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Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace Hardcover – April 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1 edition (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670879835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670879830
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There is no denying the creativity of someone who can persuade one of the 50 largest private companies in the U.S. to create a position for him called "creative paradox," or someone who can convince the accounting department of that same company to write off to the company art collection the purchase of more than a dozen roll-top desks to be used in his "creative lab," or someone who could come up with such a goofy title for a book. MacKenzie worked for the Hallmark greeting card company for 30 years, first as a sketch artist and eventually as an upper-level manager, until he escaped the "hairball" by creating his own niche. A corporate hairball is an entangled pattern of behavior or a mess of bureaucratic procedure that discourages originality and stifles imagination. A consultant for the last seven years, MacKenzie tells what he knows about creativity and what he learned about the creative process in a corporate setting. David Rouse

More About the Author

Gordon MacKenzie is the author of North Light's bestselling watercolour book, The Watercolorist's Essential Notebook. He has been a popular artist and teacher for more than 30 years and has mounted more than 25 solo exhibitions. His work hangs in many private and corporate collections and has been featured in magazines.

Customer Reviews

The book is a quick read, and a fun book to read.
Henry Cate III
It gives a great perspective on maintaining your creative integrity in a business environment.
S. Gill
I've been buying this book for a decade; I've bought dozens of copies.
S. Jackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By P. Lozar on February 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is far and away THE most delightful book I've bought in a long time. It's stimulating visually as well as intellectually, fun to read, and the chapters are short enough to be assimilated by even the most harried business person. But it's not fluff: the points he makes about education, the way businesses are run, and the continual tension between creativity and corporate inertia, are crucial ones (every manager in every large firm should read Chapter 18, "The Pyramid and the Plum Tree"!). And MacKenzie's recommendations are not, as some critics have argued, applicable only in an "entertainment" industry like greeting cards: in today's fast-paced business world, a company's most important asset is its ability to be flexible and continually come up with new ideas; the "giant hairball" of entrenched structures and organizational habits won't cut it any longer. While I agree that the people who most need to hearken to this book's message are educators, I think it's equally important for business people: even if you've been trained (first by your schools and then by your employers) to stifle your natural creativity and become a good little corporate clone, it's not too late for you to recapture what you started out with. I wish I could rate this 10 stars!
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By gencus on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
OK, Here's the review:

Buy this book and take it's message to heart. I have purchased and given this book more times than I can count to people in all levels of business, and to friends who are at crossroads in their lives. I have seen some reviews here which take issue with the fact that the author's message is too far ahead of it's time, won't fly within the gridwork of a conformist corporate culture, or that the message is inaccessable due to the book's apparent lack of structure.

Well, the message and how it's presented are kind of the point, not the problem.

If the message won't fly in a particular company culture, the problem is within the culture. Those groups need to pay attention more than any other, because they stand to gain the most. The perspective offered here is unique and invaluable. It applies to more than the immediate situation, not just to surviving a job at Hallmark, or any job, for that matter, but can be applied to any aspect of life. If you are in business today, you can apply the lesson given here. If you are a CEO and think that workers are drones who need your company more than it needs them, accept the moral initiative given by this book and learn why change is good, both economically and sprititually. If you are a humble worker bee and are saddened by your present position, use this book as a springboard to give you the initiative you need to find a better place, one away from the CEOs who haven't read this book. That would probably make Gordon smile.

This book is all those things that have already been said about it: it's loopy, zany, wise, generous, playful, full of heart, loaded with quirky illustrations, and stuffed to the gills with genuine spirit.
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Format: Hardcover
This book deserves more than five stars.
Although I have read many excellent books about nurturing creativity and working creatively in companies, this is the first book I have read where the author has been someone who has done that repeatedly and in a variety of ways. That perspective is uniquely valuable both to those who want to have more creative jobs and those who would like to encourage creativity.
Although the analogies seem far-fetched at first (orbiting the giant hairball means taking a creative tangent and refocusing it to have relevance for the company's purpose), they serve to open your mind to thinking differently about creativity and organizations.
Although the author's key points are not summarized anywhere in the book, you will begin to get a sense of how the ideas connect together. That's useful, because otherwise why should he try to teach us so much? Except in the chapter that deals with them, any of the key observations would have been enough for a whole book on the subject. The overall theme is that our minds are subject to being too quickly anesthetized, rather than stimulated to ground-breaking insights. You'll love the story about hypnotizing hens where he introduces that concept.
One of my favorite stories in the book described when the author was asked to create an introductory course on creativity. The first session was wildly successful. The author then analyzed why it worked and created a more organized version of this course (called Grope). That sesssion didn't work as well. Then he went back to being unstructured (operating at the edge of chaos), and the course worked again. He learned from this the delicate connection between groping and rote. You need more of the former and less of the latter.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Gordon MacKenzie changed my life. He truly lived by the principles in his book. He didn't just seek out the most visible idea people or those whose external appearances trumpeted that they were creative. His book is not just talk. I know because I was one of those shy little nobodies whom Gordon sought out and encouraged. I am sorry to say for those of you who don't know, that Gordon passed away on July 26, 1999.
Here is the passage that was on his funeral leaflet: "You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. And remember: If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you."
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