I watched a movie a while ago called ‘Boy in a Bubble’, starring a young John Travolta. The movie was based on a true story about a kid who had to live in a totally sterilized environment because his immune system stopped working.
Doctors built a 10 foot square,clear plastic sterilized bubble for the boy to live in. Everything that entered had to be germ-free.People would see him and talk to him through the plastic bubble but they could never enter his world for fear of passing along a fatal virus.
At the end of the movie,the boy is faced with an agonizing choice.He can either remain in the bubble and stay alive for years alone or he can choose to leave and not conform to the bubble and live his life, no matter how brief,to the fullest.What do you think the boy chose to do?
As you ponder that question, many leaders too find themselves in various organizations in a bubble kind of environment.They have been held hostage by a clique of individuals who make sure that anybody who does not toe the line of thinking of the leader is labelled anti-establishment.They convince the leader that such person’s thinking is not conforming to those of the leader and should be ignored at all times.
These people surrounding the leader wear those beautiful tailored suits with the latest “power” ties.They look energetic, vivid,illuminant and affectionate, but looks can be deceiving. For what appears to be gentle friends of the leader are just men full of malice in their hearts with no ideas in their mindsfor the leader to use and grow the organization.They agree with everything the leader says and cannot help him to grow. They have no idea about Zig Ziglar’s advice which goes, “If you and your boss reason the same one of you is redundant”. In other words,they are all redundant save for the leader. I say so because they lie to the leader that there can only be one sun (leader) at a time and therefore no one should rival the sun’s brilliance in the name of new ideas.
To reverse this kind of thinking so that growth can be realized, we need to borrow a leaf from Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of The United States. President Lincoln came to power when the nation was in trouble and he had the intelligence and self-confidence to know that he needed independent and creative people by his side. He brought people like Stanton into the cabinet in 1862 as secretary of war. For example. Stanton was much tougher and secretive than him.Their opposite temperament balanced each other out. Even Barrack Obama did the same thing by choosing his chief rival Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state, Joe Biden as the Vice President. He also included powerful Republicans in the cabinet like Robert Gates and Ray Lahood.
The major reason in my view for these two leaders doing this was that they wanted people who were free to question their authorities and who were unafraid to argue with them.They wanted to work with people who were original in thought and who don’t imitate others. Herman Melville wrote, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” As long as you are trying to conform to someone else, the best number you will ever become is number two. You cannot reach your destiny when you take another man’s road.
Several counties in Kenya face a challenge of managing waste because they always want to conform to known methods of managing waste without being innovative. Take a country like Sweden for example, it has an innovative waste management program where it uses 96% of its garbage to generate electricity. In fact, in 2012, it faced a crisis because it ran short of garbage. It had to start a process of importing it from neighbouring countries. What I learn from this case is that there is the conforming thinking that leads focusing on setting up disposal boardswith scramble for appointments to figure out how to deal with garbage problem and there is the innovative thinking that sees garbage as a blessing and cannot get enough of it.
John Henry Fabre placed caterpillars in a circle. For twenty four hours the caterpillars dutifully followed one another around and around. Then Fabre placed them around saucer full of pine needles (favorite food). For six days the mindless creatures moved around and around the saucer, dying from starvation even though abundance of choice of food was located two inches away. All they were simply doing was conforming and none of them was innovative enough to discover a great opportunity around there. This means if you simply conform you will never make the situation you are in any better and hence no growth.
I think now it is time to answer the question I asked earlier arising from the movie story entitled, ‘Boy in a ‘Bubble.’The question I asked you is whether you thought the boy chose to live in the bubble and live a longer life or he chose to leave the bubble and live his life to the fullest no matter how brief. For the record, Travolta’s character chose to leave the security of his bubble. He knew that in order to truly live, he had to leave his protective bubble and embrace life, no matter how short it was. What about you? Where would you choose to live? More to the point, where are you living?
Therefore, let us all be transformed and not conformed. Remember if everyone in your organization agrees with you, there is no need for them to be there.