Back when there was still a Blockbuster Video, we had an experience that illustrated a couple of business principles.
The first may have given some indication of their downfall. We had returned a video in the drop box at the store, but their records didn’t show the return. After arguing the point with the store manager to no avail, we contacted their corporate office and were ultimately told that since they were the only game in town, it didn’t matter to them whether we were happy or continued to do business with them – where were we going to go?
Eventually, as competitors sprang up and technology changed, they were too slow to adapt (or even see the need), and Blockbuster went the way of the dinosaurs (yes, I suppose if you look around you might still find some fossilized evidence of their existence.)
But that isn’t the topic of today’s post (digression is to be expected; this IS Meandering Monday.) The second lesson we learned was about corporate ignorance about their own culture and procedures. The store manager insisted that we had not returned the video, because if we had, they had rules and procedures. The video would have been checked in, then put on the shelf. Since they NEVER deviate from this procedure, we must not have returned it. But procedures are set up all the time, and as the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. The video was found on the shelf a few days later, and when someone tried to check it out it was discovered that it had just never been checked in.
I once came athwart of the unofficial card game rules of a family I was visiting with – I was playing by the official rules that came from the game manufacturer, but the family had decided on their own house rules. The way I was playing didn’t fit in with the way that THEY did things. It did not go well.
In any organization, or company where there are official rules and procedures that are supposed to be followed, there is also an underlying culture with it’s own set of unofficial rules that regulate how things REALLY get done. Not understanding the differences between what the rules say and how the game is really played can cause a member to be closed out of the culture, or even result in the organization’c collapse.
Cultural awareness is crucial, no matter what kind of culture you’re talking about.
When I attended ProWritingAid’s Crime-Writer Week, they had an expert on British police procedures who was very good at explaining the missteps made in written and video fiction when attempting to show police procedure, and how much they miss on the official processes.
He did point out that you have to allow a certain amount of “mistakes” in fiction, because otherwise you’re not really writing crime fiction, but instead a nonfiction manual on police procedure.
Innovation is a hot buzz-word (I may be behind the times – it may not be so hot as it was a decade or so ago.) Rigid rules tend to stifle innovation. Criminals don’t tend to follow rules, other than to know which ones the police are SUPPOSED to follow, and how to get around what they know the police will do. It’s hard for a rigidly regulated organization to get around its weaknesses. Innovation isn’t very effective when your competition can adapt faster than you can.
So, maybe I shouldn’t worry too much about how accurate I want to be on police procedures in my Detective Jimmy Delaney series. It’s in a near future setting, in a fictional town, and I play a little with some of the changes I thought I saw coming back when I wrote “In a Flash.” And as we can see in the unreal world around us now, who can really know what policing will look like, even five years down the road?
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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