You would never guess it to look at some of our closets, but we human beings seem to be compelled to organize. When someone comes up with a new idea and shares it with a few friends, it might grow in popularity. At that point, someone is bound to step forward and attempt to institutionalize the idea – and that movement spells the beginning of the end of the new idea. It might last for quite a while, but when it dies out it almost certainly will be because the weight of the institution drags the good idea under water. Let’s look at an example.
Suppose that Fred discovers how much he enjoys walking along nature trails. He tells a few friends about his walks, and a couple of them decide to accompany him on a walk. His friends find the walks rewarding, too, and share his desire to spread the word about their walks. The get a website, or go on Meetup.com and form a group. After a while they learn that other people are starting walking groups, too, but they are walking at different times of the day than Fred and his friends do. Not only that, but some of them are wearing hiking boots while Fred and company only wear running or walking shoes. Others aren’t walking on clearly identified trails. Then there is the issue of clothing. Fred and his friends wear shorts or sweatpants and a t-shirt, but these new people are wearing Under Armor clothing only.
Clearly, this will never do. Fred’s colleague Frank decides to write down some rules for nature walking. True, orthodox nature walkers walk in the morning on clearly identified trails, wear comfortable clothes suitable for other purposes and athletic shoes. They declare hiking boots, Under Armor, and afternoon walking in random locations heretical and not real, authentic nature walking. The afternoon people respond in kind, declaring hiking boots, brand name apparel, and afternoon walks the only orthodox practice. Soon, both groups learn of a group across town that walks in the evening wearing flip-flops. Son of a bitch! These people have to be stopped! After all, the morning and the afternoon groups have had their disagreements, but flip-flops are simply beyond the pale! How could anyone call the way that you have to shuffle your feet along to keep those things on your feet walking? And that little plastic post between your first and second toes would surely drive any sane person around the bend! These people must be stopped!
Did you notice, in all the fighting, what everybody seemed to forget about? Nature. Presumably they all went out for a walk in nature in order to enjoy nature, but they got all weighed down in secondary concerns that impacted their ability to enjoy nature not one bit. If you think that’s silly, just look around. It’s everywhere. Everybody wants to have the only “official” whatever it is they do. Why? Who really cares? Nobody who truly cares about the purpose of a group would give a rat’s behind what some other group did – unless they were very unsure of their own legitimacy. Unless what they are really concerned about is that they don’t feel that they are legitimate nature walkers and so worry that at any moment someone will find them out – and the misdirection of scrutiny begins.
The solution, of course, is to simply and clearly declare everybody legitimate. If you are walking in nature as you understand nature, you’re a nature walker, period. This will heartily offend the control freaks in the group, which is a good thing because we might encourage them to get some help. More importantly, these principles can be applied to any organization. We can examine our rules, particularly our rules of exclusion, to see if they have a legitimate reason. I suspect we will find most of them do not. As we eliminate these inappropriate rules, we can get back to the original purpose of our group. Imagine the possibilities!