The Catch 22 of Cold and Flu: Feverish business insights from Heller’s dystopian bureacracy

November 3, 2020
The Catch 22 of Cold and Flu

In the feverish moments before my 6.25am alarm went off this morning, I had a revelation that I’ll call the Catch 22 of cold and flu.

I’ve been thinking about the classic novel, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, and how the mess officer in the story, Milo Minderbinder, became obsessed with expanding mess operations during the war.

It was brought to my mind by the wonderful Adelaide podcast, Blind Insights With David Olney. In the current episode, Catch 22 and the Problems with Bureacracy, David, Tim, and guest, Luke, highlight the shenanigans of this wartime  entrepreneur, in which in his move to expand mess operations, get’s to a point in buying/selling and importing/exporting foodstuffs and commodities that he rebrands some of the air force bombers as M&M Enterprises planes.

While reaching for my bedside water bottle in a slightly enfevered state (due to common cold, not Covid-19), I realised the Catch 22 of cold and flu when it comes to the universal advice to drink more water.

Yes, drinking water is crucial to supply your body with fresh resources to convey antibodies and flush out dead germs but what I’d overlooked was the need to ramp up water bottle hygience during times of infection.

This is how a well-trained MBA mind works. It puts 2 and 20 together and comes up with 22.

As we know, drinking from a water bottle that is always by your side is a sure way to increase water consuption but that bottle needs thorough washing every 1 to 3 days.

But as I realised this morning, this needs to be more frequent during times of infection because the surplus of bacteria and viruses around ones oral and olfactory orifices will be hitching rides out of and back into your body with gay abandon.

So, just like Minderbinder’s rebadged bombers were carrying out bombing runs while transporting very different payloads, so too has my drink bottle been delivering and fuelling payloads of germs while coming up on the radar as an instrument of health and healing.

And, thus, we have the Catch 22 of cold and flu; drinking more water was leading to ingesting more germs which in turn was leading to the need for drinking more water.

How to spot a Catch 22 and boost your career

First things first. What is a Catch 22? In the novel, Heller describes the circular connundrum, eloquently.

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to, but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

So, as an MBA, we want you to be on the look out for Catch 22 situations so that you can build your career and your enterprise without being hampered by momentum-sapping bureaucracy.

As fellow professor, Thomas R Eisenmann from Harvard Business School, noted in his 2013 HBR paper, Entrepreneurship: A Working Definition, you will face Catch 22 situations as you move into leadership such as when you can’t reduce risk in your operations without resources but investors will not want to invest with you due to risk of the unknown.

The fourth of his four tactics in coping with such Catch 22s is storytelling. He says:

“Storytelling” by entrepreneurs–conjuring a vision of a better world that could be brought about by their venture–can encourage resource owners to downplay risks and in the process
commit more resources than they would if they had not been inspired. Steve Jobs, for example, was famous for his mesmerizing “reality distortion field,” through which he impelled
employees, partners, and investors to go to extraordinary lengths to help fulfill his dreams.

Indeed, our whole process of A Luncthime MBA in which we regale you with stories over lunch as you proceed from student to graduate, is us modelling this very concept.

Let the story you create create the reality you desire, that’s The MBA School Of MBA Credentials’ way.

So, as you find yourself confronting questions or rules that risk sending you around and around, be bold, be creative, and craft a new story, shift the goalposts as it were, and move your game to a new field.

When you earn your MBA the enjoyable way through our school, unlike graduates from traditional institutions, let them never be able to misquote Heller in relation to you, thus: “They knew everything there was to know about [business], except how to enjoy it”.

Go forth, with fresh water, a clean water bottle, and a mind ready for beating Catch 22s at their own game.

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