Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

Business consultants are fond of creating metaphors to describe the common human dynamics and leadership dilemmas that all companies, organizations, and societies face at one time or another.

Thus, they talk about frogs in the kettle, flies in the ointment, straw on camel’s backs, bulls in china shops, lead dogs, mule trains, hundredth monkeys, and tipping points. There are water cooler brainstorms, stovepipe discussions, and boilerplate solutions.

One of the most powerful of these metaphors is what they often call the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is that huge issue—the issue everyone is desperately, deliberately trying to ignore.

It is that embarrassingly inconvenient and awkward problem that everyone wishes would just go away. But it won’t. It just sits there like a giant obstruction right in the middle of the room. It intrudes on every conversation. It affects every project. And it alters every relationship. It is the elephant in the room.

The issue of life—and everything it entails from abortion and euthanasia to the right to choose and the right to die—the issue of life is that embarrassing, inconvenient, and awkward elephant in the room that nearly every politician, media commentator, and cultural elite wishes would go away. But it won’t. No matter how studiously they avert their gaze, no matter how stubbornly they ignore it, and no matter how convincingly they pretend it just doesn’t matter any more.

The elephant in the room keeps rudely interrupting business as usual.