CHRONICLES OF THE SELF-PUBLISHED
They physically stop at the threshold, unable to continue. "It's like there's an invisible force field there," boasts Fahden. "They put their toes through it; they stick their nose through it and look around; but it's so weird a lot of people are afraid to come in."
Those brave enough to make it past the force field discover that the brightly lit READundant(TM), located in back of the dark, uninviting atrium of the Minnesota Law Center on Nicollet Mall, more than makes good on the bizarre promise of the sign hanging above the door: "The bookstore with thousands of copies of the same book." The book in question is Fahden's own Innovation on Demand, which he self-published in 1991. Hundreds and hundreds of copies of Innovation on Demand are on display, cover facing out, lining every wall from floor to ceiling. On the cover: an illustration of a glowing man forcing his head into an electrical outlet.
With the exception of having only one book in stock, the READundant(TM) bookstore has all of the familiar elements of a more traditional bookstore. Shiny Mylar signs direct potential book buyers to over a dozen categories, such as Fiction & Literature, History, Self-Help, Travel, and Art. A help desk is available for title searches, and a store manager can answer more pointed questions about every book in the store. For those still having trouble deciding, there is a even a best seller list posted to tell people what's hot. All ten slots are occupied, in perpetuity, by Innovation on Demand.
"I'm hoping people will think I'm crazy," says Fahden, even though there is nothing ostensibly crazy about him. He is neither a cap-toothed, Will to Power motivational speaker, nor is he a tortured, muttering recluse. Dressed in a polo shirt and khakis, Fahden looks like a nice dad from Edina. "There's a lot of good that can be distilled out of craziness," he says evenly. "The world is round--that was once a crazy thought."
In Fahden's case, the crazy thought for both the book and the store were born less out of the desire to have the Queen of Spain bankroll an ocean voyage to the New World, and more out of simple job frustration. Formerly Creative Director at D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles, Fahden was frustrated that there was no proven method to train new employees to have ideas. Faced with a crop of advertising rookies who didn't know how to think creatively, Fahden responded by developing a system, based on the exploration of opposites, to teach them a fast, effective way to be innovative. After years of success, he left D'Arcy to write and publish Innovation on Demand. The READundant(TM) bookstore opened in December of 1995 as a way of making his book, and his ideas, more readily available to the public.
As a youth Fahden was influenced by old MAD magazines, and he still cites comedy and satire as the best sources for fresh ideas. Much of the system described in Innovation on Demand makes use of humor, but the element of the program with the most sex appeal is the "oppotunity." As defined in the book (in boldface, all caps), an "oppotunity" is a "UNITY OF OPPOSITES." The idea is to take a common assumption, like stove=hot, and look at its opposite. Stove=cold may seem wrong at first, but in exploring the opposite, we see the truth in it. Most of the time stoves are cold. Put your hand on one when it's not lit, and you'll find it pleasingly cool to the touch.
Fahden used his own system to create and refine the details of the READundant(TM) bookstore, and took several "oppotunities" in the process. He began by taking the most basic assumptions about bookstores (that they are physical spaces designed to facilitate the storage and presentation of a large number and variety of books in the hopes of ultimately creating the opportunity for a mutually agreeable transaction between bookseller and bookbuyer for any number of said books) and went to the opposite: namely, not having a store that didn't sell books to anyone. Seeing that he'd gone too far (and that such a venture would undoubtedly fail) he went "one back from the opposite" and READundant(TM) was born: a bookstore which only sells one book.
Oddly enough, despite its profoundly limited selection, the store has paid for itself every month. "One of the things I'm trying to demonstrate is that stupidity can sometimes turn a profit," says Fahden. To help defray costs, he sublets the space to an area businessman (who asked not to be identified), and there are actually people who muster the courage to come in and buy the book. If Fahden holds any grudge against those who said it couldn't be done, he is having his revenge. In fact, he's probably sitting in his store right now, quietly hoping you take the "oppotunity" to not stop in and buy his book. *
More Bosses From Hell this week. City of Minneapolis employees were surveyed last year by union consultant Deborah Anderson (see "The Pariah" 9/18). From the City Council office to the Public Works department, responses to Anderson's prompt to "please describe an EXAMPLE OF ABUSE or neglect you have experienced or witnessed" turned dozens and dozens of complaints of sexual harassment, racist jokes, and yelling and cursing. The City Council summarily fired Anderson. After reading some of the results of her survey, you might understand why:
"I have seen staff yelled at by Council Members, complete with pounding on desktop with fists."
"The most common one is the Council Members in committee, abusing staff verbally and mentally."
"Council Member yelling at staff during committee meetings."
"I've seen many cases of Council Members abusing staff in Committee meetings in front of the public unnecessarily."
"City Council Members' verbal abuse of staff at public meetings and in private."
"I saw a Council Member nearly 'pounce' on a member of the [specific dept.] because the Council Member stated that information was not provided. Even with the staff member trying to speak calmly and discuss it, the Council Member kept shouting and cursing."
"Demand by Council Member for special service, changes in enforcement, accompanied by threats."
"Unreasonable, unethical, potentially illegal demands, usually by phone, from elected officials."
"I have received intimidating, threatening phone calls from Council Members."
"I was sexually, inappropriately touched by a Council Member."
"Ongoing and flagrant flirting, sexually demeaning comments and attitudes toward female staff. Inaction when real concerns are brought to the management's attention."
"Racist and sexist remarks are made frequently. Martin Luther King Day was made fun of by more than one employee."
"The boss is always dancing around the office and making sexual comments; placing hand on chest and sliding downward in provocative manner. I feel she knows she's doing this, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable and I don't really know what to do to have her stop.
At times, I feel she's looking to draw attention to herself."
"Verbal abuse given by a person who, while distributing this questionnaire, was actually verbally abusing myself and a co-worker."
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