The ant and the elephant



Najeeb Al-Zamil

Published — Saturday 19 January 2013

Last update 19 January 2013 1:51 am

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No idea can remain valid definitively. The same idea that could once be applied to a certain time and place may well become invalid even if time and place were to remain stagnant, simply due to circumstance.
Ideas should be placed constantly under scrutiny. An idea can be nullified altogether or it may be developed using the same premise.
If you review the history of the kings of Europe, you will find that every king would appoint a cynic at the royal court commonly referred to as a “jester”. This comedian would be assigned different responsibilities to those of the acrobat, who would also perform regularly at royal headquarters.
As such, jesters had to be funny, witty and had to possess a sense of irony. In particular, given their immunity from punishment, they were allowed to discuss the king’s ideas and new laws.
Kings knew they were surrounded by docile subordinates who tended to always agree with their opinions and that’s why jesters were so important to the scene. They could criticize the king’s ideas in a lighthearted and entertaining manner.
This was the mechanism by which kings measured their approval ratings amongst the public. Indeed, history narrates that kings often changed many decisions and policies due to the response garnered by the royal court’s jester.
In today’s world, giant corporations such as Toyota have innovated sound brainstorming policies called the “war table”, or the “fighting table”, where ideas are introduced, discussed and abrogated in a combined effort of the company’s engineers, financiers, economists, marketers, sellers and users. Such roundtable discussions will always remain in place in order to cope with a rapidly changing world and to keep apace of global decisions on any one product. It is no wonder, then, that huge decision-makers readily adhere to market forces at the first sign of controversy surrounding a product or an idea.
It goes without saying that unconstructive criticism that does not aim at altering or developing an idea is counterproductive and only serves to sow discord and conflict.
It is by no means neither logical nor acceptable to brand an idea sound, then put a fence of infallibility around it. An idea that is not pulsating with life is meaningless. Good ideas should be alterable for the better.
The introduction of the car with an 18-mile-an-hour speed limit in the 19th century was seen to be a milestone in human progress. Had such an innovation been seen as absolute, we would never have reached where we are today.
Bad ideas will never change and over time will become worse if we do not allow ourselves to uncover their defects. A reluctance to critique any idea will undoubtedly result in personal and professional stagnation, if not retardation.
Lets not forget that the American company Apple’s very first notebook was born out of an initial idea, which was to design a computer to be placed on the lap in order to be used in aircrafts by travelers and to conform to the requirements of aircraft electronics.
Still, the architects behind the idea would scratch their ideas in confusion when product would lag in less-than-modest market positions. Upon investigation, it was found that people of all categories, specialties and business backgrounds had responded favorably to the launch of the notebook, except for one category, and that, much to their surprise, was air travelers.
Subsequently, the company called its experts into an urgent meeting to discuss the reasons behind what they had initially thought would be a surefire recipe for success. Turns out, the brainstorming process was deeply flawed and there was a failure in reading the market and forecasting the variables of the near future.
In short, any newly conceived idea should not be overvalued, as the imaginary sacredness attributed to it will grow to become an elephant and the idea behind it will be reduced to an ant. That ant will then be asked to bear the burden of the elephant, and that, as we know, is nothing but a recipe for failure.

Twitter : @najeebzamhl

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