I recently read this brilliant introduction to one of James Atkins’ blogs, on his wonderful, www.thebustard.com: ‘There is a scene in Bertolt Brecht’s play, The Life of Galileo, where the Pope is getting dressed. Whilst still in his underwear, he is sympathetically disposed towards the heretical, Italian astronomer. By the time he has his papal robes on, however, the Pope is ready to allow the Inquisitor to show Galileo the instruments of torture.’
Now, my blog is not going to turn into an exposition on the virtues of going to work in our underpants, because that would be ridiculous. Not to mention, impractical. Distracting. And, most importantly of all, unimpressive. I don’t mean, ‘unimpressive’ in terms of bulges in all the wrong places (speaking for myself here, before any of you take offence), but unimpressive in terms of my wannabe serious blogger/business commentator kudos points that I’m so desperately trying to accrue…
Hold on a second…
No, I’m sorry, but scrub that.
An exposition of the virtues of going to work in our underpants is exactly what this blog is going to turn in to.
Because in our underpants we are human, and what business needs more than anything else right now, IMHO, is more humanity.
What’s my case for business needing more humanity? Well, we’ve done pretend management to death, where, instead of trying to rise above our contradictions in the workplace, we pretend we don’t have any. Where we pretend to know things even when we don’t, and to have done things that we haven’t. Where we say things not so as to be true to ourselves, but because we think we should say them. Where we get things done at any cost. Where we go through the motions of whatever ritual we think needs playing out to survive the meeting. To get through the day. And I’m not saying that every business is stuck in this Fear Chamber, but I’ve seen so many that are, that I’m comfortable with my generalisations on this occasion.
And, economically speaking, pretend management has worked. And maybe we didn’t know any better. And don’t speak ill of what you are, Laurence.
But in many ways, pretend management has not been kind to us: look at the toll that business activity has taken on the environment, look at the numbers of employees claiming to be unhappy, look at the alarming, recent, rise in the incidence of stress at work.
So, I think that the world of typical, management practice (not the intent, but the practice) does need saving from itself, and that more humanity is the means to achieve that. And then, once humanity has saved business, business will return the favour and save humanity. Because it’s only when business people, with their tenacity, ingenuity and vast numbers, decide to repay their debt to this planet’s ecosystem and natural resources, that we will mobilise fully to address the imminent environmental catastrophe that is global warming.
And it all starts by being fearless in our underpants.
I hope there are easier ways, and please feel free to suggest them below, but if that’s what it took to take myself a little less seriously and let my humanity shine through in the workplace, I’d go to work in my underpants any day of the week.*
*Er…obviously, in summer only, and, er, only if I was absolutely on tip-top form, and certain that the rest of you were going to do the same. And if I didn’t have an important meeting, or a new business pitch that day…I’m sure you understand. But I truly believe in this idea. No, I really do…
And if you like the idea that real influence lies within easy reach of the semi naked, check out Nick Hilditch’s brilliant, World leaders in their underpants, at http://nickhilditch.com/world-leaders-in-their-underpants/ But if you like his work, you can’t engage Nick, because he’s all mine. He drew the Inadvertent Saboteur®, he drew that brilliant caricature of Pope Benedict XVI at the top of this blog, and he draws all my cartoons for me, and so he’s mine, mine. Mine. All mine.
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