When balloon makers meet unicorns

I liked this so much I borrowed it for you from Seth Godin, author of the book Tribes. It’s an odd analogy but it reminds me of every workplace I’ve ever known; I just wish I’d had this imagery to associate with some of the players I’ve met and maybe I’d have smiled more through the experience.

Seth says: “I’m not sure you’ve ever visited a balloon factory. Probably not. The people who work in the balloon factory are timid. Afraid, even. They’re very concerned about pins, needles and porcupines. They don’t like sudden changes in temperature. Sharp objects are a problem as well. The balloon factory isn’t really a bad place to work if you rationalize a bit. It’s steady work, with a bit of a rush around New Year’s. The rest of the time it’s quiet and peaceful and not so scary.

Except when the unicorns show up. At first, the balloon factory folks shush the unicorn and warn him away. That often works. But sometimes, the unicorn ignores them and wanders into the factory anyway. That’s when everyone runs for cover. It’s amazingly easy for a unicorn to completely disrupt a balloon factory. That’s because the factory is organised around a single idea, the idea of soft, quiet stability. The unicorn changes all that.

The balloon factory is all about the status quo. And leaders (unicorns) change the status quo.”

The point (see what I did there?):

You can certainly have a very well run balloon factory and maybe unicorns aren’t the best fit there, but how will you know, without risking a few balloons? Maybe a little unicorn perspective – e.g. decreeing that balloons not be inflated on site to increase storage and decrease wastage – could introduce new ways of thinking and doing things. Ultimately, the business’ viability relies on whether you focus on the balloons or the balloon makers….

There are so many one-liners I could finish with here –send me yours and we’ll award a prize of the uninflated kind for the best one!

Please feel welcome to reply to me in the comments, I love your feedback.