Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace

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Creativity is crucial to business success. But too often, even the most innovative organization quickly becomes a "giant hairball"—a tangled, impenetrable mass of rules, traditions, and systems, all based on what worked in the past—that exercises an inexorable pull into mediocrity. Gordon McKenzie worked at Hallmark Cards for thirty years, many of which he spent inspiring his colleagues to slip the bonds of Corporate Normalcy and rise to orbit—to a mode of dreaming, daring and doing above and beyond the rubber-stamp confines of the administrative mind-set. In his deeply funny book, exuberantly illustrated in full color, he shares the story of his own professional evolution, together with lessons on awakening and fostering creative genius.

Originally self-published and already a business "cult classic", this personally empowering and entertaining look at the intersection between human creativity and the bottom line is now widely available to bookstores. It will be a must-read for any manager looking for new ways to invigorate employees, and any professional who wants to achieve his or her best, most self-expressive, most creative and fulfilling work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670879830
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 60,188
  • Product dimensions: 7.34 (w) x 5.12 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Table of Contents

Chapter Two: The Giant Hairball
Chapter Three: Pink Buddha
Chapter Four: Preparing For Lift-Off
Chapter Five: A Chicken's Fate
Chapter Six: Thou Shalt Not Have It Easy
Chapter Seven: What You Don't See Is What You Get
Chapter Eight: No Access
Chapter Nine: First There's Grope, Then There's Rote
Chapter Ten: Containers Contain
Chapter Eleven: Cage Dwellers
Chapter Twelve: Introducing...Your Brain
Chapter Thirteen: About Teasing
Chapter Fourteen: High-Tech Peaches
Chapter Fifteen: Milk Cans Are Not Allowed
Chapter Sixteen: The Power Of Paradox
Chapter Seventeen: Death Masks
Chapter Eighteen: The Pyramid & The Plum Tree
Chapter Nineteen: Orville Wright
Chapter Twenty: Beyond Measure
Chapter Twenty-One: A Conference Of Angels
Chapter Twenty-Two: Dynamic Following
Chapter Twenty-Three: Pool-Hall Dog
Chapter Twenty-Four: Paint Me A Masterpiece
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2002

    A New Favorite

    This book is a must read for all of us who find ourself in leadership roles and are not quite sure how we got there. I bought it one evening when I needed a break from the hotel room while preparing to talk to some graduate students about leadership the following day. The title and cover intrigued me. Not only did I glean some gems for the class, daily I find myself thinking about my role in the many hairballs of business life. Tonight I am buying copies to give away to friends this Holiday season.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2002

    This is a must read for all corporate-types... and corporate wannabees!

    I think this book should replace the textbooks in Organizational Management courses in every b-school in the nation! Save us all from the giant hairball, and please, show us how to launch into orbit! I've known managers and administrators who got sucked into the hairball and lost their zest and their joy in their work. I've also known a lot of wild hairs that refused to get tangled into the hairball but they usually weren't able to maintain effectivness. I really liked the concepts of using the hairball as a cocoon, but then going into orbit to maintain personal creativity. Great illustrations, too. Anyway, I think this is well worth the read, and should become my favorite book so far this year...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2001

    Stimulating and Superb!

    What a great way to 'Orbit the Giant (Corporate) Hairball'! Reading this book is a stimulating experience as it defends the innovative genius in all of us, which is all too often stiffled by corporate politics and foolishness. On the same topic, I greatly enjoyed reading about the struggles encountered by innovators in high-tech R&D industry in the hilarious, workplace satire, 'MANAGEMENT BY VICE' (by C.B. Don). Like this 'Giant Hairball', there is much wit and candor -- and many lessons for innovators and managers -- to be found within the side-splitting fun of comic illustrations and the easy-to-read episodes. I will always have both these books at hand when dealing with corporate fools and battling to salvage the innovative spirit! After all, humor is the best medicine!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    Being Effectively Creative Inside the Company

    Orbiting the Giant Hairball deserves more than five stars for the potential benefits it brings to all who read and apply it. Although I have read many excellent books about nurturing creativity and working creatively in companies, this is the first book I have read where the author has been someone who has done that repeatedly and in a variety of ways. That perspective is uniquely valuable both to those who want to have more creative jobs and those who would like to encourage creativity. Although the analogies seem far-fetched at first (orbiting the giant hairball means taking a creative tangent and refocusing it to have relevance for the company's purpose), they serve to open your mind to thinking differently about creativity and organizations. Although the author's key points are not summarized anywhere in the book, you will begin to get a sense of how the ideas connect together. That's useful, because otherwise why should he try to teach us so much? Except in the chapter that deals with them, any of the key observations would have been enough for a whole book on the subject. The overall theme is that our minds are subject to being too quickly anesthetized, rather than stimulated to ground-breaking insights. You'll love the story about hypnotizing hens where he introduces that concept. One of my favorite stories in the book described when the author was asked to create an introductory course on creativity. The first session was wildly successful. The author then analyzed why it worked and created a more organized version of this course (called Grope). That sesssion didn't work as well. Then he went back to being unstructured (operating at the edge of chaos), and the course worked again. He learned from this the delicate connection between groping and rote. You need more of the former and less of the latter. Another of my favorite stories related to the joy he experienced when he first started parachuting. But within six months, it was getting to be boring. He could only make it more exciting by taking the parachute off, but that would be suicide. On the other hand, if he never tried something new, he would be vegatating. So we want to stay somewhere between suicide and vegetation for the most effective results. You will enjoy reading this book because it presents a fresh perspective that will stay with you. The successful point of entry is a story about children. When the author shows children about making sculpture from sheets of steel, he asks them if they are creative. All first graders raise their hands. By sixth grade, no one will say that they are creative. The pressure to be like everyone else makes the creative people want to hide. It just gets worse from there. Everyone who reads that story will remember experiences from childhood where their creativity was actively discouraged by teachers, parents, neighbors and classmates. Such a pity! Each story is imaginatively illustrated to help you get a sense of a different reality. It also makes the material more accessible to people of all ages. In addition to reading and changing your own behavior, this book should be shared with young people to reinfor

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2000

    It made me think

    This book made me think about things i have never thought about and made me look at everything in a new perspective. I wish I could meet Gordon Mackenzie because he seems like a dynamic, intellegent, interesting man. He is a wonderful writer and reading about his ideas was a delight.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Celebration of Creativity!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky book. It creatively brings together Mackenzie's ideas on the heady subjects of complexity theory and systems theory in terms that anybody can understand. His motivational stories were entertaining and instructive. An easy read with substance, useful for your own staff meetings or student groups. I plan to read it again and again.

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  • Posted October 19, 2008

    Wish I would have had this book 25 years ago when I was beginning my career.

    What a fabulous style of writing. The book grabs you right from the beginning with its quirky art and off-the-wall pictures. I have retired from Corporate life and only wish I had been lucky enough to work with Gordon MacKenzkie, or, at the very least, been exposed to him or his book while in the workforce. Inspirational and funny stories make every situation described in the book come to life. I am going to give this book to my brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews who are still entangled in the giant hairball of corporate life. What a great Christmas gift! Thank you Gordon MacKenzie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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