There’s the sports model of business, and then there is the bee

This week I watched Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin go out on the streets of Hollywood and ask little kids what Easter was about.  To a child, they responded, “Eggs.”  It makes one wonder about the growing enthusiasm for Christianity that is purported to be happening.  But then, today, Evangelicals and other religious groups are more about the Old Testament and the dire consequences of breaking taboos written several thousand years ago than they are about Christ and his teachings. Or his life.

When I was a kid, I was a sort of intern saint, or more accurately, a wannabe saint.  So Lent and Easter were very meaningful to me. When I was 10 I gave up something I loved — reading the comics — for Lent and never went back to reading them. (A good way to break a habit seems to be to give it up for Lent.)  I have missed some great comic strips.  Or as my son calls them, graphic novels.

On Good Friday, I fasted all day, not quite sure if I should be trying to lug a cross along some empty back street, instead.  For a number of years, our local Catholic Church had a plaque that I and my teammate won in, I think, a statewide catechism contest.  When I was 15, I told the local priest that I was thinking of becoming a nun.  He successfully suppressed what looked like a burst of laughter, and told me to wait a year or two.  He was probably right.

When I was 24, I realized that I was out Catholicking the Catholic Church, and in my own way, excommunicated it.

Today, Easter for me, means peace, a quiet city and respite from the usually constant traffic, and from the usual hustle and bustle, and maybe seeing friends who haven’t gone to the beach or another country.

This year it is also a chance to “tidy up” my office.  Tidy up is a euphemism for “get rid of all that paper.” This is easier said than done when most of the paper you are trying to get rid of is stuff you wrote.  I came across a paper of a guest lecture that I gave for a visiting professor’s business class in April of 1986 in California.  I read all 19 pages of it.  (There went any hope of finishing the tidying up.) The paper was about changing paradigms, the assumptions by which we live and act, and how often it is people outside a discipline or profession who seem to come up with new ideas in those professions.  My rationale was that they were not confined by the assumptions of the discipline and asked dumb questions.

Then I asked my own dumb question, “Why do businesses call work groups teams?”  The answer was apparent:  We fashioned our work groups on sports, especially football.  The language of football has crept into the world of business and government.  Employees tackle jobs, run interference, and make goals.   They compete, run with the ball and reach the goals set (by the CEO/quarterback)  and are victorious. How exhausting, I thought.  But football teams don’t make products.

I suggested that another model alongside the team, should be a quilting bee.  Historically, a quilting bee was made up of a group of women who had come together to sew a quilt, the design of which one of them had created.  They sat around a frame and together would make a useful product that often turned out to be a work of art.  And while they created it, they talked, got to know one another, discussed the problems of the world and their families.  They talked of other quilts they had made, shared ideas for future quilts, and took time to teach the little girls who hung around but hadn’t learned how to sew yet.

The highlight of the gathering came when the hostess served them her best refreshments on her best dishes – something more delicious than Gatorade.

Of course, I realized without having to be told that we don’t call a group of people who work together for a company a working bee because the model is too feminine.  It doesn’t have the ring of action, of competition, of victory.

Cooperation and sharing are the traits of a quilting bee.

Some countries, I realize, are modeled on the team concept. Others on the quilting bee.  There probably are other models, but this is Easter week and during Easter Week there is something else I do, which is, not much.

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