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VOL. 125 | NO. 94 | Friday, May 14, 2010

Committees Not Needed For Creativity


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Dan Conaway

Creativity goes to committee meetings to die.

“In all the towns and all the cities there are no statues to committees.”

Unknown, probably someone shot down by a committee.

“So,” he said to the committee, “I’ll buy a bunch of jets, fill them with cardboard envelopes, and guarantee overnight delivery … and all I need to get started is, oh, about a zillion dollars.” The committee would have absolutely, positively said no to Fred Smith. They would have told Clarence Saunders that schlepping your own groceries would never work. They would have told Kemmons Wilson where to park his motel idea. They would have told Charlie Vergos that nobody is going to get fired up about ribs from a basement off an alley next to a dumpster.

W. C. Handy would have given them the blues, and Sam Phillips would have had them all shook up. If you want to know what a committee would have done to Academy Award-winning Memphians Isaac Hayes and Three 6 Mafia, just think about Pat Boone covering Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

Unknown, probably someone who sees parts of horses at every meeting.

A citizen committee was formed to make the case for Memphis as the home of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It went to Cleveland instead. The city of Elvis lost it to the city of Alan Freed? Please. And if you don’t know who Freed is, I don’t blame you, and I’ve further made my point.

“Action committee is more of an oxymoron in Memphis than safe driving.”

Me, who, like you, has been to plenty of oxymoronic committee meetings.

Committees try to be racially diverse, age- and gender-balanced, politically correct, corporately connected, socially networked, and … to be sure … buzzword literate. And what they come up with is just as safe, nap-inducing boring and ultimately ineffectual as that sounds.

Of course, great ideas need groups of people to realize them, but those ideas come from individuals, not committees. Effectual committees come after the idea, committed to the idea.

Promising rays of hope shine out there. Shelby Farms, the Downtown law school. The Greenline and Wolf River Greenway. College Park, University Place and Soulsville. The bigmouth bass the size of a double-wide about to go on the side of The Pyramid may turn out to be a great catch. We should let Henry Turley’s vision allow us to see the Mid-South Fairgrounds in new ways.

However, if we wait for a committee to come up with our ideas, we deserve what we get.

Where are the leaders that made Memphis the original that it is? Where is the courage that took on naysayers and changed the world from right here? Where is the ingenuity that took on problems and found solutions never contemplated before?

Where is the Memphis that asked you not just to listen to the music, but to write it?

I’m a Memphian, and I’m not on the committee.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphis, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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