The Secret of the Amazing People That Hold the World Together

Have you been in a public restroom lately?  Take a minute and think about what it looked like…

  • Was there toilet paper all over the floor but none in the stalls?
  • Was the mirror nearly opaque?
  • Did the soap work and were there towels?


Silly questions you might think…odds are high that there were toilet paper and towels, and the mirror was (relatively) clean.  So, why was that area not an absolute disaster?


Clearly, someone has the responsibility of keeping that area clean.  In most public restrooms, you can find the ‘hour by hour’ chart that is kept to show that regular maintenance is done.  When that maintenance is not done, we notice!

The same is true with many things in today’s world but we can forget that if the grass is to be mown, the floors cleaned, and the plants watered, someone has to make it happen.

In her article How ‘Maintainers,’ Not ‘Innovators,’ Make the World Turn, Laura Bliss reminds us that, while “new technologies and their inventors [like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Larry Page] are often celebrated as society’s heroes,…the human-built world is maintained and sustained—so often by unnamed, unseen, and underpaid labor.”

Like the public restroom, maintenance isn’t usually appreciated until we miss it.  Sometimes, deferred maintenance can result in disaster like the fire protection system failure at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the levee failures in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minnesota.  All well known examples of a little-recognized issue.

So, next time you celebrate innovation, don’t forget to take a look behind the scenes and look for the many maintainers that make it possible!



Posted on May 10, 2016, in Maintainers. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Really interesting perspective on Innovation there! In a similar vein, I read somewhere that President Obama only has a few colors of suits and all of his shirts and ties match them all. He said that he has enough big decisions to make during the day that he doesn’t want to waste time with small ones.

  2. Drucker writes (in “Managing the Non-Profit Organization”) that while Japan in the 80’s was celebrated as a leader in innovation, what led to that was their increase in efficiency. They got really efficient at doing the routine things, which gave them more margin to be innovative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: