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Jester of the Board.
A business parable


A young King came to power after the passing of his father. He immediately began to assemble a group of trusted advisors and confidants, men who were experts in their respective fields of governance. The country prospered under his rule and he became known far and wide as a great and wise ruler. Years passed and he began to notice that his advisors were not listening to him and making decisions without his involvement. Surely they recognised what a great ruler he was, how could they ignore his advice? Indeed how dare they ignore his commands? The King began to get involved with every facet of his Kingdom and ordered his advisors to get his seal on every decision. He suddenly felt more in command and began enjoying the feeling that he was making a difference. His advisors began to wait for his input before doing anything, and simply nod their collective heads in agreement when he offered advice.

The Kingdom slowly began to go downhill as the advisors abdicated their decisions to the King. The advisors would get together every now and then and grumble about the way things were and complain about the King’s lack of confidence in their abilities. Many suggestions were made behind closed (and bolted) doors; committees were suggested by some of the older men while revolution was on the lips of a few of the younger advisors. These gatherings always ended without progress and the advisors would go back to waiting for the advice of the King.

One day a travelling jester made his way to the court of the King and begged leave to entertain the King. A feast was proclaimed and all the most powerful men in the Kingdom were assembled for a night of merriment and festivity.

The Jester proved his worth and his antics had the court spilling copious amounts of wine as they rocked in laughter. He was an accomplished performer juggling, acrobatics, song and comedic wit all within his repertoire. His forte however was mimicry and as the evening progressed and he observed the members of the court he began to mimic them each in turn. Assuming before the eyes of the assembled the stance and belly of the bawdy governor of the southern provinces leering and spilling wine down his shirt to huge guffaws. The tight lipped ashen military advisor with the quick darting eyes managed to assemble the faintest of smiles as his apparent twin gave an impromptu inspection.

For his finale he gestured to the King to vacate his throne and regally sat down and surveyed his kingdom. He began to bark orders and moving swiftly from the throne assumed the stance and demeanour of a lowly peon bowing scraping and nodding. Another swift movement, another order barked, a blur and more nodding. Suddenly the whole room seemed to be filled with one figure shouting orders and a thousand nodding their heads. As if taking their part in the performance all bodies in the room shrunk down silently and watched and waited for the Kings reaction, somewhere in the background as is obligatory in these scenes a goblet clattered heavily on the flagstones amplifying the silence.

The King frowning looked around and slowly smiled and began nodding as relief swept through the room and chatter broke out once more.

In the time of Kings decisions were autocratic, swift and based on the whims of one man and his trusted advisors (Does this sound familiar?). The King however always held power and the decision would ultimately come down to what he wanted or, if he was in the least benign, felt would be the best course of action. An advisor on the wrong side of a decision might find himself without favour or in extreme circumstances without a head on his shoulders. So the king was likely to find himself surrounded by a bunch of yes men nodding vigorously at every hint of suggestion. Every Kings needs someone fool enough to hold up a mirror and show him the absurdity of his ways. Few Kings have the foresight or courage to have such a fool on staff and most fools having performed for Kings who do not heed their advice will command huge fees to perform for crumbling kingdoms on a consulting basis.