The Grand Inquisitor – When bureaucracy kills entrepreneurship

This fairytale is a pastiche. Fjodor Mikhailovich Dostojevsky wrote “The Grand Inquisitor” as a story told by one of the Brothers Karamasov to another. There, it is about Christ coming back during the time of the Spanish inquisition. And the grand inquisitor, as representative of the Catholic Church, had him put in chains. I have followed the plot, and to some extent even the tone and wording of the English translation quite faithfully. And of course, the three temptations of the founder are the three temptations of Christ – the place in the Bible which introduces the the notion of free will, and thus lays the cornerstone of pretty much everything that the specific Christian influence on European Civilisation amounts to. I always liked the story, and how it depicted the “responsibility” of institutions against the human beings they govern. It is also used as a solo piece for the stage – you can see John Gielgud, of the Olymp of British classical acting, as the Grand Inquisitor in a short film.

And then I started writing, and filling in the procedures, tools and systems from modern Big Corporate, and was completely baffled by the way they fit into each of these three temptations, and can be seen to work against the responsible, entrepreneurial individual. In the end, it comes back to something I learned when I worked in Human Resources myself: you can either build a system which helps the good people among the workforce do their job even better, or you can build a system that forces the bad people in the workforce to do it less badly. But you cannot do both at the same time.