Picture in your mind’s eye a pastureland of gently rolling hills painted in the rich greens of early spring. Within the meandering confines of a zigzag, split-rail fence stands a scattered herd of black-and-white holstein dairy cows. The sun is shining, and some of the cows have sought the cool protection of the field’s occasional massive shade trees. Other are clustered idly around a large, sun-sparkling pond. Most are quietly eating grass. One regurgitates her cud and chews it.

Outside the zigzag of the fence stands a rotund gentleman in a $700, power-blue, pinstripe suit. He is leaning on the fence – as best he can. One hand is holding his unbuttoned jacket against his generous belly so that the suit’s fine cloth will not be soiled by the fence’s grimy rails. His other hand is shaking a stern finger at the cows. He shouts:

“You slackers get to work, or I’ll have you butchered!”

What this man does not understand is that, even as he threatens them, the cows are performing the miracle of turning grass into milk. Nor does he understand that his shouting will not cause the cows to produce more milk.

If we drew a line to represent a creative occurrence…

… the only portion that would reflect measurable productivity would be a short segment at the end of the line:

… the only portion that would reflect measurable productivity would be a short segment at the end of the line:

The invisible portion is equivalent to the time the cow spends out the in the pasture, seemingly idle, but, in fact, performing the alchemy of transforming grass into milk.

A management obsessed with the productivity usually has little patience for the quiet time essential to profound creativity. Its dream of dreams is to put the cows on the milking machine 24 hours a day. Crazy? It is happening in workplaces all over the country: workers being sucked inside-out by corporate milking machines.

Welcome to the If-we-work-hard-enough long-enough burn-ourselves-out-enough we’ll-succeed-through-control Hairball.

And while, as Thomas Edison said…

“Genius is 0 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”

…too many enterprises seem self-destructively locked into a debilitating reality of 100 percent perspiration and zero percent inspiration.

A healthier alternative is the Orbit of trust that allows time – without immediate, concrete evidence of productivity – for the miracle of creativity to occur.

Taken from the book: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving With Grace by Gordon MacKenzie