In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself. - Albert Einstein
A number of off-message notices adorned the walls of my office, back in the day. Among them was a newspaper cutting headed with a large cartoon. Drawn from a speaker’s perspective at the front of a meeting room, looking out across an alarmed audience of seated sheep. In the far corner of the room, almost unnoticeable, was a man. A man with a defiant look on his face. The caption simply read, “Don’t be a ‘follower’!”
Not everyone who stepped in from the corridors of glower appreciated the sentiment. But the message was less about wearing something woolly or spending an inordinate amount of time ruminating, and more about not being sheepish. It was, in short, a reminder that it’s okay to ask the question, “Why?” from time to time.
I once questioned the motives of a senior colleague, following a series of lengthy and inconclusive meetings about restructuring. The ensuing chorus of bleating broke the calm of common-sense. When I later took up the issue with my head of department, he stated that he didn’t make value judgements. My next question was out before I knew it. “How on earth do you ever appoint anyone, then?” He didn’t answer. Just melted into his office and closed the door. I imagined him settling down in the low armchair reserved for job candidates, trying to get forty winks, counting his closest confidantes jumping over wobbly stacks of rule books.
What’s brought all this to mind? Well, I closed my LinkedIn account this week, and I was heartened to discover – after thinking aloud on Facebook – that a considerable number of people had either done the same, were thinking about it, wondering what it was actually for, or reached the conclusion that it’s boring. So, it wasn’t just me asking the question, “WHY?”