- Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton
"How was your weekend?" asked the King of Rational
Thought, as he got into my car.
It was an innocent enough question for a Monday evening. Downright
predictable in fact, as I drove toward the lecture we had agreed
to attend. My reply, on the other hand, was near ballistic.
"It was awful," I spat out angrily. "One of the
worst weekends I can ever remember."
I bitterly explained that my employer had held a so-called "team-building"
retreat Friday and Saturday. The idea was to get all the employees
together and figure out better ways to market our services. It
sounded like a great idea.
But it turned into a nightmare. Rather than focusing on positive
things that could be done by working together, people started
complaining. One group thought another group got too many privileges.
A third group thought others didn't work hard enough. People
who had landed few, if any, new clients griped about the salary
levels of the people who did. For my part, I had busted my tail
for the entire year, working more hours than anyone. Yet all
I got was criticism because the company had, years ago, provided
me with a cellular phone. On and on it went. Rather than setting
boundaries and limits, the moderator - an outsider - let it go
from bad to worse. The meeting finally ended in a huge verbal
fight between departments, with no resolution.
"The decline to democracy," said the King of Rational
Thought quietly after I stopped venting.
"What?" I asked, surprised.
"I mean, it sounds like your company has taken that most
treacherous of turns; the decline into democracy."
"I don't follow you," I said, slowing for a stoplight.
"You make it sound like democracy is a bad thing."
"Tell you what," he said. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Suppose a nuclear power plant has a problem; a serious
problem that could lead to a melt-down. But they've had some
warning. They have one hour to make a decision about what action
to take. Which do you think would be the best approach? To gather
the entire power plant staff, from engineers to security guards
to janitors, and vote on a plan of action, with each person getting
an equal vote? Or do you think it would be better to turn the
problem over to the senior nuclear engineers and let them decide
what to do?"
I rounded a corner and entered the freeway. "Well, that's
pretty simple," I replied. "You'd let the senior engineers
"Because they're the ones who really understand how the
I stopped in mid-sentence as I saw the implication of what he
"Operates," he finished. "They're also the ones
in the best position to fix it. So, what's the difference between
a company like yours and a nuclear power plant? Is the mail room
clerk really as qualified as the president to decide what direction
the company should go? Does a rookie employee fresh out of school
really have the experience, wisdom, and knowledge to tell a senior
staff member how things should be done?"
"You see," he continued, "it's in vogue these
days to think that everyone's opinion should carry equal weight,
regardless of its merit. But that assumes that one person is
just as wise and knowledgeable as another, which clearly is not
true. Just as you wouldn't entrust the nuclear power plant problem
to a vote of the staff, so should you not do the same with a
business or, for that matter, a country. Running businesses and
countries is not about doing what's popular. It's about making
wise and intelligent decisions. Of course, the success of such
a system, in government or in business, depends on having people
at the helm who meet those qualifications."
Traffic began to slow.
"What do you think?" I asked, gesturing to the sea
of tail lights ahead. "Should we get off at the next exit
and take surface streets?"
The King of Rational Thought smiled.
"Want to vote on it?" he asked.