The Emperor's New Clothes
"The Emperor's New Clothes" is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible on those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.
The Emperor's ministers cannot see the clothes themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the weavers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid.
Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor suspects the assertion is true, but continues the procession."
Contrary to popular opinion, the insightful child who dares to observe the truth is not rewarded for his insight.
Instead, the Emperor's ministers and court retinue take the kid out back ... and quietly smother him.
"Unfortunately - Just not a fit", says one.
"Really not one of us", says the next.
"Such negative energy", declares the third.
"Clearly not a team player", intones another.
"mmmmf .... gkgkgkkkh ...", says the kid.
"Hey, everybody - Let's have cake!" shouts the Emperor.
... And They Lived Happily Ever After.
The 'Emperor's New Clothes' syndrome
Many organizations don't respond well to criticism. This is not surprising. What is unfortunate is that many organizations actively resent critical insight.
"I've never seen a project fail because some individual was 'not a team player'. But I've seen a few projects crash&burn because the team players all marched off the cliff in unison." -- John Vaughan
They were invariably smiling and congratulating themselves on their "positive energy".
Follow-up to "The Emperor's New Clothes" (Variations on a theme)
"There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast kingdom. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. Now in the heart of the city, there was a well with pure and crystalline waters from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, three witches entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. They said that henceforth all who drink this water shall become mad.
The next day, all the people drank of the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, "The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned." The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him.
He had a difficult choice: risk being destroyed by his beloved subjects or drink from the poisoned well and become mad like them. So that evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason."
In this story the king must have figured everyone wanted him to be as crazy as they were. So desirability to drink the poison was high. Losing his people's respect would cost him his power and wealth. Viability to drink from the well was high too. Technically, it was as simple as ever to fetch some poison and drink it. It was definitely feasible.
So if the king based his decisions solely on IDEOs 3 tenets of desirability, viability, and feasibility, he would have drunk the poison as he did.
Was that the right decision?
I've heard lots of people tell me we live in a crazy world and whenever they've said it there's few who'd argue. Maybe most of us consider the world crazy in some way and also opt not to join in. So there's another tenet here - Is it crazy? Or maybe is it ethical? Or perhaps does it make the world a better place?
The above is taken verbatim from "Desirable, viable, feasible... is something missing?" by @David Wall of Frog Design in the Design Thinking group on LinkedIn .
(c) copyright John Vaughan / The Communication Studio