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What if your evil overlord *isn’t* a megalomaniac


Toaster Sunshine’s post about megalomania and science has me pondering the role of the evil overlords in my current position.

The public has an odd image of scientists are reclusive loners with deep eclectic streaks and megalomaniacal tendencies. Eclecticism aside, it should most vehemently noted that megalomaniacs are, by their very nature, doomed to failure, so as a scientist you shouldn’t even try. […] And yes, you may know, in your data-ey heart of hearts that the world would be a better place if it was ruled by a rational scientist*, but the truth is that each and every megalomaniac aspirant begins their path to conquering the world with grand visions of uniting the world as one cohesive and peaceful society. Then they inevitably make 2 mistakes:

1) Try to invade Russia.
2) Fail to take into account that people actually live in the world.

And so they are doomed. We’ve all learned from emperor shorty not to invade Russia in the winter. But focusing on the smaller scale, what if your evil overlord is not, in fact, a megalomaniac? In the purely hypothetical and without any sort of height judgements (people in glass houses there), the evil overlord has no grand plan for the world or immediate surroundings. No overarching project management system dividing the world into smaller, conquerable boxes. Just a nice Charlie Brown-inspired doormat-ishocity. And instead of invading Russia, we fling a quarter’s (of time, not money; that would be like spitting into the wind) worth of work out into the great Pacific plastic patch to return to the component pellets of indistinguishable nothing. With rather more frequency than is really good for morale, evil overlord.

So which is worse—the jerk with the plan or the puppy without? Consider also that none of the projects are really sized for one person. Let’s say it’s a three person deal, with A, B, and C each assigned a different but equally important component of an application. Like that metaphor of the three-legged stool. B completes his component*, A makes some effort, and C decides two days before the deadline that, really, this sort of thing doesn’t interest him so he, I don’t know, shopped online for shoes instead. And evil overlord, when approached by C, goes “Oh, Okay.” Now we have this chain reaction because of course A heard about C and wants to bail as well. What do you do as B?** The project hasn’t changed; the deadline hasn’t really changed; just the staffing. Or is that when B loses his junk and turns into the megalomaniac that wants to invade Russia?*** Maybe just go all passive-aggressive and leave little stickies with project management book titles around the office. And demand a swingline stapler.

* feminists, do not strike me down. i simply cannot deal with ‘hir’ right now. and anyway, i have trouble distinguishing between pin/pen when i speak anyway so it would be irrelevant.

** clearly, what you do is take up blogging.

*** i do not ever, ever, ever want to invade russia.

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