According to Gordon MacKenzie in Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, a hairball is, “policy procedure, conformity, compliance, rigidity, and submission to the status quo, while orbiting is originality, rules-breaking, non-conformity, experimentation, and innovation.” MacKenzie is writing about how to maintain creativity and originality when working in a corporate culture, but I could not help but think about how his ideas apply to those of us who seek out these same “orbiting” traits in schools and other learning organizations.
Some do this by branching out on their own. They abandon the organization and venture into the world of consulting, freelancing, or pursuing a startup. That is an admirable option, and I’m grateful for the amazing work that comes from people who chose this option. However, what intrigues me about MacKenzie’s book is that he offers another option as well, doing what he calls “orbiting the giant hairball.” Here is how he explains it:
Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the hairball of the corporate mindset, beyond “accepted models, patterns, or standards.” – all the while connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.
When I read that quote, I wanted to make a poster of it, turn it into a t-shirt, memorize it, and post it on my office wall! This quote encompasses so much of what I’ve devoted myself to over the last two decades. Stretch myself and others to explore the promise and possibility beyond “accepted models, patterns, and standards” in education. Rather than simply “clinging to past successes” or ingrained educational practices, my passion is to look to what is possible. In doing so, we discover educational vistas that we previously thought non-existent, infuse our minds and communities with passion and creative energy; but we do it without abandoning the educational establishment. We find ways to breath creativity into these institutions, maintaining a deep love and respect for the important missions that drive many of our schools and learning organizations. We commit ourselves to helping reveal how that shared and valued mission can be expanded and enhanced through creative and innovative endeavors.