The Quest for an Effective Chairman in 1997

Candidate: Sander Rubin

A Critical Issue: Buying a Building - Which Way to the Future?

In most elections voters get general statements of intentions, of policies, projections of personalities, and unverified rumors. Mensa is fortunate this year in having a concrete, immediate issue in the race for AMC chairman, yet one that has critical long-range implications.

The incumbent chairman (and candidate) has stated unequivocally that "Mensa and MERF need a permanent home," [emphasis in the original] and he has committed himself to a major effort to find -- and intends to commit Mensa funds to the purchase of -- a building in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I strongly disagree. Whatever the ultimate value of a permanent home may be (an issue that does not need to be argued now), the purchase of a building at this time would be a major blunder that could eventually bring down American Mensa, Ltd. We should be grateful to the chairman for putting this issue on the table.

The Immediate Issue

It isn't a matter of whether owning our national office space is desirable or possible; it's whether investment in real estate is the best use of Mensa's resources at this time. Consider the following:

The Long-term Issue

What Mensa is to become depends upon on what we do now. There is no certainty in projecting future trends, but one can play the odds. Society is moving away from identity through geography toward identity through communities of communication, a trend exemplified by the acceptance and increasing use of telecommuting.

Mensa's public appeal depends upon its demonstration (not declaration) that "smart people do it better." We have not caught the trend, much less taken a position of leadership. Despite wonderful contributions by a number of individual members, we are so far behind at the national, "official" level that it will take years to become what we can be. This is the time to reverse our downward trajectory; and until we do so, we should not think of owning permanent premises,

The late C. Northcote Parkinson, author of Parkinson's Law and other profound commentaries on organization and management, once noted that when an organization builds its perfect home office it is at the brink of decline. He gave both examples of and reasons for this phenomenon. A good rule of life is: Don't bet against Parkinson.

An Historical Perspective

Purchasing permanent premises is only the most recent manifestation of a syndrome that has afflicted Mensa regularly from its early years in America. Once again we are led by people who have placed image ahead of substance, words before deeds, public relations before performance. Without a history of success in bringing vision to fruition, it is particularly audacious for the present Chairman to proceed with an undebated commitment of the magnitude he has proposed.

I have been wrong on occasion, but my record of contributions to Mensa over the years is quite good and my predictions of its course have been remarkably accurate. This isn't a convenient place for me to support that claim with evidence, but if you are concerned with the future of our society, I urge you to vote for me.

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Copyright © 1997 by Sander Rubin
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Created: 11 Mar 97
Revised: 12 Mar 97