I am a robot reader for anything Kathy Sierra writes: I don’t know Kathy Sierra except for the consistently thought-provoking Creating Passionate Users blog posts she writes about business, marketing and life. I’m sure if she were asked, she’d say she prefers blog readers who disagree with her — who aren’t afraid to shake things up and point out why she may not always be correct. I’m sure she’d be the last to say she likes her readers to be yes-people, always agreeing with everything she writes, always making obsequious comments about how smart she is.
Unfortunately for me, I’m one of those obsequious types when it comes to anything she writes. I just fall in line and say, “what she said.” I’m a zombie reader of her weblog. A robot. Like when she writes how CEOs all say they want independent thinkers and then reward employees who never question anything they say: Employees who see their jobs in terms of how well they can please the boss (or VC?). Kathy points out that parents can be like that also: saying they want “independent-minded” kids while punishing any smack of such independent thinking. Yes, so while reading her stuff makes me squirm with discomfort and recognition, I still find myself wanting to link to her posts and say, “what she said.” And a lot of the time, I do.
On Thursday I heard a well-known management consultant tell the story of a CEO of a large company who casually asked a line worker for a bit of information about one item: “Just send me a note on some scrap paper,” the CEO asked as he was walking by. The story, which smacked of urban myth despite the speaker’s attribution to a specific individual and company, has the line worker’s boss and boss’s boss, and boss’s boss’s boss, etc., take over the “report” and project when they learn the CEO had “ordered it.” A couple months later, a three-inch thick report landed on the CEO’s desk, a complete mystery to him. After tracking down the source of it, the CEO estimated that the time and resources devoted to it was close to $1 million.
And he didn’t even get the answer to his question.
To keep that from happening at Hammock Publishing, I long-ago ordered all employees to never listen to anything I ever say. The company’s success can be chalked up to their zombie-like adherence to that directive.
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