Monday, August 04, 2008

Mike Lynch Cartoon in July/August Harvard Business Review

"Find a way or make one," is what polar explorer Robert Peary said.

I have a cartoon in this summer's Harvard Business Review. Here's the story of the cartoon and why Peary came to mind:

I had this great idea for a cartoon. The idea had nothing to do with being the first man to the North Pole. It was a gag about the art in corporate offices.

Okay, most of the framed art in corporate America is abstract. Just blobs of color and so on, right? So, my idea was to have a lost looking businessman looking at some of this art that's hanging in a corridor, mistakenly believing that he is looking at a corporate organizational chart.

Above: Some random actual org charts from a Google images search.

So, I drew up the cartoon, and, well, I'll be darned, but it just didn't look right. The thing that the businessman was looking at did not "read" as a piece of modern art at all. It looked like this poor lost businessman was looking at a really big, ugly, complicated org chart. So, I drew a couple more pieces of modern art around it, but now it all looked like the fellow was surrounded by big org charts and not by modern art that just "looked" like org charts.


The great idea for a cartoon was not going to work.

But I liked the drawing a lot and I wanted to save it. Sure, I had failed in my initial attempt, but I had to make a way to create a sellable cartoon gag!

But there just was no way.

And then I remembered when, in 1987, the New York Times reported that Peary may have faked his diary entries -- a rumor that I had heard before, but the Times made it official.

Oops! So someone (I think it was Dad. Hi Dad!) suggested a new Peary quote --

"Find a way or FAKE ONE," would work here. So, I quickly decided that our bizman had been looking at that org chart for days and days ....

"I'm on my third day of trying to figure out which little square I am."

Ahh! Through perseverance, and abandoning my original idea, I was able to save this and sell it. Whew! Not as tough and cold as trying to get to the pole, but a minor cartoony challenge nonetheless.

My thanks to Pletch who told me my cartoon was in HBR!


Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...


Great cartoon - I would have just assumed it was originally intended as an org chart! Interesting to hear the genesis of the piece.

This image would be great to use in a corporate powerpoint presentation - what are your guidelines about using it? Do we purchase a license somewhere, or is it fine to use it with due citation as one of yours?

Keep up the great work.

Incidentally, the HBR version was in colour - do you have that version available as well? Is there a library of your work online that we can browse? I'm new to your site.


Lauchlan Mackinnon

Mike Lynch said...

Thanks for writing, Dr. Mackinnon. You can find a lot of my cartoons at my Web site and cartoons are all available for licensing there. Yes, you have to pay for presentation use. My email is here on the blog and at my site if you want to query.