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“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!” A lovely aphorism. Here’s another: “Every great plan contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.” So a couple friends and I began a management company for craftsmen and professionals. Among the things we do are to manage accounts, collect payments and pay bills. In the process of supporting one of our clients, it was necessary for our convenience to change the mailing address of one of his telephone accounts to comply with the United States Postal Service’s demand that our mailing address at our company P.O. Box not include our client’s names, unless we intended to have general mail for our clients to arrive at our company address. Fine! No problem.
That is, no problem except with our mobile telephone provider, who advised us bluntly and with a smirk, “No! That is not our policy.” I won’t explain in detail what followed, because we have all been there before. After two hours on the phone, two trips to the telephone retail store by an officer of our company and the manager of our operation, (which consumed an hour and a half on one trip, and over two hours on the second trip), we appear to have resolved the problem. Resolution was not as we proposed, not by changing the billing address (too simple) but by yielding to telephone company management policy and converting the account from our client to our company. Nothing less would suffice, according to our client’s mobile telephone provider. During the dull hours standing at the counter of our mobile telephone provider, watching the clerk waiting for another department to answer the phone and watching the bureaucratic process progress on his monitor, I began idle thoughts. “This is how institutional things die.”, I thought, “By the dull blades of bureaucratic fiat in the hands of obedient, remorseless morons.”
We were surrounded by the finest examples of innovation, brilliant research and incomparable engineering and manufacturing achievement. Our globe is filled with technology and magic which excels at communicating love, sorrow, faith, fun and fantasy to anyone, anywhere in an instant. “Hi Mom! How’s the weather in Boston?” “Whassup kid? Fine weather here. Howzzit going with your new IT job in Cairo?”
All brought to us by morons at Corporate and brainless robots at the local (mandatory) corporate store.
Lily Tomlin’s character was smugly correct. “We’re the telephone company.” Every experience I have had reflects that inevitable blank expression in the eyes and conduct of “the telephone company” when pressed to answer a “Yes or No” inquiry.
But, wait! That’s not the only place we find morons and as my idle thoughts continued, it occurred to me that this conduct is an essential part of evolutionary corporatism. Artificial entities excel in extreme amplification of individual characteristics and conduct.
Everything it seems, has a beginning, a middle and an end. The telephone company I have targeted with my observations shares inherent structural defects with a bank which shares a name and a government and society, which also bears the same appellation.
Take a company at the start. It begins as an idea for a product or service or ambition and progresses to some form of legal entity. The company is filled with energy, activity, adventure, risk and prospects. As the company gets established and moves its product or services to market, it is dynamic, responsive and respectful of its customers and their opinions by both management and store personnel. They are careful too, of the quality and evolution of its products, services and their shared idea.
It grows to maturity, overcoming risk and becoming successful. At some moment, the original entrepreneurial environment evaporates and growth generation management greedily exploits the vision and success of the founders. Expenses are cut, products are made flashier but cheaper and the customer base is taken for granted. Everything is at prime.
Competition builds and operations are optimized and made more cost-effective. Bonus-driven management completes the cycle by implementing the greed-driven policies and practices of corporate success ensuring the suicidal avalanche of degraded customer respect, declining product quality and ultimately, institutional demise by natural decay.
We see this cycle repeated endlessly in the evolutions of our of large corporations, financial institutions, academic institutions, religions and professions. All too often, we find ourselves snared and dragged into the dark and deep against our will by the dying Leviathans we have allowed to evolve in our presence. There is another option. Use your own good sense and don’t play the games of “Everybody knows”, “You’ve got to go along to get along” and “Don’t leave any money on the table”. Those are monkey-traps, set for the unthinking and greedy who think they can out-joke the joker.
Be aware and smart!
Liberty is never Easy, Safe or totally Free!
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