If you ever tried to propose an idea to somebody, you have certainly experienced a few personalities, like Joey has in this story. And after having met them Joey, for example, felt the urge to pin a picture of a cake in a sunset to his cubicle walls. For others, this is not sufficient and they have to create a lengthy comic strip.
That’s how the story starts: some anybody – he’s called Joey – has a great idea and shows it to some somebody to really get that thing launched on the market.
Well, you may find Joey naive to present his beloved idea in this way. But hey, that’s what some of us do, and why would the idea be less good, just because of that. Now, some people are lucky and the person on the other side does indeed listen and give it due consideration. But Joey isn’t lucky. Joey meets Mr. Old Hand:
Clever, isn’t it? Old’s motivation to swat the wonderful idea is quite obvious. What if this half-baked boy would actually have found something great His Expertship failed to recognize, or even worse, already proclaimed to be no good? What a humiliation! This is not to happen and there is only one way to deal with it. Hit it once and hit it hard. This also offers the great satisfaction that the little know-it-all gets to know his place: it’s kneeling – a cake in his face – before the elder and wiser.
Other someones choose cleverer approaches. Like Mr. Iron Hand, whom Joey meets next:
Actually it doesn’t matter what Iron complains about. The inventive mind will find kids, mothers, aunts, brothers, pets, the occasional dragon, or someone with a wooden leg. All of them for sure have a specific need the idea cannot address and of course all of them have nothing to do with the target audience. And it has to be that way, because what does Cooey Joey understand about customers and their needs? To be honest, Iron is only insofar cleverer than Old, as the cake stays intact and if it can’t be sold, he can at least eat it.
Mr. Istill Can, having made up his way from the roots to the current position, of course understands all the details of the trade. And if not, it doesn’t need more than five minutes of explanation. So, dear Joey, don’t waste your time and come back when you can explain the idea in five minutes to Istill:
The cakes rots while Mr. Istill Can goes around proclaiming how important caking for this company is and that they all should finally do something about it and come up with a decent cake to bake. The fantastic thing for Mr. Istill Can is that everybody will attribute the great success of caking to his indefatigable dedication and foresight while the initial idea was successfully ignored and can be dealt with a footnote: “I immediately saw, that the world was not yet there and that we had to go a different way to become what this company is today.”
After having met all these people, Joey is going to be less naive. So he falls into the hands of Billy. Billy, still eager to create the product but not willing to take all direct hits, takes any path through the company, dragging Joey along.
So Billy and Joey submerge and sneak through the seaweed fields. While they’re busy working underwater, the cake gets all watery and is transformed to sludge by all the other fish they have to make happy by promising to include some of their ideas as well. Finally, Old Hand hears from it (“Candles?! We don’t do candles here! Stop spending money right now!”). Being a reasonable chap at heart and acknowledging the efforts of Joey and Billy, Old Hand tells them to write everything down in a report (“We don’t want to loose this important knowledge”). After spending a fortnight on it, they file the document to TQM, where it gets lost immediately.
Joey had to learn it the hard way: having an urge to follow up on your ideas hurts. Joey accepts this and decides to follow the path of the martyr:
Strange as it is, after a lot of ducking and parrying blows to cake, head and heart, he always ends with someone like Mr. Friendly Takeover:
With his enthusiastic approach to anything new, Friendly manages to snatch any idea out of Joey’s hands. And Friendly could actually act on the ideas. However this has several draw-backs, one of them being that some anybody else had the idea. It is much simpler to eat the cake, put the candle in a Japanese lamp and sell this instead. Stay assured, Mr. Takover will get back to the eager beaver eventually – when the candle lits the paper lamp. The call will be something like this: “Is this one of your ideas again? I vividly remember this paper lamp of yours. The company’s biggest failure ever! It did cost us millions!”.
After some bruised years of ducking blows and finding a position, eventually, with some luck, Joey will have one of his ideas on the market and get enough of the credits to move to a better position:
First he can deal blows with his favorite weapons and ensure, that more of “his” ideas are launched. And with time, he can simply enjoy the view of the beloved ritual of hitting and blowing and take the cash without bothering about the ideas anymore.
Dream on! The reality is that Joey ends doing what he really should have been doing all the time:
Joey tapes the picture of a cake in a sunset to the wall of his cubicle, places an electric candle besides the potted plastic plant and does his share so that the great ideas of Istill, Old, Iron and Friendly make it to the market. Finally, every someone is happy. Important work is speedily handled, creativity is tucked away into the brainstorming sessions, and the candle next to the potted plastic plant creates a festive atmosphere. World couldn’t be finer.
As an epilogue one must probably tell that Joey, a year afterwards, lost his job. The half-eaten, stale cakes with wheels instead of candles sold like old socks. The management consultants involved correctly assessed that the company’s products weren’t any good and lacked on innovation. They also observed that the innovative spirit they felt with some people was not shared in all the company. So Istill, Old, Iron and Friendly decided to fire those, that did not share the innovative spirit of the company. After remembering Joey setting fire to the customers with a paper lamp, and anyway, “Wasn’t he the guy that pushed us to make this silly cakes?”, he was fired the next day.