comments 2

Trying to be remarkable

“Very little remarkable comes out of bureaucracies for a simple reason. The members of the bureaucracy seek to be beyond reproach. Reproach is their nightmare, their enemy, the thing to avoid at all costs. And the remarkable feels like a risk.” —Seth Godin

I went into the office yesterday to sign some documents (they had to be originals) that I have been working on finalizing for the last 6-7 months. I’m not going to share what the documents were or who was involved, but I will say that it took the entire 6-7 months to get two lines added to the agreement. No other changes. Just the addition of two lines — okay, it was more like a line and a half. On the one hand, I am horrified that such simple things can take so long in the hands of bureaucracy. On the other hand, this is not an outlying situation.

I say this not to bitch, but to instead make a case for the remarkable. As I was signing the documents yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of the writing of Seth Godin and quotes like the one at the top of this post (which is from a post called “Bureaucracy = death”). Because one of the professional goals that I have set for myself is to always strive to create things that are remarkable. I want people to look at whatever the thing might be and think to themselves, “yeah, this is extraordinary.”

But here’s the thing about remarkability. It lives on the edges. It’s by definition not ordinary. It is extra-ordinary. And so there’s risk. Maybe it won’t work. But you know, that’s okay. It also thrives on novelty. You have to be the first and you have to be the best. Because when it does work, it’ll very quickly become the ordinary. But this too is okay because it’s how the world moves forward. Remarkability is not a one time event, it is something that is continuous.

That we have organizations with cultures and processes that systematically eschew the remarkable makes me sad.

2 Comments

  1. Mark Olinger

    Not that all bureaucracies are government, but when I worked in municipal gov’t I had co-worker who used to say “failure was not an option” in government. So true .

    Like

  2. Myron Nebozuk

    If ever there was a subject that was capable of generating an avalanche of comments, this has to be it. I am impressed by readers’ discipline; perhaps they are mindful of the need to keep bureaucracies on their side. I would like to relate a conversational snippet with a member of a bureaucracy a few years ago. To give you a little context, I had just expressed frustration at the glacial pace of my development project:

    Him: “My number one goal is to not make any waves”

    Me: “Why not?”

    Him: “Because I have to make sure the golden goose keeping laying eggs”

    Me, completely perplexed: “What are you talking about?”

    Him: “My defined benefit pension!”

    Like

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