The Koi Carp Theory of Management

Now that I’m no longer constrained in my corporate straitjacket, I think I can safely publish my “Koi Carp Theory of Management”

No, really. Bear with me.

It came to me in a fish restaurant in Abu Dhabi.

You see, at the time, I had a boss that I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why he was my boss, why those above him thought he was so great and why, frankly, he even had a job. Nice bloke, don’t get me wrong, but jeez…

Anyway, the fish restaurant in question had huge floor-to-ceiling fish tanks full of fish I couldn’t quite place (note how I avoided the obvious pun?). They were quite big, whitish with red discs and little barbels… ah, they were Koi Carp. I realised that I wasn’t used to seeing Koi from the side, only from the top, usually displaying and looking expensive in the hope I might feed them. For thousands of years, Koi have been bred to look good from above with little interest in what they look like to the other fish in the pond.

And that’s when it came to me: my Boss was exactly the same. He was a Koi.

He must have looked great from above, dutifully doing what was expected of him but, from the side, to his contemporaries, he was nothing special, just an ordinary looking fish.

Of course, to those below him – the scum at the bottom of the pond, enviously looking up at the light – all we could see was an arsehole.