a weekend doing absolutely nothing of importance. It turns out that Maine is a great place for this kind of activity. I wish there were more Maines in the world. Dan is a master maestro of a delectable mix of jazz, big band, and lounge-y cabaret type music. I am not doing it justice with that description. It’s great stuff. He’s the only guy I know who’s ever run out of space on a giant iPod.

Dan brought his iPod as well as the iPod car kit so that while I drove he could entertain me spinning his fabulous mix. Being avid Sesame Street fans, he played me a set of tunes that included “Cookie at the Disco” and my personal favorite “Proud to be a Cow”. (You can read the lyrics through this link as well as download a “Proud to be a Cow” ringtone. Build it and they will buy!) We should all be proud to be cows.

Today I was reading about those dreaded corporations and how they make it their job to drive every last ounce of creativity out of their enormous legion of exceedingly boring grey cubicles. This isn’t always true – it just happens to be more the norm than the exception. So imagine if dairy farmers judged their cows the same way that executive management judges their employees. Cows spend about 10% of their lives hooked up to milking machines in a barn. That’s the only time they actually produce something tangible. However, the other 90% of their lives they are performing magic turning grass into milk in some alchemic process that I do not even pretend to understand.

What would our dairy cases look like if those dairy farmers pressured those cows to “be more productive”? Impossible. Cows can’t make milk any faster than people can churn out creative ideas. Creativity is a strange alchemy as well. It needs time and patience to percolate. Corporations that think they can speed up creativity are as destined for success as a dairy farmer who thinks he can speed up milk making. If a farmer needs more milk in a shorter period of time, then he needs more cows. And if a corporation needs more creativity, then it needs more creative people.

The picture above can be found at

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