Stop Clowning Around

September 8, 2010

I loved clowns when I was a boy. My parents would take me to a circus and I couldn’t wait for the clowns to appear. I secretly wished that their portion in the program could be longer. Trapeze artists fascinated me, elephants and lions enthralled me but clowns really made my day. Maybe this is the reason why my curiosity was aroused when an article from an anonymous writer said: “When it comes to the health of your organization, it’s time to stop clowning around.”

Being called a clown is NOT a compliment unless you want to join the circus. It’s not a career goal. Bad makeup and ill-fitting shoes make them funny because they are based on real people. They embody what’s wrong with human nature, just magnified a bit.

Here are what clowns do in the workplace.

1. Clowns Ignore Science. Whether it’s the magic of fitting sixteen full-sized clowns into a Volkswagen Beetle or the constant struggle between clowns and gravity, the fruitless conflict between what’s real and what a clown desires is a fixture in a clown’s act.

Organizations (and politicians) tend to believe that science is op tional. It’s not. If you run ads and they don’t work, it doesn’t matter how you spin it; they didn’t work. If your industry is changing be cause of a technological breakthrough, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in the breakthrough; it’s still there. Denying reality never leads to a positive outcome.

A leading company for film and photography spent years denying, ignoring and evading the reality of digital photography that would soon affect its core film business. When they had to lay off a substantial number of its decimated workforce, you couldn’t help but shout, “You clowns! Did it just now dawn on you that digital cameras were going to catch on?” There were so many innocent folks who lost their jobs because senior management was busy meeting and putting on their big red noses. Clowns refuse to measure their results, because measurement implies that they accept the reality of the outside world. Wishful thinking is not a replacement for the real world. Only clowns can get away with that.

2. Clowns Don’t Plan Ahead. Clowns get big laughs from slam ming into a brick wall or running to catch up with a car that left without them. Of course, no animal can intelligently plan ahead, either. Humans are the only species that regularly demonstrates foresight, but we manage to do this only on occasion. People are happy to spend themselves into credit card debt to enjoy today (instead of tomorrow and the next thirty years), and they work hard to maintain the illusion that everything is just fine-until it’s not.

3. Clowns Overreact to Bad (and Good) News. Remember clowns bursting into tears when he stubs his toe or drops an ice-cream cone. Those same manic clowns are overcome with glee and laughter when something goes right for them. We sometimes behave like clowns in this regard, too.

4. Clowns Aren’t Very Nice to One Another. From the Three Stooges to the colorful characters at the Ringling Bros., clowns are most famous for willfully inflicting harm upon their fellow clowns. Why is it so unusual to find a company where the boss cares for his employees? Why is it even more unusual still to find a workforce where teamwork naturally overcomes selfishness? Why do we focus on takeover battles, high-profile firings, and attack-dog politics instead ­of the gradual, inexorable progress that happens when people with a shared goal work together to accomplish it?

Success lies in rejecting your inner clown and adopting a long-range view of the world. We ought to issue little red foam rubber noses to everyone who has read this material. Little red noses compress easily, so you can keep one in your wallet. Whenever you’re in a meeting and someone starts acting like a clown, silently whip out the nose and put it on. Imagine the impact of five or ten VPs confronting the CEO with rubber red noses firmly in place. Figure out the be havior of a real clown-and do the opposite. Clowns surface when a business organization does not practice right values in their every day affairs.

I was inside the Cebu Airport waiting for my luggage and this tall and distinguished businessman put his arms around me, greeted me and we got into a conversation on the importance of growing a business. He is no neophyte when it comes to business. He is Bernie Liu, TOYM awardee and CEO of Golden ABC better known for brands like Penshoppe, Oxygen, Memo and ForMe and he said something I will always remember. Bernie says that in order for businesses to succeed long term. There are 2 things that every company should seriously develop, their values and their culture.

Bernie is simply saying, business people should stop clowning around.

Guess what Scriptures have to say? “Fools despise wisdom and discipline and they hate knowledge too.” So the opposite of clowning around is being trustworthy, being real, being truthful and being a person of character.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. macxz

    such a timely and great article sir. it broaden my understanding on some of the people i know here. 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  2. Jef Menguin

    Thank you for sharing these ideas. I realized that some people like to clown around because they think that pleases people. Unfortunately, doing so does not please themselves. When one clowns around, he tells the world that he does not respect himself.

    Jef Menguin

  3. John

    love this article. it depicts mostly the clowns character in my current company.. oh well when will we ever change.

  4. M. Irfan Saeed

    Very nice ideas & a good article. But I will be thankfull if you would help me in preparion of a presentation about “Importance of Being a Clown at Work Place”. But this presentation should be comprised of positive aspects such as (you are creating a nice condition, breaking the ice, to create a nice & happy environment by doing some gup shup not clowny things. I would be thankful & waiting for your early response.


    M. Irfan Saeed

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