There had been an office shuffle at Joe’s work. Maybe, like turning a mattress to even out wear and tear, it was all about the carpet that was being worn thin on the route to Joe’s desk. He’s a man who knows, and those who know he knows, travel the well-worn path to his desk. People who perhaps should be pursuing questions through a line manager take it to Joe instead because even if he doesn’t know, he will find out.
His new desk makes him more accessible than he used to be. There are more visitors than before and more questions that people need to ask. This means that the normal routine gets interrupted. He has his own tasks to complete and sometimes, once he has been dealing with someone’s questions, he tries to get back to what he was doing and can’t remember what it was he was doing. There was some moment of genius that he just can’t recapture.
Who came up with the bear? I don’t know.
Someone placed a bear on his desk.
If Joe was busy and needed not to be interrupted, the bear was turned around so its back was to the rest of the office. The bear and Joe were in conference and not to be disturbed.
If Joe was not so busy, the bear was turned back around, facing outwards, its face to the rest of the office. The bear and Joe were open for business.
The system was working well. There were clear signals about good times to approach the desk and not so good times. Joe could pursue his moments of genius, bag the good ideas and move on. The bear did a good job of fending off visitors.
All was going well. Joe was in a meeting with another colleague and the bear was facing away from the rest of the office.
The meeting ended. The bear should have turned around, but it didn’t. It remained facing Joe. Everyone respected the bear and left Joe alone.
Joe had another meeting planned. The man was hopping about, waiting for the bear to turn around so he could approach the desk and have his meeting.
The bear sat still.
Joe worked on.
The man kept hopping about.
The bear sat still.
Joe kept working.
The man approached the desk hesitantly, clearly agitated. Joe looked up from what he was doing and suddenly remembered the meeting.
“You should have said something.”
The man pointed to the bear, its back firmly turned away from the rest of the office.
“The bear said, ‘No!’”