Thursday, March 2, 2017

Idiocy is Baked In

The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses
for execution by idiots.
― Herman Wouk

In a thematic scene in The Caine Mutiny, the worldly Lieutenant Keefer explains how the Navy works to a fresh-faced ensign:

“The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you are not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them."

Most 21st century businesses are, of course, designed in the same fashion.

"After nearly a century of effort, the industrial system has created the worker-proof factory," Seth Godin says in The Icarus Deception.

"It’s okay if the person assembling your Domino’s pizza or Apple iPhone doesn’t care. The system cares. The system measures every movement, every bit of output, so all the tolerances are in order.

"It’s okay if the person at the bank doesn’t care—the real work is done by an ATM or a spreadsheet.

"We’ve systematized and mechanized every step of every process.

"By eliminating 'personal' from frontline labor, the industrial system ensures that it can both maintain quality and use ever-cheaper (and ever-fewer) workers."

At this moment, while "surprise and delight" are on every executive's tongue at large businesses, truth be told, the system can't tolerate them.

They cut down too much on productivity.

That threatens shareholder value.

Those master plans "designed by geniuses for execution by idiots" that we call corporations spell opportunity for entrepreneurs.

Because if today's customers really crave "surprise and delight," they'll never find them when they do business with large businesses.

Idiocy is baked in.
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