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Passion, People and Principles

The Dream Job?

post # 194 — September 19, 2006 — a Careers post

Thanks to Larry Star, CEO of Harrison and Star, for pointing me to the following excerpt from “Lear’s Fool: Coping With Change Beyond Future Shock” by D. Verne Morland



REPORTS TO: Chief Executive Officer

ORGANIZATION : Executive Office

LOCATION: Merlin’s Parapet, Heath & Moor Road

BASIC FUNCTION: To disturb with glimpses of confounding truths that elude rational formulation. To herald the advent of cosmic shifts and to apprehend their significance. To challenge by jest and conundrum all that is sacred and all that the savants have proven to be true and immutable.


Budget: None (save for spangles and bells)

Number of employees supervised: None (God forbid!)

Revenue impacted: All (and then some)

NATURE AND SCOPE: The incumbent must not be a recognized expert in any field (they’re dangerous). Demonstrable competency in many fields is required and the individuals “track record” should be good but must be not perfect. The incumbent may not have worked previously as a “serious consultant” unless he recants……


Since for most of us the ability to think creatively about the future is inversely proportional to the weight of today’s responsibilities, the incumbent should feel obligated only to:

  • Stir up controversy,
  • Respect no authority,
  • Resist pressures to engage in detailed analyses.

The incumbent must avoid verbs like study, analyze, plan, develop, refine and assure in favor of verbs like observe, identify, associate, explore, synthesize and stimulate. He should neither lead nor follow, but should stand outside the normal chain of command.

He must exploit his intellectual “carte blanche” to ask outrageous questions and to challenge basic assumptions. He must seek accuracy, not precision; originality, not consistency; insight, not completeness; and a focus on the future, not a preoccupation with the present.


Candidate for this position must have:

  • Broad temporal horizons – both past and future – and a dominant future “zone orientation.”
  • A “Renaissance Man” mentality involving some experience in many areas and the conviction that the Dark Ages must be left behind.
  • An ability to work comfortably with nebulous issues in strictly qualitative terms for as Harvard’s John Steinbruner has noted: “If quantitative precision is demanded, it is gained in the current state of things, only by so reducing the scope of what is analyzed that most of the important problems remain external to the analysis.” This thought is echoed by Garber and Oliver who suggest that “once an issue has become a number, it’s probably too late to deal with it.”

The candidate must not have:

  • Strong preconceptions (e.g., national patriotism, religious parochialism or dogmatism, professional specialization)
  • Inviolable allegiances (e.g., corporate, national, professional)

Intellectual independence is essential for as Pablo Picasso observed: “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction, because the new idea will destroy what a lot of people believe is essential to the survival of their intellectual world.”

(Note: Misshapen head, if larger on right side, is OK.)

On a similar theme, Jeremy Raymond points out that the fool is the only one who dares to tell the king what is real, but must expect the odd cuff about the ears when he oversteps the mark (unwittingly). The courtier, on the other hand, is more commercial in that he protects his long term position, but may offer meaningless blandishments and dud advice to do this. His position in the court is secure because he doesn’t rock the boat, but passes on information to others.

The Fool is of course the highly paid face to face challenger of senior officers and the courtier is the purveyor of information to large numbers of others with the tacit approval of those officers.

Interesting metaphors!

Since I think the funniest movie ever made was “The Court Jester,” (1956, starring Danny Kaye) there are no prizes for guessing which role I think would be more fulfilling. All together now: “The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison, but the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.” Run, don’t walk, to rent, download or buy this film, especially if you have any 9-year-olds in the house (or can borrow one)!


Kent Blumberg said:

We all need our own fool – someone to whisper in our ear as we attempt to rule our own lives. Most of us probably don’t have the courage to hire one, though.

Great posting. Thanks for the reminder.

posted on September 20, 2006

Kent Blumberg said:

Over on the Servant-Leadership Blog, Trevor has just written a related post on the need to listen to those who are “…taking issue with the disparity between what is and what could be.” Trevors post is at http://servantleadershipblog.com/servant-leadership/blog/2006/09/wherewho-is-better-wheel.html


posted on September 20, 2006