21 September 2006

The death of intellectual jazz

I don't know why other people go to conferences. I go with the hope that at least one speaker will jazz me intellectually. This is no different from my standard for school. In the midsts of a second masters, when I wasn't even getting one intriguing idea per semester, I stopped. Give me the jazz or go home. [Insert Ben Stein's monotone "Bueller? ...Bueller? ...Bueller?" here]

This conference had exactly one such speaker but, hey, one counts. You know the kind of speaker that is thinking way beyond the required level... who's jazzed himself about the large problem he can solve and is ready to propose a new way of approaching it. Who's energy is so infectious he's practically giving off sparks. Who's escaped the weight of the bureaucracy and the Dilbert reality enough to still be alive inside and out.

Here's the thing, in the past I used to love this sort of thing and it would inspire me to do research on the topic or take classes or at least become a groupie. This time, even though I got that jazzed feeling, I also got that tired and intimidated feeling. Me? I don't intimidate easily. But suddenly I felt so far behind the curve that I didn't even want to try to make the effort to get brighter. This troubles me and I'm not sure I know what to do with it. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's something more.

On a way tangential note I wonder if other organizations are experiencing the same symptoms as ours. We have a very talented, very large pool of folks in our organization. Bright, creative people. Even the slouches are above the norm. But we've reached a point of ...dispersement, I guess I'll call it. There's so many bright people scattered so far that want to solve any problem presented to them or even just one that they notice (whether it's in their official domain or not) that at any given time we have at least a dozen different people/groups across the country working exactly the same problem in different ways. They don't talk to each other. When they're presented with a "Hey, Bob, you know what? Andy here is doing the same thing!" they rarely care. It's duplication of effort on such a huge scale and there doesn't seem to be a clear way to stop it.

I get that sometimes (read: often) it's easier to just do something in a low key way for you and your buds. That by raising it officially, you lose control. Maybe it goes to committee. Maybe it never gets done. Maybe you don't recognize it when it is done.

I get that boldness can drive change or at least plant the seed.

But this seems to be reaching virus-like proportions. We are less and less efficient.

If the rules are so onerous that we do anything to work around them, it's time to fight the fight to change the rules.

If the trust is so low or the dispersement so extreme as to not be overcome-able, it's time to start over.

Or maybe I need a reframe. Maybe this is the organic model. Does nature bubble up its inventions in a dozen places before the change takes hold?

I think I need a glass of wine...

Well, that's my soapbox moment. I'll return now to the usual inane complaining about stupid commercials and such.

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