“Every successful enterprise requires three men - a dreamer, a businessman and a son-of-a-bitch” -Peter MacArthur
This quote suggests that there are several distinct roles that have to be present in a group for any endeavour to be succesfull.
These tree roles correspond to those of the wizard, the king and the warrior that Tony Robbins used in his pattern of indirect negotiation during an intervention at a seminar on september 11th 2001. The only role that is missing is ‘the fool’.
The fool is the only one that can redicule anyone, including the king, and go unpunished. This role is crucial in limiting unrealistic ambitions, yes-men and misleading advisors. With mild or not-so-mild humor he pulls you back into reality, gets both your feet firmly on the ground and maybe even slaps reality straight in your face. The role of the fool is extremely underappreciated in a corporate culture that relies on heavily paid consultants who do not dare to risk their precious billable hours by pinching illusions and unrealistc ambitions.
A former manager of mine used this mantra:
You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
I would like to oppose this with another observation:
If you cannot solve the problem you can still make good money by prolonging it.
Still in many organisations external consultants are far better paid than regular staff. Someone bold (or naieve) enough to know better —or even worse— exposes the inflated pretentions of a hired ‘advisior’ can count on resistance and even repercussions. It might be in the form of a bad review in the annual HR performance evaluation cyle, promotion to a position of less influence, no renewal of his temporary job contract or downright getting fired.
The wiser of the kings of old ages new the value of a ‘fool’. Someone who is officially appointed to be politically incorrect and critical can stir the beneficial effects of (self-)reflection. Which is very beneficial to both the truely valuable advisior and the potential victim of a trader in inflated expectations.
I plead for a re-institution in any large organisation of the position of ‘the fool’, as a counter-force to both lethal complacency to the status quo and unsustainable disruption.