Mythic Monday – Tricksters
Most cultures have a trickster figure of some sort. Though they go by many names: Coyote in North America, Anansee in Africa, Puck in Britian, Loki in the Germanic regions… and many others. In the stories, there is usually not much if any justification for the actions of the trickers… though their tricks usually fail in the end and they learn an valuable lesson along the way.
No matter what the story may be, the point often seems to be less the story itself and more about the learning. There are stories about ethics, significant social changes, developing new skills and personal growth. In almost every one, though, the lesson is learned by either the trickster character itself making a mistake or leading someone else into making a mistake. Then, inevitably, significant learning occurs.
In many ways, it’s all about attitude. Tricksters tend not to care much about others, being lead instead by their own desires and intuitions. They get an idea and run with it, ignoring all else, until their actions bring about their own downfall. In short, they are driven by curiosity, creativity and intelligence.
Tricksters break everything they touch, and sow discord everywhere they go, but they do make things happen. You probably know people like this in your own organization. They may be a bit narrowly-focused and their projects may have a significant number of… unintended consequences, but they manage to complete more projects in less time than anyone else.
Just as tricksters benefit a story, these personalities benefit an organization. In a developer, these traits create new products. In an administrator, they can produce significant efficiencies. In a security professional, they can protect an organization in ways never before though possible. Of course, they also cause a significant amount of chaos as they implement these changes without really thinking things through.
There are many organizations… especially in I.T… that have the occasional local trickster. Called “cowboys” or “lone wolves”, they are often thought of immature or unready for the business world. In many cases, this is right. It is extremely easy to look merely at the negatives, and as a result, these people are often the first on the firing lines.
However, just as security is all about balance, so is business. It is worth considering the long-term value of trickster-types. Maybe they won’t fit into the business over-time, and it’s best to let them go. However, maybe they can learn (possibly through a mythic journey of growth and pain). Maybe they can learn to temper their own erratic tendencies and put their creativity and curiosity towards the benefit of the business. Perhaps all they need is a bit of guidance. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
But remember, most cultures can only tolerate one or two tricksters. Fewer than that, and they would stagnate, but more than that and they would be destroyed by chaos.