The Balloon Factory and the Unicorn

I want to share a short excerpt from Seth Godin’s book ‘Tribes’.  I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit.  In his book, Godin discusses how to form tribes, or groups of believers or followers; whatever you want to call them.  A good portion of these tribes emerged long ago but are completely stagnant.  They are run by mediocrity, old philosophies and are deep inside craving for change – a spark, a different type of leadership, someone who counters the routine.  This change is brought about when someone fights
the status quo.  Here is an analogy I liked in the book:

I’m not sure you’re ever visited a balloon factory.  Probably not.  The people who work in the factory are timid.    Afraid, even.  They’re very concerned about pins, needles, and porcupines.  They don’t like sudden changes in temperature.  Sharp objects are a problem as well.  

The balloon factory isn’t really a bad place to work if you rationalize a bit.  It’s steady work, with a bit of  a rush around New Year’s.  The rest of the time it’s quiet and peaceful and not so scary.  

Except when the unicorns show up. 

At first the balloon factory folks shush the unicorn and warn him away.  That often works.  But sometimes, the unicorn ignores them and wanders into the factory anyway.  That’s when everyone runs for cover.  

It’s amazingly easy for a unicorn to completely disrupt a balloon factory.  That’s because the factory is organized around a single idea, the idea of soft, quiet stability. The unicorn changes all that.  

The balloon factory is all about the status quo.


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