Art of Manliness has a feature today on vintage business motivational posters.

“Two (now defunct) printing companies — Parker-Holladay Company and Mather & Co. — were at the forefront of this burgeoning motivation business. Both companies created a line of motivational materials that business owners could subscribe to (new posters and cards would arrive each month) and hang up and hand out in the workplace. The two companies hired some of the best illustrators of the day such as Willard Frederick Elmes and Hal Depuy to create these handsome motivational posters.”

The “now defunct” part struck me as pleasingly ironic.  (I did write a book once called Schadenfreude, Baby!)

Anyway, this particular poster brought to mind a section of the book Broke is Beautiful that praises “groping.”

Gordon MacKenzie wrote a wonderful little book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball.  The titular “hairball” is the corporate group-think that grows in an organization over time.  Corporations don’t begin as giant hairballs.  They begin life as simple, effective concepts, one or two strands of the ideas that will produce success.  As success builds on success, more and more strands of “things that have worked in the past” get woven together.  Next thing you know, you’ve got a giant hairball.

“It is a common history of enterprises to begin in a state of naïve groping, stumble onto success, milk the success with a vengeance and, in the process, generate systems that arrogantly turn away from the source of their original success: groping,” MacKenzie wrote.

Picture Michael Douglas delivering this line:  “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that groping — for lack of a better word — is good.  Groping is right.  Groping works.  Groping clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Groping, in all of its forms — groping for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.  And groping — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”


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