I think I’ve mentioned this before but I kind of feel like talking about it again. At work, we have many buildings spread out over a large amount of space with many sidewalks and paths to get from point A to point B. When the weather is nice, this is fine. When it is cold, or rainy, or snowy, or even unbearably hot and humid, it is not fun to have to go to a different building.
But the fitness center is in another building and I had a training session so travel I must. Yesterday, we had a mini ice storm blow throw. Mostly hype because the roads were fine but it coated all the trees and bushes with a nice glaze of ice. It also meant that they went crazy distributing salt on all the sidewalks.
Well, the shortest path between my building and the fitness center requires climbing a small flight of outdoor stairs. As now seems to be the thing, because it had been icy, the steps were chained off so you could not use them. This required a slightly longer path meaning I had to stay out in the cold and wind just that much longer. What was funny is that there is a sidewalk without stairs that runs just below the stairs and the two are separated by some tall grass and wildflowers. I guess people who were finding their paths blocked by the chains had started to just walk down through the landscaping, so the company put in some plastic posts and strung more chains in strategic places to close off that avenue of escape. Now, if you walk out of the fitness center and forget that the stairs are closed off, your only option is to backtrack.
There were two other sets of stairs that were also blocked off. These lead down into entrances to our food service place. But, again, there had been ice in the area so they must be blocked. I also noticed this little sign they had at the foot of the stairs leading into the fitness center which was a circle split into 6 pieces where three of the pieces were blue and three were white. I guess it could be spun to point to a color and one indicated that conditions might be icy. To be honest, I didn’t get close enough to read it to know which color was the bad one. Of course, the layer of salt on the sidewalk was a pretty good clue that there had been ice spotted somewhere in the vicinity. If you are asking why they would split the circle into six pieces when only two were required, well I don’t have a good answer.
You may also be wondering why a company would spend good money building outdoor stairs that just get blocked off in winter. I don’t know the exact answer but I know enough to make an educated guess. As a large and far reaching company, we have people who’s only job is to develop directives and policies designed to make all of our various locations safe and happy for everyone. Or at least safe and happy as defined by the people who make up these policies. Anyway, one deals with injuries and the goal is to reduce that risk as low as possible. And this makes some sense because if someone were to tumble down the stairs and break a leg or two, then they would (a) be off work for a bit and (b) potentially sue the company for not salting the stairs.
Now, you probably wonder why they wouldn’t just salt the stairs. I mean one can slip on a sidewalk just as easily as on a set of stairs. I’m sure someone has calculated (or guessed) that it would be easier to slip on stairs and the damage potential is greater. So, the best thing to do is to just block them off and hope people don’t decide to go rogue and step over the little plastic chain.
I kind of think this is a good metaphor for why certain big companies tend to suck at being innovative and have to buy good ideas from smaller companies. You get to a certain size and you have to devote a greater number of people to think about things like risk and dream up policies and procedures to direct others to do things to reduce risk. So everyone is thinking all about the safest option and how we can reduce risk and you end up with brilliant ideas like chaining off outdoor stairs.
But being safe and being risk averse is kind of the opposite of being creative. Sometimes, creativity just requires you to break stuff just to see what happens. Or, to keep going with the metaphor, you’ve got to walk down those icy staircases. OK, that really doesn’t work but I wanted to try it anyway. Creativity isn’t safe. It requires taking chances and doing things differently.
And now that I’ve gone off on a real tangent, let me continue. The other part of the problem (as I see it) is that while companies often preach about diversity, the one thing they typically don’t want is diversity of thought. They want people to fit into a certain mold. Most interviews are not about skills and talent but whether someone is a “good fit”. And, let’s be honest, most managers are likely going to hire someone who isn’t going to ruffle any feathers. None of us want to deal with the type of high school crap that still happens in the real world (“Janie was mean to me. I want you to tell her to stop”) So why invite trouble. We all want the type of clones who populate Linked In and try to build up as many connections as possible and like and forward articles by “thought leaders”.
Most corporations don’t have room for the oddballs, the square pegs, the ones who don’t fit it. Or, if they get a square peg, they spend their time trying to round off the edges so it will fit into the neat round corporate hole. Sometimes, the best ideas come from the people who think off the wall. Of course, you sometimes get something like this where I’ve just rambled on for over 1000 words just because someone put a plastic chain over the stairs. It doesn’t really lead to anything useful unless you found something funny in what I put here.
I forgot to talk about my dance lesson last night but I don’t want to go on for another 1000 words. I might come back to it since next week is a short week and I cancelled my lesson for Tuesday. We worked on the Argentine Tango and can now do it from beginning to end. And, we have a song. I have no idea who does it but it is a version of Billie Jean (by Michael Jackson). The other two options were more traditional Argentine Tango songs but why be traditional when you can do something unique. This is my special contrast – the introvert who sometimes like to stand out. Well that’s all I’ve got for right now.