Around a table.

I’ve recent­ly star­ted rea­ding Crea­ti­vi­ty, Inc by Ed Cat­mull. I’m not very far in yet, but in the first few pages, the­re was an anec­do­te that spo­ke rather deeply to me.

Cat­mull tells us of a table in a mee­ting room (West One) that was fun­da­ment­al­ly incom­pa­ti­ble with Pixar cul­tu­re, in unex­pec­ted ways. It was nar­row and long, for­cing peop­le to sit in neat rows oppo­si­te one ano­t­her. And as that means it’s not ent­i­re­ly easy to com­mu­ni­ca­te, they also had place cards, put­ting the hig­her-ups in the midd­le so that they could hear ever­yo­ne.

The fur­t­her out a per­son sat on the table, the less likely they were part of the con­ver­sa­ti­on, becau­se it was har­der to hear ever­y­thing and be heard.

Part of the pro­blem, he con­ti­nues to exp­lain, was that the peop­le sit­ting in the cen­ter did not even rea­li­ze that the­re was a pro­blem: they could hear ever­y­thing. They thought they knew what ever­yo­ne was up to and doing.

I see this as a very, very han­dy meta­phor to exp­lain the pro­blem of struc­tu­ral dis­ad­van­ta­ges in gene­ral. Tho­se in the midd­le, tho­se in the posi­ti­ons of power do not see any­thing wrong, becau­se for them, not­hing is. And how could it be dif­fe­rent for anyo­ne else? Isn’t ever­yo­ne sea­ted at the very same table? And why should they be giving up their seat – everyone’s the same around this table, are they not?

So fights start, to get from the out­side of the sea­ting order more to the cen­ter; and peop­le start expen­ding ener­gies into fights that dis­tract from what the actu­al, gene­ral agen­da is. And sud­den­ly, it is more about being heard than what you have to say.

The solu­ti­on Pixar final­ly rea­li­zed it had to app­ly? They got a new table, a new seat lay­out. That put ever­yo­ne in a posi­ti­on to equal­ly be com­mu­ni­ca­ting with all the others.

May­be it also is time that we exami­ned how we could gene­ral­ly lea­ve behind our old sit­ting order.

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