Just Ducky

“Asses would rather have hay than gold.” – Heraclitus

There were six of us in the meeting. That’s approximately two more than the number of people it actually takes to get something significant done. The more people in a room, the less likely ideas will be proffered, the less certain real debate will occur, the more likely donuts will be served.

Among those attending was John Drake, a buttoned-down bore with glassy eyes and rubbery lips. He is as remarkable as weeds in a field, conventional in his thinking and bland as tofu. At 30, he has already succeeded in accomplishing nothing. The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but the quacking duck gets shot. So Drake has made his career by going unnoticed. He paddles silently in the pond and when the flock finally goes airborne, he flies well back in the V, sucking off the draft of the duck in front.

He flapped when they flapped.

Our company makes electronic sensors and security equipment for consumer and industrial use. We have a broad range of ZigBee-based wireless sensors and remote controlled building automation devices. Turn turn out the lights, set the alarm, that sort of thing. We are now thinking of adding a line of space heaters that can be operated remotely by phone. So we invited someone each from industrial design, software development, marketing, and finance as well as Drake from sales and distribution. The object of the meeting was not to debate the merits of adding these devices to our product offering but to figure out how to make and sell them profitably. Drake was selected to represent his department because, I suppose, his boss assumed he would be at least as useful as, say, weeds in a field.

The meeting lasted two hours. Our man Drake contributed by listening generously and providing continuous feedback, that is to say, he fed back whatever others said first. That is to say, he flapped when they flapped. At one point, we were looking for a volunteer and I noticed Drake had disappeared (ducked?). He was bent over, his head under the table, ostensibly looking for a pen that had dropped or perhaps he was desperately seeking Susan. It must have been the pen because, when the meeting was over, his notebook was as empty as it was at the start. Almost everyone had a list of things to work on. Drake somehow came away from this working session with no work to do himself. Which is exactly how he had planned it.

Then he waddled away. He waddled away. Waddle waddle. Till the very next day.