Book Review: Orbiting the Giant Hairball


If you've ever worked for a large organization, you know it can be both an amazing experience and a giant mess. In this week's book, by Gordon MacKenzie, I took a trip through both worlds.  In MacKenzie's oh-so-fabulously titled book, Orbiting The Giant Hairball  - A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace, I found myself smitten with every single story, perspective, and conclusion.

As creative books go, this is as wonderful as Seth Godin's book, What To Do When It's Your Turn.

The premise of the book is simple: when an organization is mature, there is a natural deference to conformity and a pull toward established practices.  Each instance of this is a "hair" and when they get piled up together they become a hairball.

Like the kind a cat coughs up.


Of course, "eeewww" is precisely what MacKenzie wants you to say.  Great things don't happen when you conform; great things happen when you can orbit around the hairball and be your unique self.

“You have a masterpiece inside you, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.”

 The quote above doesn't sound terribly special in isolation, perhaps a little "rah-rah," but it comes at the end of the book after the reader has been treated to stories about chickens being hypnotized and cows being "productive."

"A management obsessed with 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."

And, fortunately, MacKenzie offers another sensible option:

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

And after all of his story telling and his brilliant word pictures, you can't help but want to let loose.

He tells us what creativity really looks like:

“What is the biggest obstacle to creativity? Attachment to outcome. As soon as you become attached to a specific outcome, you feel compelled to control and manipulate what you're doing and in the process you shut yourself off to other possibilities. Creativity is not just about succeeding. It's about experimenting and discovering.”  

And he reminds us what we need to purge (kinda like yesterday's post!):

“To be fully free to create, we must first find the courage and willingness to let go:Let go of the strategies that have worked for us in the past...Let go of our biases, the foundation of our illusions...Let go of our grievances, the root source of our victimhood...Let go of our so-often-denied fear of being found unlovable.”

This guy reminds me of a Bob Goff (Love Does: if you haven't read it, you must!) kind of guy who survived and even thrived in Corporate America.

MacKenzie proved you can still be original inside a larger organization, and for those of us who will likely live under a big company, this is good news indeed!

The book is only a couple of hundred pages long even with lots of doodles and sketches, so it's quick and easy. Definitely pick it up!