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Business & Management Lessons from Humour

Businesses (and people) over time develop habits and patterns of working. Sometimes these lead to success. However often they stop management from seeing reality – especially when the business environment changes. Competitive intelligence can identify these business blindspots – both in the company itself, and in its competitors. Taking advantage of competitor blindspots is a major way that a company can beat its competitors, so it is crucial to understand one’s own blindspots so as to protect oneself from possible attack.

Business problems can be shown through humour. Humour allows businesses to take a step back and see a problem applied to a situation that appears different to their own. One can also sometimes see similar behaviour in one’s own organisation – thus highlighting a possible blindspot. Humour is just one technique for showing blindspots. Others include the use of drama workshops and story-telling, or war-gaming where the business environment is modelled and management try and take an external look at their and their competitor situations.

The following “stories” and office “theories” are taken from our humour database – with a random selection shown. Refresh the page for further examples.

Top-Down Planning?

In the beginning was the plan and then came the assumptions and the assumptions were without form and the plan was without substance and the darkness was upon the face of the workers and they spoke amongst themselves saying "It is a crock of sh*t, and it stinketh".
And the workers went to their supervisors and said It is a pail of dung and none can stand the odour that rises from it.
And the supervisors went unto the managers and said It is a container of excrement and it is very strong, such that none can come near.
And the managers went to their directors saying It is a vessel of fertiliser and none can stand its strength.
And the directors spoke among themselves saying to one another It contains that which aids plant growth and it is very strong.
And the directors went unto the vice-presidents and said It promotes growth and is very powerful.
And the vice-presidents went to the President and said to him This new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of this company.
And the President looked on the plan and saw that it was good, and the plan became policy.

The above story, unfortunately, is typical of the way many companies work. Rather than listening and communicating honestly, different levels within the organisation pass on only what more senior management want to hear. This way the truth disappears, and policies are made that ignore reality - a classical business blindspot. This tends to go hand-in-hand with the Mushroom Theory of Management: Keep them in the dark, and feed them s**t.

Rules of Work

Voice Mail
Never answer your phone. People don't call you because they want to give you something for nothing. They call you because they want you to do work for them. By not answering your phone and letting all calls go to voice mail you can screen the calls.
If somebody sends you a voice mail message that sounds like it will result in work, then respond during the lunch break or when you know the caller will not be there. It'll look as if you are hardworking and conscientious - even though you're actually shirking work.

Based on ideas from BBC Television's The Office.

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