Monday, January 29, 2007

 

Amoeba Idol

posted by Corey Reid

Do you belong to any networks? Take this handy quiz:

Q: Are you alive?

If you answered yes, then congratulations! You belong to networks. Even if you're an animal. Yes, even if you're a single-celled organism, you belong to a network. Even stand-up comedians do.

When you're part of a network, you often get asked to do stuff by other members of that network. Mom. Mr. Grimsby. The flight attendant who wants you to stop, for God's sake, laughing at American Idol, because you're freaking out the other passengers. Some of those requests are implicit -- your Mom's birthday, for example. Some are not so much: "Take those headphones off and SHUT UP before I strangle you with this flotation device."

Our networks give us jobs to do. By performing these jobs, we strengthen our networks. Getting Mom a birthday present deepens the bond with the old homestead. Taking off your headphones and being polite helps you avoid getting chucked out the airlock.

Why doesn't WestJet have airlocks on their planes? Never mind.

Anyways, doing the jobs we're given is one part of participating in a network. That's basically what an amoeba does. Its network says "You're hungry" and it goes off and absorbs something. Or whatever amoebas do.

I'm not an expert on amoebas. Take the point, and let's move on.

In any event, we're not amoebas. We're much, much larger. I believe. And smarter, for the most part, although amoebas aren't noted for watching American Idol. I assume. Again, not an expert on amoebas, but I think I'm on pretty safe ground, there.

Anyways, because of this, we have "meta-jobs" with respect to the networks we're involved in. We have to actively look for ways to strengthen our networks. If we don't, we might as well just watch American Idol. We need to build things up, or else we're tearing things down. And the thing that we can do that does the most building is to help other network members who are failing.

When someone isn't doing their job, or is driving you crazy, or otherwise troublesome, if I don't make a strong and determined effort to help them improve I'm being profoundly disrespectful and ultimately self-destructive.

I need to tell people when they are interfering in my ability to serve. And I need to tell them directly, clearly and in all sorts of ways. Nobody sets out to deprive their own network of value. Nobody WANTS to be anti-helpful. But people often have trouble seeing where they fit into a network, and they have trouble seeing how their actions might influence events in another part of that network.

It's one thing, when things go wrong, to make them go right. Often that's the immediately necessary thing to do. That's the job you're given. That's the amoeba role. And often you can't stop to point out what happened and why and how. But if you do not later find the time to identify the failure and establish how to prevent that failure from happening again, you are selfishly allowing your own network to degrade.

Because the message that ignoring failure sends is that it's OKAY to fuck up. Actually, it's even more insidious than that. It hides the fact that there was a fuck-up, and allows the fuck-uppers to persist in a mistaken notion that everything has gone fine. And that means that you, if you're the hero (and aren't we all heroes?), have just encouraged your network to keep on failing.

My job is not just to deliver the products and features the client wants. My job is not just to accomplish the immediate goal. My job (and the job of anyone who's involved in a network -- see above for notes on whether or not this includes you) is to strengthen the network. Only strengthening the network creates growth. Everything else is just putting out fires. Just doing your job. Being an amoeba.

And if you must watch American Idol, please, try shutting up. Think of the amoebas.

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