I knew a guy in Toronto who was a one-man wrecking crew when it came to creativity.
We were obliged to include this guy in the “brain storm but he could be relied upon to introduce the forces of entropy to every debate. His techniques were many and highly effective: questioning every term, doubting every premise, refusing every potential moment of departure. This guy was the dark star, the collapsing sun, of idea generation.
We all know people like this. We have all been obliged to work with him. We have all suffered his intellectual predations.
The question is “why? Whats he doing here? Why does the corporation, the academy, the organization put him with him? Why do we not have permission to murder him in his cubicle?
One chilling possibility comes in a splendid comment from Steve Postrel. Steve suggests that all corporations generate more ideas than they can possibly use. Perhaps, we might surmise, they need Oak trees that poison the ground around them. Say it aint so. Surely corporations need all the good ideas they can get. And surely those of us who work for them find our real joy in thinking these up. Lets hope its not an Oak tree effect.
The trouble with these guys (and gals) is that once they get in to a corporation they begin to use its resources to defend themselves against reproach. They know they are without talent, but they can spot it in others. And then they dedicate their careers to making sure that opportunities for comparison are few and far between. Thus does bad drive out good.
Heres the really weird thing. We all know these people exist. We all know what they look like. We all know the damage they create. But we do not have a term with which to call them, a diagnostic with which to identify them, or a HR method of with which to extract them.
When are we going to name the elephant? How much longer may these enemies of the state continue to operate with impunity? I would be grateful for comments that offer names for the elephant. We need to arm those people sitting in committee meetings with a term that can be whispered in the hall way, written on notes, smsed to colleagues and otherwise pressed into service. Only thus can we hope to name them and shame them.
Cribbing from Hollywood, I wondered if we could do something with Gods and monsters. We would of course be the Gods. They would just as evidently be the monsters. Dark star, as above, might work. Anti-matterers? Anti-mutterers? Idea jammers. Right wankers? For God sake, help me.
Postrel, Steve. 2004. Last comment. Here