The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

If I ever had an idea, it would be overlooked

I often wonder about how people think, how people interact, and how to properly pronounce "often." In the end, I am frustrated. I suppose I could have pursued a career in psychology or psychiatry if I had really wanted to know how the brain works but they (psychologists and psychiatrists) don't seem to know the answers either. At least not yet.

But my curiosity draws me to various articles about such things and one such is this one by John Stossel, "Ideas Have Sex, and We're Better for It". I also wonder whether the punctuation belongs inside or outside the quote marks in a trailing quote. But that's not the point.

Stossel learned this from a man named Matt Ridley, a British journalist.

Mr. Ridley is, it may come as no surprise, libertarian in a political sense and an optimist in an evolutionary sense.

While I was working in Jacksonville in the late 80's, my company was going through a bit of turmoil. For most of the years I worked for that company, I saw it as "bottom driven". That is, it allowed a sort of freedom to explore from its employees. Nowhere was that freedom greater than at Bell Labs. There, the employees were encouraged to pursue any idea that came to them even if it did not seem to have anything to do with telecommunications. Because, I think, they felt some other employee would find a way to adapt the concept into telecommunications. Of course, they also had projects given to them to pursue so it wasn't just an unguided chaotic think tank of sorts.

I didn't work at Bell Labs, that would have required at least an engineering degree. I was a lowly tech working in one of 140 or so long distance switch offices.

There had been some changes at the "top" and it was shaking us all up. Rumors of layoffs and actual layoffs were happening. What I saw happening was an attempt by the top brass to take control of the company and drive it from there. One of the things they came up with was "quality teams" which were supposed to examine problems in how things were done and find ways to resolve them. One of the "tools" used to do that was something called "brainstorming sessions" where people would blurt out ideas, however unrelated or weird, in the hopes that it would lead to a solution.

I was nominated for one of these teams. I took myself off it after a couple of meetings. Random thoughts unrelated to the problem were encouraged but not radical ones related to it. And especially not radical ones that exposed the problem's origination. At least in the problem we were working on. I felt finding the origin of the problem would help us find a solution to it. I found the "team leaders" discouraged that in favor of mechanical solutions. So I walked away from the "project." You could say I'm a quitter but I felt that the "think tank" concept was being distorted and that we were supposed to come up with something palatable to the "brass." I said so in my resignation letter. This did not make me popular.

Based on the Stossel column and what I have subsequently read of Mr. Ridley, I can buy into his concept. Let people freely exchange ideas and those ideas will "mate" and produce new ideas but don't interfere, don't filter or direct them, because that will slow or even block new ideas.

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