A Joke LO18218

Michael N. Erickson (michael.n.erickson@boeing.com)
Fri, 29 May 1998 07:54:40 -0700 (PDT)

Replying to LO18208 --

Hello Winfried, and everyone else

On Thu, 28 May 1998, Winfried Dressler wrote:
> I have heard a joke recently, that really puzzles me....

> Two farm hens came to an egg producing battery. Said one to the other: "I
> couldn't do that."

This joke reflects the amazing differences found among people. Like the
hen's, I personally have a tough time with big industrial situations (even
though I work for the Boeing company-certainly a biiiig industrial
complex) so this resonates loudly in my thick head.

> It was part of the answer of an afrikaner from Tansania, when I asked him
> about his impressions about Germany. I am sure he would have responded
> with the same joke to any other industrialized, high productive economy.
> We were also talking about the freedom of the individual in our society.
> He was implicitely saying, that he couldn't find much freedom in our way
> of living, compared to his freedom. He found that we are slaves of our
> needs and that our efforts to satisfy these needs are desastrous enough to
> destroy the basics of life.
> It reminds me of a mail from At that could be summerized as a reverse
> joke: Two hens from an egg producing battery came to a farm. Both died
> shortly afterwards.
> Within the metaphor of this joke, what are the implications for a LO?
> - Should a LO make the battery more productive?
> - Should a LO make the hens happy and satisfied?
> - Should a LO design the battery in a way to avoid a systemic break down?
> - Should a LO enable their hens to survive on the farm?
> - Should a LO be a farm?
> - Does any of the five disciplines make any sense for a hen in a battery?
> May be I am far off the limits of this metaphor, but may be not.
> I would very much appreciate, if you could give my frustrating thinking
> about this a more productive (!?) turn.

I think your KEY PHRASE: is "should". Are there universal "shoulds" that
govern our goals and plans? For myself, the concept of the Learning
Organization is about getting familiar with reality (rather than our
obscured view of it) and part of the learning is defining goals (like
should an LO make hens happier or the battery more productive, or both).
The shoulds aren't part of the interest in LO. LO is about exploration.

My experience has been that short term thinking produces a lot of
"shoulds", but if I go deeper into the questions about what I'm really
trying to accomplish, I discover a 3rd and 4th set of possibilities that
go way beyond the original questions-like are we in the egg business? or
some other business? Maybe we should skip the egg business and get into
the production of cheese, or tomatoes or pottery, in which case our
chickens can be happier, our farm can be productive, we could have more
visitors and make a bigger difference in the world, or not as the case may

Locking down too early on a set of "shoulds" forces us into the pursuit of
certain answers and eliminates the possibility of discovering
others-something we do all to readily as it is.

Michael Erickson -- Organizational Cartoonist


"Michael N. Erickson" <michael.n.erickson@boeing.com>

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