Orbiting the Giant Hairball

A few weeks ago, at the Partners in Print “shop talk” Zoom, someone mentioned the book Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. How could I not seek out a copy of a book with a title like that, subtitled “a corporate fool’s guide to surviving with grace”?

Although it wasn’t in the collection of the Public Library Service, an interlibrary loan brought it down the street from Robertson Library at the University of PEI (perhaps the most bureaucratic journey a book has ever taken to move 3 km down the street).

The book is fantastic, and I was in, hook, line, and sinker, by the time I got to page 33:

Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mind set, beyond “accepted models, patterns, or standards” – all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.

To find Orbit around a corporate Hairball is to find a place of balance where you benefit from the physical, intellectual and philosophical resources of the organization without becoming entombed in the bureaucracy of the institution.

If you are interested (and it is not for everyone), you can achieve Orbit by finding the personal courage to be genuine and to take the best course of action to get the job done rather than following the pallid path of corporate appropriateness.

To be of optimum value to the corporate endeavor, you must invest enough individuality to counteract the pull of Corporate Gravity, but not so much that you escape that pull altogether. Just enough to stay out of the Hairball.

Through this measured assertion of your own uniqueness, it is possible to establish a dynamic relationship with the Hairball — to Orbit around the institutional mass. If you do this, you make an asset of the gravity in that it becomes a force that keeps you from flying out into the overwhelming nothingness of deep space.

But if you allow that same gravity to suck you into the bureaucratic Hairball, you will find yourself in a different kind of nothingness. The nothingness of a normalcy made stagnant by a compulsion to cling to past successes. The nothingness of the Hairball.

I have never read a better description for what I’ve strived for in life.


Kevin's picture
Kevin on July 6, 2021 - 22:19 Permalink

I enjoyed working in the large corporate or institutional environment mainly because there were people there. Many times, however, my sensibilities and sensitivities came up against the Hairball. Only once was I cast into outer space but most of the time I tried to make change. Corporate policy was my main target. I want and need process and policy, but when policy met with a customer / client need, it was the policy I would challenge, not the customer. Too many people thing the policy is it, the end, the holy grail. I thought of policy as a guide, and a flexible one at that. I love a good policy and love even more the opportunity to circle the hairball and bring others into an orbit close to mine so we can make sure it is current, relevant and supportive of those who rely on or want to work with us.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 6, 2021 - 22:22 Permalink

I have been the beneficiary of your skills in this regard more than once.

Olle Jonsson's picture
Olle Jonsson on July 7, 2021 - 03:37 Permalink

I'm keen on reading this, now.