A small furor erupted today in the wake of This American Life’s announcement that they are retracting a story they recently aired by Mike Daisy. I encourage you to read (and listen to) the various accounts and analyses of the situation. As simply as possible: Mr. Daisy adapted a portion of his theatrical monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs“, for Public Radio International’s This American Life. TAL, a journalistic enterprise, aired the adaptation in January and later discovered that portions of the piece don’t stand up factually to journalistic standards. Thus the retraction. One thing rings clear in both Ira Glass (TAL’s public face and producer) and Mr. Daisy’s accounts: theater isn’t journalism. They both agree that treating theater as if it were something it isn’t proved to be the eventual breaking point in this collaboration.
There’s an important lesson here for organizations and the people who make them run: If we aren’t crystal clear on what our function is, we’re not going to serve that function cleanly. If we aren’t equally clear what rules we’re playing by, we’re very likely to break them. And if we’re not talking to each other honestly about our purpose, our function, and the rules we’re playing by to get there, we’re going to have a mess on our hands.
What’s your purpose? How are you choosing to function in order to meet that purpose? What rules are you playing by? And when was the last time you talked to your board, staff, and stakeholders about all of those things?
I'm interested in what keeps us engaged in our work, the world, and each other.