Groups: Destined To Be Corporatized
come to this, has it?
who want to come up with good ideas have apparently been driven
underground, a situation that has given rise to the latest deep, dark,
on-the-verge-of-trendy movement in business.
to skunkworks groups.
heard of this? Well, if you’re the boss, that’s good. The whole idea is
that you’re not supposed to know about it, because all you would do is
ruin the whole thing. Then again, I’m the boss, and I know. But I have
skunkworks group is a small assemblage of people – often three or four –
who meet in the shadows, away from the looming presence of management,
and work on projects or ideas that could never get anywhere in a
traditional business setting.
these shadows? Oh, you’d like to know, wouldn’t you? You want me to tell
you the address of the coffee house, the intersection of the sewer grate
. . . what do I look like, some sort of stool pigeon or something?
operate outside the rules, outside the established norms that keep
society orderly, clean and pressed. These rebels! Do they not understand
that rules, order and convention keep America from becoming no better
than Baghdad? Or Cleveland?
I’m suspicious of everything.
came up with a great idea for the project! Triangle holes, D.F.!
you did. And where did you think of this? Were you in your office at the
“Why do you
ask me that, D.F.? I mean, of course I was in my office. Where else
would I have been?”
know, maybe THE LIBRARY???”
is making me paranoid.
catching on. At one company, I’m told, a skunkworks group thought it was
on to something cool – until it found out there were at least 100 other
skunkworks groups at the same company. Don’t you hate it when you break
in to the abandoned warehouse with your laptop and your flip chart, only
to find that everyone else in your company is already there? And they’re
all drinking Starbuck’s coffee, which makes you wonder just how edgy
this can really be.
idea that is even the slightest bit worthwhile, you can be sure it’s
just a matter of time before this one becomes corporatized. First, it
will start turning up as a topic in CEO Roundtables. The shocked CEOs
will slowly get over the heartbreak of realizing their employees would
rather do their thinking without the boss’s involvement. Then it will
become cool to accept skunkworks groups.
for CEOs, however, is that they’re not supposed to have anything to do
with these groups. They’re not even supposed to know about them. Before
long, they will become frustrated with the realization that the
“environment encouraging creativity” that they always talk about is
actually happening without them.
have that. So pretty soon, we’ll start to see management-sponsored
skunkworks groups. Professional meeting planners will be employed to
send the groups on junkets to Vegas. Economic Club speakers will claim
that their executive management teams were the first in the
nation to embrace skunkworks as a vital tool for developing – you knew
this was coming – solutions.
whole thing will be ruined. Soon, edgy, independent-minded employees
will develop anti-skunkworks movements in an attempt to free themselves
from the shackles of management. The whole thing never had a chance, but
I suppose it will be fun while it lasts. And now I have to figure out
what to put in these triangle holes.
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