Meetings can be brutal.
In Blue Skies Process, Kenny, Amy and Peter work at the edge of innovation and ideation with one of the foremost thought leaders in the industry. Their job is to invent. Invent what? Well, that doesn’t matter as much. But invention is their core competency, and as their end-of-week deadline suddenly becomes end-of-day, they have just a few hours left to finalize an idea. They are working amid a corporate-mandated blue skies process— everything on the table, no bad ideas, no hierarchy, lateral organizational chart—that requires full consensus among the group. Kenny draws a blue circle on the white board. Peter’s not sure about the color. Amy worries it’s too round. Time is running out before their visionary boss expects a presentation.
Despite its appearances, this office isn’t some laid-back Silicon Valley start-up. The blue skies process demands intense collaboration, but the carefully coded “corporate speak” used within it is a competitive, cut-throat and aggressive argot; and outside the conference room, near the ping pong tables and the cereal bar, tensions are even higher.
Behind all the fun and whimsy can lie an industry of power and manipulation, euphemism and deceit, where creativity becomes more important than the creations it produces.
During the 1950s and ‘60s, social scientists began studying and developing management science—a system of manipulating and engineering workers into having more effective, focused and efficient communications with each other, often through the use of business jargon. In the decades that followed, America saw the rise of terms and phrases like “synergy,” “human capital” and “paradigm shift”—and more recently, terms like “rightsizing,” “incentivize” and “reverse fulfillment.” This language can make communication more efficient by creating a common vocabulary, but it can also hide and obfuscate meaning and intent. Dig deeper, and one finds that language can be used as a passive-aggressive weapon or a shield in an office.
In the colorful modern business landscape, where some forward-thinking corporate campuses now house bowling alleys and rooftop organic gardens and suited executives arrive via scooter or zip-line for meetings in yurts and other unconventional environments, first appearances can be deceiving. Behind all the fun and whimsy can lie an industry of power and manipulation, euphemism and deceit, where creativity becomes more important than the creations it produces.
Pulling from the worlds of Mad Men and writer George Saunders, Abe Koogler’s absurd Blue Skies Process delivers a menacing and very funny examination of a corporate culture becoming all too frighteningly familiar.