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A Chance Meeting


He had an idea. He felt it was very exciting because it was different and could even be important. But he didn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t talk to other people about it because he had learned that when he told them about it, they saw little in it for themselves, but a lot in it for him.

Many of them just cut him down, directly or through faint praise, explaining how they could see that it wouldn’t work even if he couldn’t. That left him feeling silly.

Even worse were the few who saw his idea and encouraged him, but they were no closer to knowing what to do about it than he was, so that left him feeling bad too. Smart enough to think up something, but not smart enough to know what to do about it, huh?

One day, by chance, he found himself in the company of another man on a journey.

After a while, this man asked him what his interests were. He was too shy to give a truthful answer, muttering abstractions and generalities that didn’t mean much. Doing otherwise always ended badly.

But on this occasion the other man seemed able to read his hesitancy and be interested in what lay behind it. He gently persisted with his question as though he desired to learn something of his travelling companion. It was almost as if he was saying: ‘This is our opportunity. The Universe is large, but will still be richer for what we can make of this time. There is nothing to fear’.

Eventually he caved in. He told his companion his idea showing the excitement he felt as he talked about it. The companion listened intently then asked some questions to make sure he had understood what he had heard. Then he commented on how important and valuable the idea was, but agreed it was hard to see what to do.

They travelled in silence for a short distance then the other said: ‘You have been thinking about this for a long time. You must have ideas about how it can be done. I’d very much like to hear, if you are willing to reveal them.’

At this he became very nervous again because the words he had to speak sounded ridiculous from such as himself, who had never moved in the circles of making such lofty things happen. But again it was as if the other man ecould read this and gently drew him out.

And as the ideas poured out of him and were met with approval rather than ridicule, his confidence grew and he spoke with greater clarity and force. His companion grew more and more impressed and started to share the sense of excitement.

They were nearing their destination. The companion said: ‘You knew all the time how to proceed and now you have laid it out. I know people who would be pleased to support you. If you would allow it, tell me your name and I will arrange for them to contact you.’

He said: “They just call me EM”.

The companion said: “Doesn’t that mean Everyman in your language? It’s funny, that’s what they call me too. Lot of us about aren’t there?”

Author: richardbdavies2

Dick Davies I would love to see Independents reshape society’s understanding of work: - Independents learn to cooperate creatively and choose their targets judiciously enabling them to undercut, outperform and win control from current arrangements in areas of business, public service and academia. - Through exposing existing arrangements as dinosaurs that society can no longer afford, they find their approach is in demand and their influence widens. - Anyone can apply to learn to be part of the delivery of real outcomes in a context of rich technical and personal development. - The context is designed to reclaim personal integrity and values in education from domination and control by powerful vested interests. Technology, as well as being an enabler, can be one of the biggest hindrances to this because it offers the greatest distraction from what matters (negotiating purpose, building context, trustful relationships, cooperation, thinking), instead making it easy to have fun tinkering with machines and looking busy.

7 thoughts on “A Chance Meeting

  1. That is exactly my experience, short of meeting the other man on a journey. Thank you!


  2. Good story – reminds us that most solutions to a problem in any organisation are there if we are able to help create an open, team-based environment where everyone has a chance to contribute.

  3. Dick, I see your story as an illuminating portrayal of the feeling of trying to do important things in business/society in a more effective way, based upon the drive and leadership of each person’s focus, but hitting the suffocating blanket of the established structure.

    It reminded me of a person in a Kafka novel who is constantly thwarted by the system ‘for his own good’, a nightmare that can drive you insane or at best sap your energy until you conform or leave.

    It is a classic tale of the established system against fresh ideas, perspectives and action from individuals. A tale rooted in power.

    I see the story as essentially about the need to reframe the environment of business and society to legitimise the individual to do important things driven by themselves.

    This would be a big shift, as it means a re-distribution of power to own and drive activities from the established framework to the individual.

    You can see it does already happen in certain situations, mainly in start-up companies and new creative projects, where the established company allows it because it needs the fruits of the new innovations and can accept it by referring to it as Research & Development. The behaviour is contained and the new product is accepted into operation to be treated like a mature product with a mature organisation (rigid and controlling). There is great fear from the minders of the organisation of change and shifts in personal power.

    The protagonist in the story, EM is craving for an environment, behaviour and process in business (and society) where the individual has the power to harness the organisation to:

    legitimise an idea
    identify an objective for its benefit
    formulate a project to test this
    acquire resources and commitment to implement the project
    implement the project
    incorporate the benefits into the business
    incorporate the learning and energy back into the organisation

    To achieve this would need changes in roles, behaviour and power within people, the business, industry and society.

    My experience in business has been exhilarating when in start-ups and R&D environments, where this behaviour happens, but it is accompanied by sheer frustration when we tried to roll out the behaviour and product into the established organisation – I used to call this point ‘Mind the Gap’.

    I hope Dick that your story is not just accepted as the sad truth, by lonely CEOs, who sit atop the polished corridors and sadly regret their inability to harness the fresh individual spirit.

    A wonderful story Dick, its truth seeps into the mind. Its style is like the gentle wisdom of Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund. It reminds me of the power of individual spirit and endeavour.

  4. Very true and helpful story. Thank you.

    So many of us are uncertain that our thoughts are worth sharing. This is certainly true of me – thanks for this and to Pete Burden for encouraging me to share some of my own thinking.

    In terms of how we think about ourselves and others, here’s a quote I read recently from Soren Kierkegaard:

    “The majority of men are subjective toward themselves and objective towards all others – terribly objective sometimes – but the real task is in fact to be objective towards one’s self and subjective towards all others.”

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