Turning Frogs into Purple Squirrels

Sep 18, 2009

muness-castle-thumbMany years ago, in the land of Spamalittle, King Rter lived in a tiny castle near a pond. It was a noisy pond filled with the sound of croaking frogs, day and night.

In his quest to maintain rule over his tiny kingdom, Rter needs mighty knights to fight dragons, battle anarchists, fight off industrial demons, and fully document all expenses in a timely matter.

However, there is an economic slowdown in Spamalittle, and most would-be knights were unwilling to leave their stable employment. This would make finding enough brave and bold applicants willing to fight for any cause, however noble, quite difficult. A recent survey conducted by the town crier showed clearly that while employee dissatisfaction was on the rise, few of the best, and even the worst for that matter, were willing to risk leaving for other seemingly more attractive endeavors.

Having one’s daily bread seemed to be a powerful incentive indeed.

However, the survey also seemed to indicate that tidings of a near recovery would encourage even the most satisfied to ponder alternate opportunities. In times of want, stale bread is enough; however, in more bountiful times, one’s daily bread can seem less pleasant, especially when thy neighbor is now having his with organic raisins.

Despite these down-trodden times, Rter wouldn’t even consider those who were not fully employed, nor did he even consider the potential that some of his own knights might leave for slightly greener pastures. He strongly felt that the honor of working for Spamalittle would still attract the best and brightest knights around.

To start his knight-for-hire acquisition plan, Rter met with Murlyne, his trusted magician and head of Spamalittle’s talent acquisition team. She immediately wanted to know what Rter considered his perfect knight. He then went into his standard diatribe, pulling out a long-forgotten scroll listing the qualifications for a Senior Knight Level II – Job Code IV-12X9. Murlyne protested, saying times have changed and the old knight description no longer applied. However, Rter would hear none of that, contending that it was good enough, and insisted that the qualifications listed were still required, despite changing demographics and the lack of affordable training in the kingdom.

So with a shrug, Murlyne listened as Rter read off the now familiar list of requirements. These included the required competencies of bold and brave, excellent communication skills, conversant in all known dialects, strong initiative especially in matters of dragons and confronting similar enemies, and of course 5-10 years’ experience as a noble knight, and an official certification from one of the top knight academies in the land.

Murlyn was not flustered by Rter’s apparent lack of understanding of the talent market of the day, and decided that some devious magic was required. In this case she drew upon her trademarked “spell of the clever query.” (Caution: this spell should not be attempted without professional assistance.)

This started with these three core questions:

  1. Why would a fully employed knight who possessed all of the qualifications want to take this job?
  2. During the trial by ordeal, what are you going to tell any aspiring knights what they’ll be doing if they get accepted to your noble cause?
  3. What would a worthy knight do over the course of the next year that would earn such a knight the “best knight of the year” award?

To make a fairly long fairy tale short, here is how King Rter reluctantly responded:

To be considered a worthy, and award-winning knight, the person must accomplish the following:

  1. Exceed the basic quota and seek out and banish at least 4-6 dragons and other evil-doers from the kingdom over the course of the first six months.
  2. Establish a training school for all aspiring knights that is known and well-respected throughout the land.
  3. Use PowerPoint and Excel to present complex industrial demon-fighting plans and strategies at the monthly offsite.
  4. Lead a team of knights and procurement squires to reduce the cost of all battlefield equipment.

Rather than break the spell, Murlyne queried Rter further, asking if he’d at least consider someone who could do this work, even if the person didn’t have all of the requirements listed on the scroll of requirements. Rter responded, “Of course, as long as the person’s not a frog!”

Knowing this meeting was probably her last on this subject, she pursued the “why would someone want this job?” line of questioning. She artfully persisted along this same line a bit further, saying that the compensation package wasn’t even competitive, and worse, the kingdom’s healthcare plan did not include a battle-injury coverage provision.

Rter appeared flummoxed, and being on the defensive (this is what good spells can accomplish) sputtered out some unprintable and somewhat cynical expletives. However, Murlyne finally got Rter to agree that this was a real learning opportunity and provided the worthy person a chance to make a real impact on the kingdom’s future prosperity. Based on this, Rter agreed to see someone with lots of potential even if the person’s background was not as perfect as initially requested.

As part of the kingdom’s branding campaign, they argued over whether “Knights of the Breakfast Table” or “Knights of the Purple Squirrel” better represented their overall mission, selecting the latter, for some reason which is now long-forgotten.

A clever ad posted on every tree drew hundreds of potential knights, but few of the fully employed or highly qualified. (It’s shown below for those who have any referrals.)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Would-Be Knights of the Purple Squirrel

Be part of a glorious quest! King Rter is seeking a few proud and brave souls to join his team of knightly all-stars to join in the merriment. The few selected will receive the accolades of their peers, have a chance to meet with exciting leaders around the kingdom, and participate in intriguing sports. If you have a track record of performance in the fields of chivalry, dragon slaying, or knight development, send PM (pigeon message) or escroll to Be sure to include a short write-up of your bravest endeavor in lieu of a resume.

While many applied, one lowly frog seemed to be the best of the lot. He had slayed dragons and witches and such, in former lives, made complex presentations to advisory boards when he was a mere tadpole during his internship with a much bigger kingdom, had a track record of turning apprentice knights into top performers, and led an award-winning major cost-reduction program for a government contractor.

Alas, he was a frog, and one without the requisite minimum of five years of absolutely identical experience. Even Murlyne was puzzled by this dilemma and felt compelled to use her magic elixir of last resort. Drinking this elixir would cause Rter to be totally objective, but it only lasted 30 minutes, barely enough time for Rter to temporarily forget that the aspirant was just a frog.

After taking the elixir, Murlyne suggested that King Rter spend 10-15 minutes on getting into the details of each of the frog’s major accomplishments. Then, when the elixir’s magic effects wore off, look at the aspirant to see whether anything is different.

King Rter reluctantly complied, but as hard as he tried he could not fight off the idea that the potential knight was nothing more than a frog. However, as he began asking questions about the frog’s accomplishments, something miraculous happened. Before his very eyes he discovered that what initially was a frog disappeared, transformed into a brave and bold knight of the purple squirrel variety.

The frog was ultimately hired and given the chance to prove himself, and while still a frog, did receive the “best knight of the year” flask the very next year. Murlyne received the praise of King Rter, but still had to rely on clever spells to control King Rter and his other Knights of the Purple Squirrel. They somehow forgot most of them were also once just frogs.

Peace and prosperity soon returned to the kingdom and these knights soon became restless looking for other dragons to slay. But that is the way of top performers whatever they may be: frogs, software developers, even accountants.

And that, my friends, is how you turn frogs into purple squirrels. (Note: I have this from trusted sources that this is no fairy tale.)