One of my favorite business phrases comes from David Gammel, it deals with the concept that ideas live and breathe as soon as we start working on them and putting resources into them. But that they also die and unfortunately some turn into Sacred Zombie Cows!
I think its the visual as much as anything that attracts me to the phrase, regardless, the idea that projects can become half-ton, four legged, resource sucking zombies is an important one to think about. They key ofcourse to the concept of the sacred zombie cow is the sacred part. Its not just that the project/idea is dead, that happens all the time. We start something, it fails, we move on. But then there are those few ideas that just don’t go away after they have died, instead we keep feeding them, keeping them warm, even talking to them oblivious to the fact that they are zombies.
Recently I was reminded of the zombie cow while listening to NPR discuss yet more issues that are being had with the musical, Spiderman. Now, I’m not one to keep up on entertainment news so I actually thought this musical had come run its course and already left again. As it turns out, the thing hasn’t even started and doesn’t plan to do so for weeks or months longer. Listening to the commentary on the many plights of this musical no phrase rang more true than, “Kill the sacred zombie cow.”
A quick search reveals pages and pages articles written about the failure of this show prior to its even opening. From injuries, to bad reviews, to a new plan that involves significant changes to the cast and script, it is obvious to almost everyone that this project has been killed, many times over. The fact that this dead project continues to drain resources from its supporters, who refuse to acknowledge its death, is what makes it a perfect example of a zombie cow.
As is the case with all zombies, Sacred Zombie Cows, do eventually perish as well. The worse case scenario is when a zombie cow is so sacred that no one ever shoots it in the head and it eventually eats the brains of every person in its path. An example of this would be fossil fuel consumption. Thankfully most zombies aren’t nearly that sacred and at some point it becomes clear to all that they are dead and the proper actions are taken.
The struggle is to identify zombie cows before they have the chance to take anyone else or any other living ideas/projects with them. While this may seem simple it can be considerably more difficult than you would think.